Magik Theatre begins programming for a transitional audience
Magik Theatre's daytime offerings and educational components are designed to appeal to young audiences and aspiring young theater artists, but they lose both groups in the teen years. "If our mission is to develop a better sense of literacy among young people, then we have no business dropping them at 12 years of age," admits Richard Rosen, executive director of the Magik Theatre, in a mea culpa moment. Magik is a successful children's theater with an historical on-again, off-again flirtation with evening series adult fare. That flirtation is off for the foreseeable future, because Rosen and his company have reevaluated "who we are and who we serve" and have identified a gap that needs filling.
"In the audience area we begin to lose them in seventh grade," says Rosen, who has found that current programming does not entice teens to the theater. "With our program of training kids we lose them in high school," often to school drama departments and University Interscholastic League competitions. The folks at Magik don't mind helping to populate those programs with students they've helped to train, but they worry about the kids whose schools don't provide that opportunity.
And so a new Evening Series is in development, one Magik hopes will appeal to teens as well as their families. The kick-off is the quintessential teen classic, William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, which opens November 6. Director Tony Ciaravino has gone out of his way to bring "teen appeal" to the production, taking perhaps the biggest risk by casting actual teenagers in the lead roles.
Credibility is important, evidenced by the director's decision not to cut or downplay the potentially un-PC aspects of the story, from the sexual involvement of the young couple to the climactic suicide. Ciaravino argues that these are issues teenagers are, in fact, dealing with. "We, as adults, need to be accepting of their right to be going through these things," he says. "I think teenagers will appreciate us dealing with them on a mature level and not talking down to them."
Rosen hopes to offer short post-show talk-back opportunities for this and all shows in the new Evening Series, even those that don't deal with such sensitive subjects. One of the goals of all of Magik's programming is to stimulate discussion, even between the very young kids and their parents. "When you went home in the car you had something you could discuss as a family," he explains, "and as they get older they have better thoughts, and the things that they're responding back to you are going to shake you a little bit, if you really listen." •