If the audience seemed a tad youthful on opening night at the Stage Left Theater on Thursday, the playwrights themselves were just as young – first-graders, to be exact.
Now in its second year, the Kids Korner Playwright Festival features plays written by Evergreen Elementary first-graders, directed and performed by Spokane Falls Community College students and former students.
Tia Wooley, Stage Left Theater managing director, said she came up with the idea of showcasing kid playwrights while watching late-night television.
“Jimmy Fallon had a segment where an actor read something written by a grade-schooler, and I thought, why can’t I do that?” she said.
So she reached out to Pamela Meehan, a first-grade teacher at Mead’s Evergreen Elementary, and the tiny tot playwright festival was born.
“People are still talking about last year’s performance,” Wooley said.
And no wonder.
The short yet pithy stories, penned by 7-year-olds and performed by young adults, are hilarious, poignant and wholly genuine. The scripts are totally unedited.
“We have a writing day and the kids sit down and write all the stories,” Meehan said.
With four first-grade classes contributing, some winnowing has to happen, and around 50 plays are selected by committee.
From there the scripts are sent to SFCC where student actors and directors take on the task of presenting and performing plays that are often just a sentence or two.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for our students and for the first graders,” said Ashley DeMoville, SFCC Drama Instructor and Director. “We’re always looking for ways to get involved with the community.”
If you want to know what’s on the minds of area first-graders – it’s bananas. And cats and dogs, followed closely by ninjas, with a pirate or two thrown in for good measure.
There’s a couple of mermaids and some cowboys, too.
Jezreel Simera, 7, sat in the front row, eagerly confiding the plot of her play as she waited for the performance to begin.
“The Tooth Fairy and the Little Mermaid make friends,” she said. “There’s a surprise ending.”
Classmate Landon Gamache offered a little more grit.
“It’s a fight with a dino and a dragon,” he explained. “It’s a non-fire-breathing dragon. I worked hard!”
But back to bananas.
There’s a “Banana Dragon,” not to be confused with “The Dragon in the Woods” or “Banana Wheels and the Hot Air Balloon.”
The student actors, with minimal costuming, props, sound effects, and sparse dialogue, ably presented the first graders’ ideas on stage.
“It helps us take ourselves not so seriously, and take kids more seriously,” said SFCC student director, Audrie Pursch.
DeMoville said she’s always trying to teach her students not to overwrite. One of her favorite entries in this year’s outing exemplifies that.
“The TreKCK (T-Rex)” features just two sentences.
“The (sic) trex was trying to get the shovel and bucket. Too short. (Refers to the T-Rex’s arms.)”
For the non-dino, more numerical theater fans, there are also plays featuring “Five Ninjas,” “Three Cheetahs in a Forrest,” “Five Little Cats,” and “We 100 Pirates.”
“These stories have so much truth. So much imagination in them,” said actor and director Jennifer Tindall.
At the end of each performance, the cast welcomes the playwrights to the stage, where each writer receives an “official playwright” certificate, and a program with their work printed in its entirety with room for cast autographs.
“We’re trying to make the kids feels super special because that’s what it’s all about,” Wooley said.
Remaining showtimes will be 7 p.m. today and a matinee at 2 p.m. both today and Sunday. Tickets are $10.
An earlier version of this story dropped the first reference of SFCC drama instructor and director Ashley DeMoville’s name.
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