I started off our interview by asking Solange Perazzo how long she has worked in children’s theater. “Since I was twelve” she smiles. She performed in both children’s theater and community theater from that young age, “but I always kept coming back to the children’s theater.” After several years of performing she began to teach, teaching all ages from kindergarten through secondary school.
Then we get on the subject of Next Generation. I admit to her that I’m a bit lost as to what Next Generation actually is and what they do. I ask her to explain it to me. She smiles and shrugs. “Nobody really knew”, she explains. The purpose of Next Generation was to form a network, a community of young people involved in Theater for Young Audiences. The group communicates by email mostly.
The criteria, she tells me, was fairly simple: those chosen had to be young, dedicated to theater for young audiences, and linked to ASSITEJ. When the committee at the conference in Australia picked the members, nobody knew exactly what it was or what it could become. The whole thing was an experiment. “The most important part is we keep in touch” Solange nods, adding “you know, networking.”
In that respect they have definitely already succeeded. Solange’s most recent project, a production written by fellow Next Generation member Finnegan Kruckemeyer, premiered at Solange’s Buenos Aires theatre last month. She has a few other projects in the works, one of which I saw at the ASSITEJ Playwright’s Slam. The piece, about gender bullying, featured Solange as a talking goat.
Solange also values creativity in the classroom. She shared with me a story of a class she taught with primary school kids a few years earlier. In the production, kids were asked to create fairy tales which would be performed for the parents at the end of the week. Many of the fairy tales the kids had created included violent acts such as slaying dragons, but there were no morals out of place and the kids were very proud of their creations. However, when the principal came in to watch a rehearsal she became offended by the violence. She flat out told Solange that the pieces were too violent to be performed for the parents, and the project had to be cancelled.
Solange shakes her head as she tells me this story. “There were no parents there” she tells me, “and the kids worked really hard. How could she have known?” Over-sensitivity and censoring of children’s expression are just a couple examples of many facets of modern children’s theater that Solange and the other members of Next Generation are trying to change.
Solange is working hard with next Generation to create new theater projects that showcase theater for young audiences. The group is still fairly young, but judging by the successes they’ve already have, Next Generation has a bright future ahead of them.
Kjirsten Logan, University of Northern Colorado