by Megan Chase, dramaturg
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a TYA production. The term, TYA, stands for Theatre for Young Audiences. Brigham Young University annually produces two TYA shows—one that performs during the Fall Semester and the other during Winter Semester. Usually, one of the plays selected is adaptation of a Shakespearean work. Both shows, in addition to a two-week run at BYU, tour to local elementary and middle schools twice a week for the majority of the respective semester.
The notion of crafting theatrical performances specifically for children is actually a relatively new concept. Theatre is considered to have emerged around 400 B.C., yet plays were not developed for young audiences until the last century.
Before this time, many children were not educated past the third grade and often worked in factories or on farms. With the 20th Century came the impetus for social change and a push for K-12 public education. These social and economic changes also served as a catalyst for sparking the interest in parents to provide entertainment for their children.
In the beginning, most plays produced with children in mind were primarily family-oriented. These plays included what would still be familiar to modern audiences: Aladdin, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood. Until J.M. Barrie, playwright of Peter Pan, most of these family-friendly performances were adaptations of folk or fairy-tales–not original works. In the mid-1900s many community theatres began to create plays for children not only to attend, but to perform in as well—recognizing theatre’s recreational and educational potential for children. Touring TYA companies also emerged during this time.
It was a result of the Federal Theatre Project, founded during the Great Depression, that an influx of original TYA works were written and produced by professional theatre practitioners.
In the latter half of the 20th Century, the standards for Theate for Young Audiences continued to rise as well as amount of available material. Today, nearly every major city in the U.S. includes a Children’s Theatre Company.
The purposes of TYA extensive and far-reaching. It invites children to create, think, feel, analyze, critique, communicate, and understand. It teaches children about “about actions and consequences, about customs and beliefs, about others and themselves”. TYA has the power to shape more thoughtful and ethical citizens.
Experience for yourself how TYA continues to play a vital role in society when you see The Legend of Sleepy Hollow!