Languages evolve over generations. At least they used to. These days languages evolve overnight, and never is that more evident than when you are writing for kids. Things change awfully fast in their world.
I started writing my first play for kids at the time my youngest child was ten years old. It was a play for performance by kids around her age, so unsurprisingly, I looked to my daughter and her friends for inspiration. In particular, I listened to the way they spoke, trying to pin down patterns in their speech, words of the ‘time’, trending slang, that sort of thing. What I didn’t bargain on was that my diligent attention to the authenticity of the words on my page would elicit eye rolls and tsking sounds barely a month later. Mum, nobody says that anymore.
That, on top of being told in no uncertain terms by my drama loving little ‘critic’ that using Narrators was a bad idea because they would be ‘too far removed from the dramatic tension‘ (insert another eye roll), almost made me decide that an audience of ten-year-olds was a far too terrifying prospect. But by then, I was already invested in the characters and their story, so I hung in there, and finished the play (sans narrators, I might add).
Over multiple edits, I realised I would never be able to keep up with the rate of change, but that spawned a better idea. I have made a recommendation in the Directors Notes, encouraging production teams in the distant future where words we have not even heard of will no doubt reign (next year), to remove outdated words and phrases, and replace them with the meme du jour as they see fit. It is common in the theatre to view the playwright’s words as sacrosanct – not to be changed or tinkered with – a sentiment I fully understand and applaud. But in this case, because of the nature of this work and it’s intent, I believe it will be better with the freedom to make it fit where it’s at – in both time and place.
One of my main goals was to write a story that was relevant to the kids who will be performing it. Not to mention of course the kids who will become that all-important part of any piece of theatre – the audience. The only way to do that is to let it keep evolving. At mach 10.
Oh, and my daughter thinks that’s a great idea. She has evolved too, from that eye-rolling ten year old into someone older, much more tolerant and wise. She’s eleven now.
Things change awfully fast in the world of kids, alright.
Image credit: Beautiful photo by Caroline Hernadez on Unsplash