The Young@Part® collection is comprised of 60 to 70 minute adaptations of popular musicals from the TRW catalogue designed to provide a rich dramatic and musical experience for elementary and middle-school aged kids. On the verge of launching two new Young@Part® titles, we sat down with Fred Stuart, Chief Creative Officer at TRW, to learn about the thoughtful development process that goes into each carefully crafted show.
TRW: First of all, what is the difference between a Young@Part® and a School Edition version of a show?
Fred: For a Young@Part® edition, song keys are analyzed and changed where needed to ensure healthy vocal models for voices that are still maturing. The story is examined beat by beat and streamlined, edited and lightly re-written for age-appropriate content issues and to arrive at a doable run time of 60 to 70 minutes while still retaining the full impact of the story. School Editions, on the other hand, are designed for high school age performers and are close to a full edition of the show.
TRW: Aside from length, what elements do you consider when creating your Young@Part® versions of a show?
Fred: First, we look at any title we have and ask, is there any version of this show that makes sense for young performers? We have a Young@Part® litmus test: does the necessary removal of songs, lines, scenes for content and run time leave the story intact? While we want to make every show we can available to the vast junior market we helped create, we at TRW feel that not every show is appropriate for kids to perform. As we approach developing our Young@Part® collection, we ensure that we have quality and appropriateness as our benchmarks, not just volume of titles. Our mission with Young@Part® is to create an experience that fosters a lifelong love of the arts.
TRW: A large component of the development process involves the Director’s Guide. How do you go about building this resource?
Fred: The Director’s Guide is a vital part of the show box, especially to new directors. I develop the guides after a long process of directing the full version of the show with an advanced kids’ theatre group. Then we make edits and have a table read at TRW, one of my favorite days at work, before mounting another test production, making more edits and doing one more test production. After that we begin recording the accompaniment and guide vocals. So by the time the Director’s Guide makes it into a director’s hand, it has been rigorously vetted.
TRW: What do kids get from being in a show of this caliber, beyond the joy of performance and a love of the arts?
Fred: Taking a group of kids from page to stage is one of life’s great beauties. I would say it’s been the most rewarding work in my wide-ranging career in theatre. I’ve always striven to make sure that kids understand that there are truly no leads, only ensemble– a company of people relying on one another to tell a story. Along the way, I have seen that the experience of being in a well-done rehearsal and performance process can be a life-changer for a lot of kids. The life lesson for them is to get to the desired end results, you have to thoroughly go through all the stages of preparation along the way. You have to know what those steps are and commit to them. In a properly crafted production, kids come away from the experience with a discipline they bring to all aspects of their academic, creative, and work life, both as students and beyond.