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Drama Queen

NYU producer keeps her standards high.

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Nancy Swortzell is a supporter of children’s theater, but not much of it. The septuagenarian artistic director of New Plays for Young Audiences at NYU sees pretty much everything that hits the stage for kids in New York City, and she is unimpressed. “The plots have become trite, the acting shabby, and the sets are inconsistent,” says the Yale doctor of fine arts, in the most regal of tones. “They use claptrap methods, they’re junk.” Alrighty, then. But Swortzell is trying to change that, traveling the country in search of meaningful unpublished plays for children and producing readings at the Provincetown Playhouse, off Washington Square Park. This season’s lineup opens on June 9, and it’s far from trite. The Milk Dragon is a political tale about a perfect world, although little ones will perceive it more as an “imagine that!” fantasy. There’s an adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities (more appropriate for teens than for small children) and 1491, a mini-epic about life in fifteenth-century Spain. Equity actors and NYU drama students, both current and graduated, will give voice to the scripts throughout the run, which ends on June 24 and typically draws full houses. But Swortzell is quick to brush off the audience size as well. “That’s a by-product. Our real focus is to improve the quality of writing for young people. I look for meaning.”

Saturdays at 3 and 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m.; 6/9–6/10 Milk Dragon, 6/16–6/17 A Tale of Two Cities, 6/23–6/24 1491; Provincetown Playhouse, 133 Macdougal St., nr. Washington Square Park (212-998-5867); $5 grown-ups, free for kids.


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