Defining "TYA": Could We? Should We?

The process of building the Forum on TYA has been informed by a series of questions about the varied approaches and manifestations of Theatre for Young Audiences at home and throughout the world. In our planning, we explored the ways in which TYA diverges from and intersects with other theatrical genres and within the larger realm of educational theatre and drama. It is the intention of the Forum to consider a variety of the work currently called "TYA" and to engage in a dialogue about that work. It is interesting to me that such discussions always draw back to a simple question of definition - "What is TYA?", or as the Forum seeks to explore it, "Which way TYA?". Where does the field currently stand and what are the implications for its future?

Recently, a colleague posed the the following questions: "Does the category of 'Theatre for Young Audiences' create more problems than solutions for us? Does it carry a stigma? Are we too separate from the rest of the theatre movement?  In Germany, they talk about Young Theatre - a spirit that pervades young work, young performers, and a young/less conventional attitude to making theatre. This allows repertory theatres and main houses as well as what we would call more traditional TYA to share the same umbrella. And it means that there are fewer preconceptions."

Whether we call it "Theatre for Young Audiences" or "Young Theatre" or some other incarnation of that phrase, what similarities exist among our work? Can we come to a consensus definition? Should we?

These are questions that are not likely new to you in your work. And they are likely to pop up throughout the conference next weekend. So, in preparation for this gathering, what similarities do you see in work that is labeled as "TYA"? Do you have a definition? Please share your ideas here.


  1. Good questions!

    Defining TYA probably goes beyond what it is, and involves WHY it is. Why do we create work for an audience between the ages of 0 and 18? This rationale should span all of the work we create for young audiences, so it may be a starting point for a definition (although I assume we're coming to a definition of quality TYA.

    We create work for young people because we believe they need and deserve theatre that matters to them. Theatre which pertains to their lives, and which they care about. Of course, this theatre -- like Young Theatre in Germany -- will likely matter to audiences who are no longer children too. This is logical and great!

    TYA, though, is theatre made to matter specifically to children, because they are a thrilling, deserving audience.

    Perhaps a definition can begin here?


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