Newly created plays for young people are not published very often, so this collection merits some attention.
The four dramas, commissioned by the well-respected Minneapolis Children’s Theater Company, are about growing up in ethnically diverse communities, but the plays cover different sets of problems for their young protagonists. Esperanza Rising, loosely adapted from the novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan, is set during the Depression, when Mexican immigrants competed with Okies for agricultural jobs in California. Esperanza changes from a pampered rich girl into a hard worker. The others are very contemporary. In Average Family, a reality-TV contest brings the wealthy Minneapolis Roubidoux family back to a Native American lifestyle they have never known. Also set in Minneapolis, the strongest play (at least on the page), Snapshot Silhouette, features a resilient Somali refugee, Najma, who finds both her voice and a new friend when she moves in with a well-meaning African American mother and her disaffected daughter; they are struggling as a family after the murder of an older daughter. Sasha, an isolated child of a Russian immigrant, finally gets to know her neighbors when she goes looking for a pen to write a research paper on the eponymous Brooklyn Bridge, the most artificial selection.
Groups considering mounting productions that go beyond the popular musicals may want to consider looking at this uneven but thought-provoking anthology. (Drama. 11-14)