Take it one show at a time and give children the opportunity to see excellent theater. It’s a philosophy that David Saar has implemented for the past 35 years.
With the way things have evolved over that time frame, that philosophy will not need to change any time soon.
Saar founded Childsplay in 1977, just to “make a new play.” He recruited a crew and they started from scratch. That first production was called “Will Today Be Yesterday Tomorrow,” and it was a musical revue about time.
Back then Saar had no idea where his concept would take him. The drama specialist for Mesa School District, a position created just for him, Saar would not make it his full-time job for several years after the first production.
“We just gathered people to make a new play and demand caused it to grow,” he said. “When we performed it people started to ask us to come here or there, so we did that for a year. We devised another couple of pieces and about three years in, discovered why God created playwrights and it just slowly grew.”
Childsplay will celebrate its 35th anniversary with a party at the Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway, on April 27, beginning at 6 p.m.
Their current home is the last stop in a long line of changes and relocations. They had a brief stay at a high school in Tempe before it closed down. They moved to the Herberger Theatre in the 1990s and also performed at the Scottsdale Center of the Arts along the way.
They are currently in their fourth season at the Tempe Center for the Arts.
“Now we have a home for everything in the organization,” Saar said. “The community, the city of Tempe, they have been phenomenally supportive and that’s been an important part of growth.”
It has been 35 years since that first, original production and even after all that time Saar, who is the artistic director, is still hands-on as ever. He said he directs two plays each season and overseas casting and choosing the season.
“We will have four world premiers this year and I think that it’s the most I’ve ever done,” he said. “We are continuing to change and grow.”
Childsplay’s audience is predominately students who take field trips to see their quality productions, Saar said. They offer weekend performances to the community as well. Their final play of this season is called “The Color of Stars” and it opens on April 28.
The goal is to keep the subject matter and the way it is delivered relevant to the children who are watching, he said.
“Childhood is different today than it was when I was a kid, there is a continual change,” he said. “It is our responsibility to create new forms of theater that reflect that reality. I think our commitment to new work and finding new forms of theater for kids is what has made us successful.”
To find out more, visit www.childsplayaz.org, where you can purchase tickets for the 35th anniversary party and see show times for the upcoming production.
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