Two plays reach out to college students with like experiences

10/8/2008 | By: Jon Fortenbury  |

Despite a 26 year gap, the plays Juvenilia (written by Wendy Maclead) and This is Our Youth (written by Kenneth Lonergan) feature characters that go through strikingly similar experiences. Director Rob Gander placed them back to back for exactly that reason.

“The thing that I set out to explore was this similar journey that a young person went through 26 years ago that they still go through today,” said Gander, who is a professor of theatre in the Department of Speech Communication and Theater. “You’re still dealing with sex, drugs and rock and roll on some level, either embracing them or trying to let go of them. It’s difficult in our culture to become a young adult.”

The Nevada Repertory Company holds two more performances of This is Our Youth in the Redfield Studio Theatre on Oct. 9 and 11 at 7:30 p.m. Juvenilia will be at the same location on Oct. 8 and 10 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 12 at 1:30 p.m.

Set in 1982, This is Our Youth delves into the life of Warren Straub (Ryan Berrigan), a discarded 19-year-old druggie with a lost soul and an inability to impress women. After being kicked out of his house, he steals $15,000 from his father.

Warren seeks out guidance from his friend Dennis Ziegler (James Schlauch), an easily angered, prideful drug dealer. Dennis lets Warren stay at his apartment for a couple of days, offering financial advice as well as advice on scoring with Jessica Goldman (Hilary Bernius), an intelligent woman who likes to argue.

Dennis and his girlfriend Natalie set out to make the best of the money by spending $1,500 on drugs and $200 on champagne. This leaves Warren and Jessica at the apartment alone.

Though not apparent in the synopsis, This is Our Youth portrays characters in their late teens struggling to transition into adulthood. The play includes dialogue on what they should do next with their lives and how to properly make that transition, a transition Gander made in 1982 as well.

“It’s been kind of humbling to realize that the difficulties that I experienced continue with students today,” Gander said. “I think in some ways that it’s been good for me to come to grips with the fact that my students’ struggles were my struggles.”

The play received loud applause on Oct. 3 from the audience. In the 125-seat theatre, most seats were filled.

“I liked that it was real,” said Casey Donahue, a 19-year-old theatre major from Reno. “Everybody can kind of relate to a little bit of what’s going on.”

Juvenilia deals with some of the same issues as This is Our Youth. Set in present-day New York City, it begins during an ordinary Friday night for two adolescents. Henry (Kevin Davies) is a nice romantic guy who is easily influenced by peer pressure, and Brodie (Michael Fuller) is a 20-year-old with an undeclared major and a twisted view of love.

With Brodie surfing internet porn and Henry on a stationary bike exercising, Brodie’s girlfriend Meredith (Julia Pratt), a rich ruthless girl who had a bad childhood, enters the scene with an idea. She wants to get Angie (Sophia Mesfin), the nice Christian girl next door, drunk enough to have a three-way with Brodie and Henry while she watches.

Given the task to get Angie over to the apartment, Henry feels uncomfortable with this idea while Brodie makes sly attempts to shift into a threesome.

Musical theatre major Sarah Simons loved the Oct. 4 performance of Juvenilia. She said she usually attends musicals and last saw a play in high school.

“I was blown away by it,” said Simons, a 20-year-old from Fernley, Nev. “The characters seemed real…I go to school with kids like that.”

Juvenilia mixed elements found in the films like Closer and Cruel Intentions while still revealing the fear these four young adults have as they’re approaching their college graduation.

“A lot of times theatre doesn’t seem relevant to students because it’s about characters that are older,” Gander said. “I think the student population will love these plays because these are 18-22 year olds on stage dealing with things that all of us dealt with in the past or currently as we’re sort of trying to grow up and trying to make that transition to young adult or complete adult. I don’t think there’s anybody on this campus that’s not experiencing it.”


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