Saturday, January 23, 2016

Slow Saturday Special: Teen Idol

It's the world we live in now and I've stopped fighting it:

"Plays put struggles of teenage girls on center stage" by Don Aucoin Globe Staff  December 26, 2015

Adolescent girls are confronting plenty of challenges on area stages these days, but these are not sensationalistic teens-in-jeopardy tales.

All written by women, these plays present starkly realistic portrayals of contemporary teenage girls and the challenges they face, offering a deeper perspective on a demographic sometimes caricatured as selfie-snapping narcissists.

Caricatured by who?

A similar phenomenon has occurred with the boom in young adult fiction, in which the theater experience — which happens live, in real time, creating the illusion that we’re looking in on events as they unfold — lends them a visceral wallop.

Yeah, the play is the thing.

You know what? 

I'm tired of imagery and illusion being put forth as reality by the paper in whatever it may be.

Drop curtain.

Why the sudden focus on teenage girls? 

I don't think I want to know. My first thought was perverts.

The answer might partly lie in the sheer eventfulness of adolescence, so rife with change of all kinds, and in the fact that teen girls, forced to cope with an array of social pressures, give the audience an underdog for whom to root.


“It makes good drama because of all the adversity they have to overcome,” says Patrice Oppliger, an assistant professor of mass communication at Boston University who studies the effects of media representations of adolescence. “It’s trying to understand what’s happening to the adolescent girl, and trying to understand it in a wider social context.’’

Added Baxter, 27: “Being a teenage girl is a real crucible. You’re trying so hard to understand who you are as a person, but also how other people see you — and those two things are not always the same.”

Isn't that true of any person for their entire lives? 

I'm not trying to minimize teen girl problems (far from it; I'm opposed to the transgender bathroom bill that would make them uncomfortable); however, I'm just wondering if generalities are being put forward as a stereotype.

As theaters look for ways to connect with young audiences, one avenue might be to depict their experiences onstage. More broadly, though, the most ambitious theaters want to reflect real life in all its range. 

It's the old cliche that life imitates art and vice-versa, and it's true. 

Summer L. Williams, a cofounder of Company One Theatre, said plays like “Dry Land” represent theater “catching up with reality and being less patriarchal” and attempting “to make sure women are seen in full.”

There is nudity?

“The climate is perhaps ready for these types of stories,” Williams said. “This is not a ‘Little Women’ sort of moment. This is a moment when women are stepping out and stepping up.”

What's next, them being Jedi? Or is that being racist?

Some of the women stepping up, of course, are female playwrights, who might be following the time-honored advice: Write what you know. To dramatize is also to validate, as women playwrights underscore the importance of girls’ experiences by capturing them with empathy and complexity.

“As more female playwrights are getting more access to bigger productions, these stories — which were always there — are getting more play,” said Jessie Baxter, the dramaturg on an October production of “Dry Land” at Boston’s Company One Theatre, said.

This new wave of plays explores the social, familial, and cultural forces that shape teenage girls and the women they will become. Stoneham Theatre recently presented Rebecca Gilman’s somber “Luna Gale,” in which 19-year-old Karlie battles to keep her ultrareligious mother from gaining custody of the baby taken from Karlie because of her methamphetamine use.

On Broadway, the musical “Fun Home’’ — a coming-of-age story about a lesbian cartoonist that traverses three stages of her life, including her freshman year at college, when she embraces her sexual identity — won five Tony Awards this year. The creators of the show are female: Jeanine Tesori wrote the music, while Lisa Kron wrote the lyrics and the book for the adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic-novel memoir.

In Ruby Rae Spiegel’s “Dry Land,” a high school swimmer named Amy is intent on a self-induced abortion. As she discusses possible methods and vents her fears to her teammate Ester, we never see the boy who got her pregnant. When the harrowing abortion scene finally arrives, it represents a turning point in the story that Spiegel — only 21 when “Dry Land” opened in New York last year — is telling about the developing bond between the two girls. As Ester helps Amy get through the ordeal, each discovers an unexpected strength that will help them face the future, their goals now clear.

It's called the "intricate dynamics of friendship."

Perhaps no time of life is more governed by social pressure than adolescence, when breaking out of the crowd can be an act of courage.

Unless you decided to blog about certain things. 

In “Milk Like Sugar,” which the Huntington Theatre Company will stage in January and which is written by local playwright Kirsten Greenidge, a high schooler named Annie faces relentless pressure to join her two best friends in getting pregnant. At first willing to go along, Annie begins to feel doubt as dreams of college swirl in her mind. “I’m just thinking maybe there’s more for us,” Annie tells a friend. Furious, the friend warns that backing out of their agreement will mean social isolation.

What Annie dreads is repeating the pattern of her mother, who got pregnant young and never got the chance to live her own dream. In words that any teen girl might utter, Annie says to her mother: “Maybe there’s another way to. Be.”

I know it is sexist and wrong of me; however, I have a hard time equating the wonderful gift of being able to bestow life being confused with ruining dreams. Maybe that's the point. Confuse the kids and push population control.

That's not to say I think teens should be popping kids out all over the place; however, when I compare that problem to the corpses of war across this planet I'm not minding much. Have fun, kids!

And save the Huntington!


Maybe I'll take in a show tonight.