The University of South Carolina’s Department of Theatre and Dance will take audiences on an introspective journey in its production of “This is Our Youth.”
The play, written by “Manchester by the Sea” playwright Kenneth Lonergan, is directed by fourth-year political science and theatre student John Reynolds. The student-produced show will be performed in the Lab Theatre in the Booker T. Washington building from March 24 through March 27. Tickets can be purchased on the USC Theatre and Dance website.
The show follows the coming-of-age story of three young adults in 1980s New York who struggle to find their place in life. The realistic portrayal of these timeless issues resonated with Reynolds, who said he found it important to direct a show that would speak to students.
“Over the course of two days, (the characters) better understand themselves through love, and loss, and drugs, and sex and everything that we experience at our age,” Reynolds said. “I think people are going to be surprised by how deep these characters are.”
One of the three characters is a 21-year-old drug dealer named Dennis who thinks he runs the world, according to the actor, second-year theater student Koby Hall. Throughout the show, Dennis slowly realizes that he’s not in control. Hall said one of the most important takeaways from the show is that friendship is the most important — it’s what gets you through your struggles.
“It’s the realest I’ve ever performed,” Hall said. “They’re not naïve and there’s not a curtain around the whole drug scene.”
Reynolds said he hopes audiences will observe the causes of addiction and see that drug misuse is still a danger today. He also predicts that the superficial friendship between Dennis and Warren, played by third-year theater student John Boulay, will force people to examine if other people really know their authentic selves.
While there are some heavy themes in the show, there is also natural comedic relief. Fourth-year theater student Caroline McGee, who plays 19-year-old fashion student Jessica, says audiences will have some laughs in addition to moments of deep reflection.
“It's very interesting in the sense of, in contrary to ... other shows that we've done that are like comedies, these people are much more on a realistic, level-head basis,” third-year environmental science student and stage manager Logan Brodfuehrer said. “They're not intentionally over-exaggerated.”
The play takes place in Dennis’ barren city apartment. Brodfuehrer designed the set in the Lab Theare with the help of theater laboratory students, which features a dirty wall structure with a door, a small table and a mattress on the floor.
“The fun part of this was that things don't have to be perfect,” Brodfuehrer said. “He's not a person of interior decoration, he kinda just has what he has.”
Despite the seemingly basic nature of the show’s visuals, it was still important to the crew to have every aspect of the show reflect the time period. Brodfuehrer said the crew tried to find or design prop pieces authentic to the period, especially including graduate student Andrew Burns' costume designs.
“That was my big focus, is making sure that we were presenting an authentic story,” Reynolds said. “I'm proud of the overall quality of the design for it just being students working on their own time with minimal faculty supervision.”
The show being performed in the Lab Theatre helps the cast and crew to fully immerse the audience into this environment.
“It's a very intimate space,” McGee said. “There's three of us and (the characters are) in this teeny tiny apartment in New York, so it's just perfect.”
McGee said she thinks it’s important for students to watch other people go through their own struggles, even if they are characters in a play.
“It was written by somebody; it came from somewhere. There’s truth in it,” McGee said. “I think a lot of college students could really find deep comfort in the show ... there's human connection and there's genuine love.”