I love when I read examples of teens behaving like human beings. Cause they are, you know. I so don’t buy the ‘kids have changed’ argument, or the ‘things were better back in the day’ diatribe. They weren’t. They were the same. Elements are certainly different. Technology for example, has sure changed and the way human beings react to technology has changed. But every era, just like every wave of teenagers, has their ups and their downs. Memory is a very tricky animal. (I’m just on the tail end of finishing up the next newsletter on The Glass Menagerie – I know all about that memory, let me tell you) The past is not the way we remember it. Not fully.
My favourite example of this, in relation to the ‘kids-are-different-wasn’t-it-better-back-then-boy-teenagers-are-sure-awful-these-days’ argument is a newspaper article I read in a museum in Coburg, Ontario. (Think North, way north). It was lamenting the teen drinking issue in the town and the fact that groups of teens were roaming the streets with nothing to do. It was written in 1914.
People ask me all the time, how can I write for teenagers, when I’m not one myself. Mostly as you guess from above, I don’t believe a teenager has changed. Not the emotional core,the frustration, the heart of what it’s like to be sixteen. Also, I like teenagers (it flabbergasts me when I meet people who work with teenagers and absolutely loathe them), I honour their enthusiasm, their energy and most importantly their love for theatre. There’s nothing like seeing the love pour out of a high school production.
I was talking to a teacher yesterday – she’s premiering a play of mine this fall (Look for it in our catalogue in the spring – Stupid is Just 4 2day) and she uses a lot of my work in class. Her Drama One students are convinced that I’m a teenager too. That is a pretty huge compliment. The best I could get as a playwright for student performers.
So back to teenagers acting like humans. I read this great post on a student matinee audience of a play. (Now, just to ride the other side of the fence – I’ve been an usher. Student matinees existed in a circle of hell at times). The audience of this particular play reacted to a very visceral moment with humanity, with intensity, and with focus. I love it. Kudos to the playwright for knowing that teens could take a punch (emotionally) and kudos for the theatre for letting the teens react.