Life is an ongoing series of lessons taught and, hopefully, learned. With age is supposed to come wisdom, but there can be a lot of bumps along the way to that knowledge and understanding. Teenagers often aren't experienced enough or mature enough to understand the consequences of their actions and how one mistake can affect their whole future.
This coming weekend, Brazos Valley TROUPE will tackle the tough subjects facing teens right here in College Station and Bryan as well as throughout the country and, indeed, the world.
Juvie, a powerful 1982 play by Jerome McDonough, is a departure for the talented young thespians at TROUPE who are better known for their musical prowess and comedic skills. The play will allow TROUPErs to extend their acting skills and will be TROUPE's presentation at the TNT youth theater conference in Odessa next month.
"Set in a juvenile detention center, Juvie depicts the life of kids that are scared, lonely and locked up," said M.A. Sterling, TROUPE's managing/artistic director who is directing the drama. "Some are drug offenders, some have killed and some are just misfits.
"Although the set never changes, the 'juvies' venture out of their cells to tell why and how they were caught.
One drama critic wrote, "The play confronts contemporary issues without being preachy. Originally, the play seemed best suited for urban communities but now its issues resonate with both urban and rural communities."
Juvie is one of the most frequently performed plays by and for younger audiences, although its message should be heard by every member of this community. Sterling warned that while there isn't any bad language or sexual content, there are scenes that do describe episodes of violence and tragic outcome.
"For this reason," he said, "we ask that parents use their discretion in bringing their younger children under 10. Parents may want to prep their younger kids before seeing the production and/or prepare for a healthy dialogue after seeing it."
TROUPE members have tailored the play to the local community by writing additional dialog for the full play.
TROUPE member Grace Manuel said, "We show that 'normal' people go to juvie. A simple mistake can get you in the wrong place, hanging with the wrong people."
Evan Bendiksen, another longtime TROUPE member, added, "Sometimes they didn't mean to do the things they did."
Juvie shows how quickly a careless or thoughtless act can turn serious and land a young person in trouble.
"We show that words can hold a powerful message" for good or bad, Manuel said. By talking about the incidents that landed them in juvenile detention, the characters get a chance to redirect their lives in a positive way,
"It shows everyone really has a voice," Bendiksen said.
Manuel is in eighth grade at A&M Consolidated Middle School, while Bendiksen is in 10th grade at A&M Consolidated High School. Both said rehearsing Juvie has been a learning experience, not only as actors but as young people facing so much peer pressure. "This has been really interesting," Bendiksen said. "I've never done something serious before. It is harder when you are not cracking a joke every five minutes."
Juvie is part of TROUPE's Studio Series and will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. on May 19 at TROUPE's 29th Street Studio, 3705 E. 29th St. in Bryan's Town & Country Center. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for TROUPE members. Thanks to a generous group of donors who wish to remain anonymous, tickets for all youth 18 and younger are only $5. Reservations for guaranteed seating can be made up to three hours prior to each performance and by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 979-846-4903.
Sterling said, "This presentation can and will, hopefully, create awareness and a healthy dialogue between youth and their parents or other adults in their lives.
"Not enough attention is paid to our youth and the complex issues that they deal with on a daily basis. Drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, neglect, bullying, etc., are just a few, among many, of the negatives that teens are faced with daily," he said.
While Juvie is an important presentation for everyone in the community, Sterling said it has special meaning for those who deal with young people on a regular basis, such as teachers and school administrators. "So much of what happens with our kids these days can be prevented or 'nipped in the bud," Sterling said.
"This production, in my opinion, easily can help with awareness, which can help to effect positive change," he said. "If we can impact our community in a positive fashion while doing something we love to do (performing), that is a major plus!
Cast members of Juvie include Jamie Adams, Evan Bendiksen, Eileen Bradway, Sara Brittain, Claire Chabot, Cameron Countryman, Grant Edens, Anne Finch, Kathleen Finch, Tessa Jae, Trevor Jae, Susie LeBuffe, Emma Lawson, Brady Manuel, Grace Manuel, Cameron McGuire, Calista Moats, Mikayla Moats, Kassie Osburn, Jessica Rambo, Nick Roman, Mollie Rush, Kelsey Shuttlesworth, Hannah Smith and Mary Kate Walker.
Special voice-overs are performed by Mark Edwards.
"Our audiences can expect a riveting performance by a young group of season TROUPE actors who have not only embraced this material head-on but who have taken on the social and civic responsibility that the material of this play brings. The cast has been simply fantastic in their commitment to this piece," Sterling said.
Since Juvie itself is a one-act play, there will be additional entertainment performed during the first half of the show, Sterling noted. "Monologues, dialogues and music that appeals to and depicts life as a teen will be performed and presented as an appealing appetizer for Juvie."
At intermission, audiences can participate in special auctions to raise funds to send TROUPErs to Odessa for the annual TNT Youth Conference.
TROUPE's presentation of Juvie seems a natural extension of a project on bullying it began two years ago with Texas A&M's educational psychology department. TROUPErs performed in a series of short films on different aspects of bullying and appeared in a series of posters dealing with issues of bullying, prepared by the A&M College of Education.
"Now, we take the issues that teens face to our most comfortable arena: the stage," Sterling said, adding, "We are now planning a special writing project for next year's season that deals with the same issues with a more contemporary spin.
TROUPErs Manuel and Bendiksen said they expect the audience of their peers for their presentation of Juvie in Odessa will be surprised by the production because TROUPE is known far and wide for its great musical presentations.
"I think when we're done, they will say we did a really good job with this," Bendiksen said.
People seem to have a love/hate relationship with William Shakespeare. Those who love him, well, they really love him. Those who say they hate Shakespeare may remember their days of senior English in high school struggling to read Julius Caesar or Othello. Surely, though, they have never thrilled to Shakespeare performed by an Olivier or a Guilgud or even a Burton.
Whether you are a Shakespeare aficionado, you no doubt will love Unity Theatre's presentation of I Hate Hamlet, opening Thursday at the theater in downtown Brenham and running through June 2.
"The show can be enjoyed by anyone whether they love Shakespeare or not," said Kate Revnell-Smith, executive artistic director of Unity Theatre. "It's essentially about the characters and their relationships and very little Shakespeare is quoted.
"There's is something in the play to appeal to everyone," Revnell-Smith said.
I Hate Hamlet opened on Broadway in 1991. Writer Paul Rudnick depicts an emotional tug-of-war successful television actor Andrew Rally faces between playing every actor's dream role of Hamlet on stage -- which is girlfriend really, really wants him to do -- or returning to Hollywood to star in what could be a huge TV hit. Rudnick actually lived in a New York City apartment once owned by John Barrymore, one of the great actors of the first half of the last century. So, Rudnick set his play in that apartment and has the ghost of Barrymore as Hamlet return to persuade Rally to take the play.
The comedy provides plenty of laughs as Rally struggles to decide what to do. "I picked this play as it is a great comedy to end up the season," Revnell-Smith said.
Zach Lewis stars as Andrew Rally and Joel Sandel as John Barrymore. Others in the cast are Bethany McCade as Deirdre, Abby DeBolt as Felicia, Pamela Vogel as Lillian and Andrew Garrett as Gary.
Directing I Hate Hamlet is Unity veteran George Brock, who teaches theater at Episcopal High School in Houston. At Unity, he has directed A Tuna Christmas, Little Mary Sunshine, The Turn of the Screw, Moonlight and Magnolias, The Odd Couple, Arsenic and Old Lace, Scotland Road and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
Brock also has graced the Unity stage in performances such as Harvey, The Odd Couple, Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol and Arsenic and Old Lace.
He is founding artistic director of Generations: A Theatre Company.
I Hate Hamlet opens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday with a preview, with a chance to talk to the cast and director after the performance. Performances continue Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. through June 2. There will be a special director's chat prior to the June 25 performance.
Tickets are $27 for all performances except Thursday's preview, for which tickets are only $17. Unity offers a special $15 at 15 rate for any unsold seats remaining 15 minutes prior to each performance. It's certainly a great deal, but you risk not getting a seat.
Tickets are available by calling 979-830-8358 or at the box office at 300 Church St. in Brenham, near the corner of Commerce Street. The box office is open Mondays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 90 minutes prior to each performance.
• Through May 25 -- Women Call for Peace: Global Vistas, J. Wayne Stark Galleries at Texas A&M University, free. (979-845-8501, uart.tamu.edu)
• Through May 31 -- The Substance of Life: Texas Through the Eyes of Theodore Gentilz, Star of the Republic Museum at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site. (936-878-2214, www.starmuseum.org)
• Through June 1 -- The Astin Family: Culture and Couture in Early 20th Century Bryan, Brazos Museum of Natural History, 3232 Briarcrest Drive in the Brazos Center in Bryan. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, students and children and free for children 3 and younger.
• Through June 23 -- Gilded Age Grandeur: Mount Washington Art Glass, Forsyth Galleries in the Texas A&M Memorial Student Center,Tuesdays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. Free
• Through July 5 -- George Bush Library and Museum presents Genome: The Secret of How Life Works (691-4000, bushlibrary.tamu.edu)
• All Month -- Children's Museum of the Brazos Valley in Downtown Bryan offers a rotating series of six programs weekdays at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. (779-5437, cmbv.org)
• Every Sunday -- Open mics and poetry slams sponsored by Mic Check Poetry, 8:30 p.m. Revolution Café in Downtown Bryan. (miccheckpoetry.com)
• Send items for Arts Watch by noon Tuesday to email@example.com.