“WE: A Coming of Age Festival” will shine a spotlight on the ups and downs of adolescence with a performance at New Bern Civic Theatre that is produced and performed entirely by teenagers. “WE” includes a hybrid show of short films, spoken word, and a live performance of “Lin Manuel’s 21 Chump Street.”
“‘WE’ is about ups and downs, and we’ve certainly had our share of those in putting this show together,” said director Abigail Oliver, 18. “But we are not going to let this show slip away. When we had to cancel our first performance due to Covid, we adapted and filmed some of those scenes so they could be shared later. And once we got back on the calendar and started gearing up for our opening weekend, scheduled for today (July 9), we had to cancel three of our shows because the theatre’s HVAC system failed.”
“WE” will run for one weekend at New Bern Civic Theatre (NBCT), with shows at 7:30 p.m. on July 16-17 and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, July 18. Additional performances will be held July 23 at the Jones County Civic Center and July 24 in Pamlico County at a venue that has yet to be determined.
“Over the past year, I’ve heard several adults talk about how tough it must have been for all of us to go to school from home and be disconnected from all our friends,” added Oliver. “And they’re right. It has been. Hopefully, ‘WE’ will be an opportunity for adults to come out and see our show to get a better understanding of today’s life as a teen. But I’m also hoping they’ll bring their kids so that we can all connect with each other. So they can get out of the house. So they can see friends. So they can see that we are not all alone.”
Oliver began developing “WE” in March 2019 by looking for one-act shows but was unable to find playwrights who could accurately capture the teenage experience.
“They were adults and grew up in a different time as we did,” said Oliver. “So, we decided to find teenagers who understand what coming of age means in 2020.”
NBCT worked with Oliver to host a playwrighting competition that received submissions from all across the country. The winning scripts were local to North Carolina and New Bern. In addition to the stories from NC teens, “WE” includes “21 Chump Street,” which is a one-act musical written by “Hamilton” star and author, Lin-Manuel Miranda.
The project then gained more steam after receiving a grant from the Anonymous Trust to do the show in two rural locations in hopes of bringing this teen-led program to other areas around North Carolina.”
“Everything was coming together and our auditions were set to happen in March, but then COVID shut us down,” said Angelina Doyle, NBCT executive director. “We had to switch to virtual auditions, followed by a month of rehearsals over Zoom.”
“WE” began in-person rehearsals with small groups in June 2020, but the show date kept getting pushed back due to Covid restrictions.
“Eventually everyone was leaving for school and we were unable to push it back any further, so we decided to record the shows with the original cast and show it for parents,” said Oliver.
Production on the current show resumed a year later with a different cast, as scheduling and school was an issue for the previous cast. The current cast is comprised of teenagers from across NC, thanks to contacts Oliver made while studying at UNC School of the Arts.
“We’ve had to do a bootcamp style rehearsal for those traveling here,” said Oliver. “We rehearsed heavily for a week in June, and then again a week before the show was originally set to open. And although we’re having to push opening night off another week because of the HVAC issues, we are still incredibly excited to share this show with the community.”
“WE” is presented by the Saax Bradbury Players and produced by Callan Whitley, with musical direction by Marcel Pietrus and choreography by Kasen Walker, who was also the assistant director.
Performances are supported by a grant from The Anonymous Trust and sponsored Anonymously in Honor of Colonial Capital Humane Society
Purchase tickets by calling the box office at 252-633-0567 or by visiting newberncivictheatre.org.
By Angelina Doyle, NBCT Executive Director