Theater for the New City Presents Generation (bu)Y 5/6-5/16
"Generation (bu)Y" explains our slavery to marketing from the mouths of babes. Conceived and directed by Philip Suraci, written by Suraci and the cast, the play will be performed by an ensemble of 18 young actors (aged 11 to 13) plus three adult actors. It is meant to be played for an audience of adults and children over the age of ten. The intent of the production is to raise awareness of the effects marketing and advertising upon children. "Generation (bu)Y" examines strategies used by marketers such as the belittlement of parents and adults (parent/child alienation) and the exploitation of child needs of acceptance by peers. Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, will present the work May 6 to 16.
It's the second play by-kids-for-adults to be directed by Philip Suraci at Theater for the New City. In the true spirit of "activist" theater, it's a testimonial by an affected class of people (our kids) that's aimed at the ears of the class that needs to hear it the most (their parents). While pursuing a master's degree in educational theater (NYU 2004), Suraci was deeply impressed by the depth and complexity of thought of relatively young people (ages 10-13). When these students and their words were placed in a dramatic context, Suraci found the result to be powerful, provocative and beautiful. Society pays little heed to the personal beliefs of children. Though children are often unencumbered by fears and obstacles encountered by adults, their views, their purity of thought and purpose, are disregarded by the jaded, realist perspectives of their elders. In this sense, children are the most ordinary of people whose voices overwhelmed by society's power structure.
Rehearsals began in January and were devoted to generating material directly from the young actors. Suraci brainstormed ideas with them, i.e. "What happens at parties you go to?" The actors were broken into small groups to devise short scenes. Each scene was presented to the rest of the group and the dialogue recorded. Scenes were set in places where marketing to children occurs: school, malls, etc. Suraci took the recorded dialogue and edited it into, for example, scenes involving a child's therapist and monologues by a marketer. Other types of colorful material were created using student-generated material like poems, jingles and free-associations.
In the play, a 13 year-old girl is in crisis. She is suffering from anxiety and subject to angry outbursts at school. Her grades are suffering. Her mother has sent her to therapy. Through her sessions with her therapist, the audience comes to learn about the source of her distress: the pressure to conform to what she feels others wish her to be and her perceived inability to meet those expectations (as conveyed by her peers and media). The dialogue between the therapist and the girl introduces scenes where kids meet, like at school, the mall, a birthday party, or a bad dream. Interspersed with these are conversations between a consultant specializing in marketing to children and a prospective client. The marketer is "selling" her expertise while explaining to her client (and the audience) how marketers target Generation Y--those born between 1980 and 2000. The play is contains both dialogue and songs. In the end, the girl develops a liberating understanding of herself and is transformed to a more aware and confident state of being. The audience is charged with the responsibility to value children as human beings rather than as sources of commerce and profit.
The play thus born examines the predicament of growing up well (or from the parent's perspective, raising children well) in the face of mass marketing. As a dramatic scenario, it is informed by certain "new realities" of the marketplace. A major thrust of marketing to children is the interposition of the marketer between the parent and the child. Marketers create utopian spaces free of parents and advertisements actually position the marketer with the child against the parent. The result of this is not harmless. Studies have shown that higher levels of consumer involvement result in worse relationships with parents. As relationships with parents deteriorate, there is negative effect on children's well being. Relating poorly to parents can lead to depression, anxiety, lower self-esteem and more psychosomatic complaints.
If we love our children, why do we put up with this? Suraci notes that mass marketing is often justified by the need to maintain competition in the marketplace, but that's a fallacy. Most economists say competition and innovation are actually suppressed because advertising is so expensive. Only giant corporations can control what's on sale in the market. Rather than creating more consumer demand--and therefore production and jobs--they use advertising mainly to defend and enlarge their brands.
Suraci previously wrote and directed "Lysistrata's Children," which was presented by Theater for the New City in 2007 and again in 2008. In Aristophanes' original, Athenian wives denied their husbands sex in order to persuade them to make peace. In Suraci's ingenious adaptation, children withheld love from their parents until they signed an oath of "Victory over violence" and join the children's quest for peace. There was sly comedy in the children's manipulation of their parents' behavior and in the parents' responses to their children's demands. It was devised for and with its teenage cast in a collaborative process that pioneered Suraci's method in "Generation (bu)Y." Based on the genesis of that play and its positive reception by the audience, Executive Director Crystal Field invited Suraci to create a new piece with students that voices their perspective on an aspect of contemporary culture. Lysistrata's Children is also the name of Suraci's Production Company.
Suraci feels deeply fortunate to be working at Theater for the New City. He writes, "Crystal Field and TNC have had the courage, heart and vision to present both 'Generation (bu)Y' and 'Lysistrata's Children," original works exploring a new application of theater. By championing the humanity of children through art, TNC exemplifies the daring and sincerity that is the true youthful spirit. They foster a vision of a more hopeful, joyful world through the transformative power of theater."
The young actors are Lola Buncher, Eli Cauley, Ty Cotton, Priscilla Delmoral, Leila Eliot, Mykel Macedon, Will Mairs, Malcolm McKenzie, Tiffany Otero, Valentine Petrillo, Willa Pittman, Frances Raybaud, Collin Rhyins, Kendrik Shoji, Mitchel Thomas, Jason Vazquez, Malcolm Zelaya, Michell Wolinsky. The adult actors are Tom O'Connor, Elisa Blynn and Jackie Donnaruma.
Musical Director is Joseph Albano Feiger. Choreography is by Barry Blumenfeld. Set Design is by Mark Marcante. Lighting Design is by Alex Bartenieff. Costume Design is by Kat Martin. Mask and puppet design are by Spica Wobbe. Graphic Design is by FrEd Sullivan and AVDrive. Art Design is by Reinaldo Felix.
WHERE AND WHEN:
May 6 to 16, 2010
Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, NYC
Presented by Theater for the New City
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 pm; Sundays at 3:00 pm
Tickets: Adults $15; Seniors, Teachers and Students $5
Box office/info (212) 254-1109. Online ticketing: www.theaterforthenewcity.net
Runs :55. Critics are invited on or after May 6.