“This Is Our Youth” depicts disillusionment and finding purpose

Promotional image depicting college dropouts Dennis (played by Silas Waugh) and Warren (played by Adam King) discuss their plight with Jessica (played by Kelly McCarty) in a scene from the production of “This Is Our Youth,” being presented Feb. 3-5 by Western Carolina University’s School of Stage and Screen. Photo by Sadie Whitehead.

Western Carolina University’s Stage & Screen is showcasing their latest Mainstage production, “This Is Our Youth”, aiming to highlight the struggles of growing up and finding a purpose to lead a life behind.

Performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3, and Saturday, Feb. 4. They will have a matinee performance at 3 p.m. on Feb. 4 and Sunday, Feb. 5, in the Black Box Theatre of WCU’s John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center.

The play is about three upper west side kids living in an apartment in New York City during the Regan Era. Two roommates are caught up in the “Me Generation” of the ‘80s and are simultaneously rejecting their parent’s world when someone new enters their lives to change their thinking. Dennis (Silas Waugh) is a swaggering drug dealer living off his parent’s wealth, Warren (Adam King) is Dennis’s best friend and a disillusioned free thinker who has stolen $15,000 from his father. Jessica (Kelly McCarty), a self-conscious fashion student, enters their lives and they all become closer as they find out how to return the stolen money, stay afloat, and build authentic, vulnerable relationships. “This Is Our Youth” aims to be a coming of age story about the painful process of making your own way through the world, feeling lost and trying to figure out who you are through the many mistakes you make.

“The show is ultimately about people trying to find their place in the world,” wrote actor Adam King over an interview on Facebook Messenger. “The play is set in a harsh political climate…I think students would benefit seeing young adults struggle to be young adults. To be able to say you can relate to the struggles of another individual on stage is something special.”

The play is set in the round, which means that there is an audience on all four sides of the stage. The seats are three or four rows from the stage itself, so the audience is close to the action. The director of the show, assistant professor Dustin Whitehead, mentioned in a radio interview with 540 WGRC that this helps the intensity of the show since you are in the room with the story, feeling what the characters feel, experiencing and discovering with them.

“Every human has felt lost or unsure of how to move forward. That is part of life. We are all trying to find our purpose,” said Whitehead. “The search for purpose is universal.”

So why this show, and why on a college campus?  Whitehead mentioned that we live in a currently confusing time in history, and how the US has become even more polarized politically than ever. It’s all the more important on a college campus to discover yourself.

“College is a time to get away from your parents and find your true voice. This is a play about young people finding their place in the world and making mistakes along the way,” Whitehead commented. “…it is especially relevant for people in their early 20’s, and we have a lot of people that age around the WCU campus.”

Tickets are $11 for WCU faculty and staff, and seniors; $16 for adults; and $10 for students on the day of the show and $7 in advance.