College: the place, the time, the school, the people. What makes it worth “hundreds of thousands of dollars to students” of the Facebook generation if it doesn’t make them happy?
Composed almost entirely of Virginia Tech students and grads, Homegrown Theatre asks the questions every college student has wrestled with. Their answers are often hilarious, thoughtful, naive, careless, and occasionally profound, making for a fantastic experience.
Stepping into the Bedroom at the Fringe felt like walking into a college dorm room. Mismatched white stools, chairs, and cheap folding dorm furniture were scattered about the stage. Six actors in college branded shirts stumbled as if drunk, high, or both. With only a soundtrack of indie anthems, they rearranged furniture and wrote reminders about sex, beer, fears and parties on the chalkboard attached to the back wall. So far, it feels a lot like college.
Although the dramatized interview, ala the Tectonic Theatre Project, is nothing new, it worked beautifully in this production. The actors, many of them current co-eds, captured the dichotomous essence of college: ennui and optimism. Their material was compiled from a series of interviews with 52 students as well as the actors’ own words.
No matter the topic (they covered fifteen, from diversity to sex to post-grad life), there seemed to be no less than two opposing viewpoints. Refreshingly, the less thoughtful responses were as likely to be included as the reflective ones, creating a totally honest production. The honesty revealed that many high school graduates end up in college because, “That’s what I’m supposed to do,” or “It makes life easy.” Optimistic post-grad goals, for many, don’t come until much later, if at all.
One of the funniest scenes involved students describing their schools’ stereotypical students. JMU, NYU, VT, CMU, Bard, Oberlin – no one remained unscathed. Hippies, hipsters, hicks, WASPs, JAPs, all fell victim to one stereotype or another (Trust fund kid: “Kind of fashionable in a gross way). The audience was in stitches as particular schools seemed to strike at alumni’s memories of their own experiences.
But not everything was so lighthearted. the freshman 15 did not shy away from the disappointment, frustration and loneliness that the college experience delivers to so many eager students. Shared sentiments also echoed discontentment of being stuck in limbo between high school and adulthood with no real responsibilities but a weight of expectations.
In their most effective use of movement, the ensemble underscored the effects of parties and drinking, the kind that typically feature the red Solo cup. One group shared their most memorable drinking stories as a lone student recalled a more tragic party incident. Simultaneously, a girl stumbled around the center of the stage, obliviously drunk and utterly alone. No one intervened.
The weak moment of the piece was the delivery of two concurrent monologues. Being the one instance that the play discussed faith, religion, or the loss thereof, it was disappointing to have such a significant topic lost in the muddle of voices making it near impossible to follow either reflection.
A superb show from beginning to end, the freshman 15 held the audience in its angst-clenched fist, and they loved every moment of it. For anyone who’s ever been disillusioned with life this is an excellent reminder that you are not alone. For the recent high school grad, this is both thrilling and sobering. For those long out of undergrad, come watch and remember what life was like before you gained your freshman 15.
I’m not promising life after college is easy (it’s not) or that Fringe will make your dreams come true (maybe) but Homegrown Theatre is certainly off to a wonderful beginning. Come out and support six college kids who have done at least one thing right.
the freshman 15/life in transitionhas 6 performances, ending July 29, 2012, at The Bedroom at Fort Fringe, 610 L St NW DC
Details and tickets
Rebekah rates this 4 out of a possible 5.
Editor’s note: The creator and director of this piece is someone DCTS readers have come to know. Julia Katz has reviewed Fringe shows for us for the past 2 years. This did not impact this review.
Created and directed by Julia Katz
Set Design by John Darr
Lighting by Kevin Frazier
Reviewed by Rebekah Nettekoven Tello