this is our youth

‘This Is Our Youth’: Silent House Won’t Play It Safe

Sure, Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” but that’s easier said than done if you’re not an ancient philosopher with a big brain. What about the lives of those who are younger, lack the skills of self-reflection, and are as much at war with themselves as they are with the world?

Silent House Theatre Company tackles these issues in its new production, This Is Our Youth, from February 4–6 at McLennan Community College’s Black Box Theatre.

This Is Our Youth

First produced in 1998, Kenneth Lonergan’s play is the story of Dennis (Collin Selman), Warren (Nick Marquez), and Jessica (Aedin Waldorf), three privileged white kids on the cusp of adulthood in Ronald Reagan’s 1982 America. After being kicked out of his home by his abusive father, Warren steals $15,000 from him and then shows up unannounced at Dennis’s apartment, kicking off a series of bad ideas and worse results.

Over the course of a single night and following day in New York City’s Upper West Side, they begin — almost inadvertently — to take responsibility for their lives.

At first blush, it might seem like a play about entitled kids in 1980s New York City might have little to offer today’s Waco audiences, but Nick Marquez, who plays Warren, pushes back at that idea. He sees two audiences for the play: teenagers and their parents.

“At the end of the show, I want people to think about feeling more comfortable encouraging young people to plumb the emotional depths of who they are and who they might be as opposed to treating the future as something you have to combat,” he said. “I’m hoping that you realize, oh, gosh, you know, maybe I should talk to my kid a little more, give them some of my experience instead of just general advice or getting stuck in these combative patterns like Dennis and Jessica.”

Silent House co-owner Bradyn Braziel added: “A big theme in this show is complacency. And this happens a lot when you don’t have immediate problems — like where am I going to live, how am I going to get my next meal, and can I get a job? — so you create problems. And you have these facades and the only one who can get beyond it by the end is Warren because of the past grief that he went through.”

Be warned, however, that this journey is not for the faint of heart: The three characters’ reckonings are profanity-ridden, drug-fueled, and violent affairs filled with theft, overdoses, sex, and murder.

“This is a stretch for Silent House,” admitted Braziel. “We like to do work that challenges us and makes you think when you leave. You’ve got some topics that Waco likes to stray away from, but we’re willing to step up to the plate and tell a story that needs to be told.”

In the end, Aristotle may be more apropos for this play than Socrates: “But ‘change in all things is sweet,’ as the poet says, because of some vice.”

The Next Level

This Is Our Youth is directed by Ryan Kirby, a Middlebury College theater major who’s getting his BFA in directing. His school allowed him to intern with Silent House so he could hone his skills, and Marquez saw a significant impact from Kirby’s presence.

“A lot of us are above-the-shoulders people, and we’re just very intellectual about it,” he said. “I have a really good eye for detailing and blocking things out. But the feelings behind that? I don’t really look for those.”

In contrast, Marquez said Kirby explored the emotions driving the scenes and reflected with his actors, asking questions like, “Okay, well, what do you want to do? Where do you think you should be going? And what direction do you want to take this in?”

“When you grow up doing theater, you have directors who literally just tell you what to do,” Braziel added, “and then you never really learn how to do it for yourself. So that reflection helps actors learn how to do it for themselves. I think Ryan really takes us to the next professional level.”

But Wait, There’s More…

This Is Our Youth is Silent House’s third production, so the group is now looking further ahead and has announced its slate of upcoming shows:

  • The Crucible (May 26–29 & June 2–5)
  • Godspell (July 8–10 & 15–17)
  • Hedda Gabbler (October 6–9 & 14–16)

Tickets for the 2022 season are $55.

As with its earlier shows, sign-language interpreters will be on hand for deaf audience members. And starting in January, Silent House began offering group acting lessons for the disabled on the last Saturday of each month from 10 am to 11 am at Mission Waco’s Jubilee Theatre.

Single-performance tickets for This Is Our Youth are $15, with shows at 7:30 pm from February 4–6 and an additional 2:30 pm matinee on Saturday, February 5, at the Black Box Theatre in McLennan Community College’s Music & Theatre Arts Building.

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Mark Roy Long's various incarnations have included college English instructor, book publisher, freelance writer, editorial content manager, and professional lawn mower. He is a devotee of craft beer, disc golf, and live music. A long-time Waco resident, he was tired of asking, “What’s going on around town?” and decided to answer that for himself... and anyone else who wanted to know.

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