Young Company Students at the Kennedy Center's New Visions/New Voices conference

First Stage’s Young Company - the Theater Academy’s award-winning training program for our most advanced high school actors- is performing at the 2016 New Visions/New Voices conference in Washington D.C. this week. Hosted by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, this prestigious, week-long festival for playwrights and theaters aims to stimulate and support the creation of new plays and musicals for young audiences and families.

Young Company will perform TXT U L8R, an original work by Eric Coble written specifically for these young talented actors. We recently caught up with Mr. Coble to find out more about bringing TXT U L8R to New Visions/New Voices this year.

Playwright Eric Coble and Director John Maclay with
members of the Young Company at The Kennedy Center.

Why are you excited to participate in the New Visions/New Voices conference?

I’ve taken two plays to New Visions/New Voices before this one, and had a wonderful, world-opening encounter each time I went. It’s a long story, but I wouldn’t be writing TXT U L8R in Milwaukee if it weren't for randomly meeting Stan Foote from Oregon at NV/NV in Washington D.C. over a decade ago. The conference is such a great celebration of Theatre for Young Audiences, by some of the most skilled makers of that theatre in the country. It’s an honor to get to share work with them, to see what they’re thinking and working on, to revel in this amazing job we have and pus the art forward.

Why is it important to tell this story, TXT U L8R now?

Our current reliance on non-face-to-face communication is unprecedented in all of human history. All the communication clues our bodies have spent thousands of years refining are out the window. No eye contact, no body language, no tone of voice — and yet we may be sharing more constant “talk” with each other than ever. So what happens when all that texting suddenly stops making sense? When we’ve grown so reliant on texting to tell us about the world, who do we turn to solve the mysteries our phones themselves may present? These are issues that drama hasn’t really gotten to play with before, and I find them fascinating.

Is including the use of technology, iPhones, etc. important in reaching a youth audience today?

I think a good story will reach people however it’s told. Shakespeare is still pretty relevant, you know? But there are opportunities to explore stories now that Shakespeare couldn’t have dreamt of, because of our new relationship to technology. So how do we mix the current online age with human bodies on a stage? Young audiences seem very willing to dig into that question.
What can audiences expect from TXT U L8R?

It’s a mystery. There are a lot of laughs. I hope the eight characters we follow all feel real, like people we know, even as they’re coming from backgrounds that may not be our own. It’s a roller-coaster ride. With cell phones.

TXT U L8R will be performed at part of First Stage's 2016-2017 season.

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