NEWBURYPORT – Members of the community are invited to witness a performance by students that responds to what they see as the stereotypes often placed on Generation Z.
The show will premiere Friday at the Firehouse Center for the Arts.
The local students said they wanted to tackle a production this summer that accurately represents their reality, but couldn't find a script that wasn't trite and superficial. As young creators, the group of 14 students devised their own production, creating a raw and candid 24-hour snapshot of their lives called "The Gen Z Project."
"Media and young adults are often portrayed from an adult perspective, so we wanted to provide a more genuine example," said Amelia Snyder of Newburyport, who plays Annie in the production.
The performances will be Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 and available for purchase online or at the Firehouse box office at 1 Market Square.
The students spent the last month writing and rewriting a series of vignettes to create a full script that centers on the lives of 13 members of Generation Z — anyone born after 1996.
The stories focus on several stereotypes that older generations tend to use to label today's teens, including sheltered yet overexposed, overtly impassive, screen addicted, obsessed with digital validation, reliant on medication and extremely sensitive, said director Stephanie Williams.
"Our characters don't necessarily reflect who we are as people, but they reflect real people," said Megan Kempton, who noted there are scenes about divorce, however, not all children have parents who are separated. "All of our scenes are based in truth."
The production also brings to light a variety of issues all generations deal with, including family and academic pressure, substance use, mental health, the impact of technology, and intimacy through a wide range of relationships, according to the students.
The play, although depicting how Generation Z deals with these issues, is meant to be relatable to all generations and audience members since the topics are "timeless and universal," Williams said.
Julia Olson of Newburyport, who plays Lila, said she hopes the show sparks a conversation between generations.
"We just want to portray how (these topics) are specific to us and be able to talk about that," Olson said. "It's not in anything in a negative connotation, although the characters do deal with negative things, it's more so providing an example of how things that our parents went through and our grandparents went through is the same basis, but it's just a different experience nowadays."
While writing the script, students worked on exercises, improv and scripted scenes, or wrote by themselves, Olson said. At other times, students would just sit and talk about a certain topic for hours.
The first exercise Williams had the actors do was write down a list of things that worry them. From there, topics were categorized and stories were formed through regrouping and scene work.
"It was a very intricate process, but also in the way that it was very open," Olson said.
Some scenes include types of movement and dance, said Williams, who noted the students felt it was best to express some scenes without words. Several modern songs, including one by singer Billie Eilish, a member of Generation Z, will be used for the soundtrack.
"Unlike any generation before them, they are experiencing the same things we have all experienced — the baby boomers, Generation X, millennials — but for us, we could experience them and they were never recorded," Williams said. "They were never commented on. They were never fought over or criticized on a public forum and that is a life they will never know."
To learn more, visit https://www.firehouse.org/see-a-show/364-gen-z-project.
Staff writer Amanda Getchell covers Newburyport and Seabrook. Follow her on Twitter @ajgetch.