The wayward lives of teenagers have always made for good theatre. Case in point: there have been a number of productions in Roundabout’s history that deal with teen angst, rebellion, innocence, and, ultimately, growing up.
Roundabout Underground has mounted a considerable number of plays focus on the lives of young people, starting with the first Underground show, Stephen Karam’s Speech & Debate, produced in 2007. The plot deals with sexual misconduct by a high school teacher while simultaneously being a lovely coming-of-age story of sexuality and identity. Other Roundabout Underground productions have taken hard looks at teenage lives: Tigers Be Still (2010) by Kim Rosenstock is about a teenager working with an art therapist to unpack issues of anger and abandonment; Dream of the Burning Boy (2011) by David West Read follows a group of high school students processing the death of a classmate; and Bobbie Clearly (2018) by Alex Lubischer examines a small community’s grief after a high school student murders a classmate.
Of course, plays that focus on the lives of teens or feature teens as critical points of narrative are not limited to Roundabout Underground shows. Meghan Kennedy’s Napoli, Brooklyn (2017, at the Laura Pels Theatre) features three sisters growing up in 1960s Brooklyn and the challenges they face as they grow into their own identities. Scott McPherson’s Marvin’s Room (2017, at the American Airlines Theatre) explores a single mother raising two sons through the turbulence of adolescence; and Love, Love, Love by Mike Bartlett (2016, at the Laura Pels Theatre) share the story of a difficult marriage through the lens of the couple’s children—teenagers in one act, adults in the next—who struggle to navigate adult responsibility, emotion, and regret.
Certainly not all shows that explore the lives of teenagers are centered on darker themes. The beloved musical Bye Bye Birdie (2009, at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre) features a cast of teens joyously singing and dancing their way through the trials of friendship and first loves. The show exemplifies the energetic, often silly, but always evolving lives of young people.