Life is a series of transitions — childhood to teenager to young adult and beyond.
Sometimes, it’s smooth sailing; more often it’s a challenging journey.
These changes are front and centre for the 20-something actors in a show now playing at The Guild as both they and their characters come to terms with their crossroads of life — onstage and off.
For instance, Ben Hartley, one of the performers in While We’re Young, is getting ready to cross a major bridge. However, the fourth-year English major doesn’t have a clear knowledge of exactly what’s on the other side.
“I’m at a jumping off place in my life. I’m finishing university in the spring, leaving the secure, this-is-how-it’s done environment to go to another where I am making things happen for myself. And that can be pretty daunting at times,” says Hartley, 21, who plays Dylan, a 20-something character from 2006, who is politically active against Canada’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan in the Vagabond Productions show that continues today and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
“I identify with Dylan. I have the same sort of values as he does, although I am not as opinionated,” he says.
But, in taking on his character, Hartley is making a transition from the roles he’s played in the past. He’s playing someone like himself.
“I’ve played Jesus, which isn’t exactly a journey that everybody goes through. I’ve also played Malcolm in MacBeth, which wasn’t exactly my story either. But in this play, I’m playing someone who is so close to my age and that’s unnerving. It’s like holding up a mirror to myself rather than putting myself into something,” says Hartley.
Ashley MacLeod, 22 is also discovering the play reflects her personal life. The fourth-year UPEI student plays Dora, a 19-year-old who is absolutely desperate to be loved.
“Like every girl now or in the past, Dora is looking for Prince Charming but picks the wrong man. Like most other women, I also know what it’s like to make a mistake in trusting the wrong person.
“So Dora is dealing with the same issues that I am dealing with today as I make the transition — relationships, trying to find the right person, trying to figure out where she fits in society as well as understanding her family,” says MacLeod.
Director Greg Doran chose the play because he thought it was a perfect fit for his students.
“All of the characters are played by university-aged actors. Moreover, the play explores the transition from youth to adulthood, so it’s something that the actors are really in touch with.
“We’re trying something that is really for them,” says the UPEI professor.
Written by Don Hannah, the play is composed of a series of episodes. Each one follows the decisions of 20-something Canadians in six different eras, beginning with the present, travelling back in time to the dawn of the nation and then working back to the present again.
“Like a traditional Canadian narrative, we start in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, and we end up in Edmonton so we have that transition from east to west with stops along the way, in the play as well,” Doran says.
Ryan McCarville, 20, says the transitions in the play resonate with him.
“It’s a coming of age story, one that shows the trials and tribulations of adulthood.
“And it’s one that I can relate to. They say I’m legally an adult, but emotionally I don’t think I’m quite at that point yet. I don’t think many of us are.
“Therefore, our lives parallel the characters’ struggles to grow with our own situations,” says the second-year UPEI student who plays Mac, a hard-edged soldier with a dry sense of humour and Randy, a music obsessed hippy from the ’70s.
While the play was chosen with the students in mind, Doran says the theme is universal.
“I think we’ve all gone through this transition or it’s ahead of us. So, I think it speaks to a really wide audience.
“People should check it out because it’s a really good play and it’s Canadian.”
AT A GLANCE
If you are going
What: While We’re Young.
When: Today and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Guild, Charlottetown.
Actors: Dan Bannerman, Quinby Barrows, Kassinda Bulger, Robert Crossley, Benton Hartley, Caitlin Krahn, Ryan McCarvill, Ashley MacLeod, Justin Shaw, Courtney Starkman and Toni Timmons.
Tickets: Available at The Guild box office or by calling 368-4413.