LINCOLNTON –The Lincoln Theatre Guild’s latest production is based on a novel that many of the young people in the cast had to read for school.
S.E. Hinton wrote “The Outsiders” when she was a teenager herself. It’s the story of young people growing up on both sides of the tracks. The lower-class “Greasers” engage in turf wars with the “Socs,” the well-to-do, privileged teenagers.
The local production of “The Outsiders” opens Friday, March 22, at the Lincoln Cultural Center.
“I’ve always loved ‘The Outsiders’ since I read the book and watched the movie way back in eighth grade, so I’m glad to be a part of it,” said Gavin Houser, a North Lincoln High School student who plays Ponyboy Curtis and admits he likes dressing like a Greaser.
Eleven-year-old Pierson Rickard, an East Lincoln Middle School student who is one of the youngest cast members, plays another Greaser, the vulnerable Johnny Cade, who comes from an abusive home. The Greasers, who are his only reliable family, try to protect him from the Socs’ abuse.
“Johnny ends up being a hero,” said Rickard, who has performed in three other Lincoln Theatre Guild performances. “I like all the nice people who come and support our show, and those who are in the show.”
This is the first play Melanie Dennis has directed for the Lincoln Theatre Guild. The 21-member cast called for numerous young male roles, which Dennis had some difficulty filling, so she cast some females in male roles.
“This show is a classic, and almost everybody read the book in high school and they remember that,” Dennis said. “It brings back those memories first of all, but it also deals with a lot of things that we still deal with, like bullying and different classes of people.”
When 14-year-old West Lincoln Middle School student Cristina Schmidt auditioned for “The Outsiders,” she was open to any role. What she didn’t realize was that to play the role of Bob, she would have to cut her hair.
“My character is the lead Soc and pretty much runs everything,” Schmidt said. “I’m not going to sugarcoat this; he’s a drunk, too. I believe what happens in the play still happens today. A lot of people struggle with self-identity, addiction and their parents not being there.”
The set was designed by Mike Wirth, who is also the assistant director, with assistance from Dean Wise.
“It’s interesting to me that the social constructs that the kids in ‘The Outsiders’ had to deal with in their time are very similar to those that our young people deal with today,” Wirth said. “There’s teenage pregnancy, suicide, bullying, addictions, the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots.’ It’s all wrapped up in this show and it comes to a climax where they finally realize that, ‘Hey, those are things that our parents may have done, or this person may have done, but it’s ultimately a choice for us to make. We don’t have to live our lives this way.”