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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Playwright asks if there really can be a Bright Blue Future

In Sean Oliver Harris’ play Bright Blue Future, the twenty-something experience is set against the economics of the late 2000s, as a group of young people come to terms with what it means to grow up.

“It’s the story of four young people who come back home after a heavy night of partying and deal with all the anxiety of the world they are living in,” says Harris.

It is the exploration of what the future holds that is the basis of Harris’ play, with the angst coming from a fear from a lack of opportunities as they get older.

“The anxiety running through these four characters is millennial anxiety,” says director Shawn MacDonald. “They feel that there is not a future for them, and they gravitate towards drug use and partying to help mask that anxiety.”

Told from the differing perspectives of its characters, Bright Blue Future is based on Harris’ personal experiences and from those around him.

“It is an amalgamation of memories, and the experiences and conversations that I had with people in my twenties,” he says. “There was this common thread during that time where everyone was talking about what they were going to do. It is not fully autobiographical, but it is definitely drawn from life.”

While Bright Blue Future may be told from a viewpoint during the 2008 recession, both see history repeating itself.

When we workshopped the play at Playwrights Theatre Centre the two women who were the dramaturgs said it was like that for them during the 60s and 70s,” says MacDonald.

“With the recent drop in oil prices and the crash of the Canadian dollar the conversation is coming up again,” says Harris. “Young people are not getting any better at dealing with these issues.”

Both Harris and MacDonald also agree that the idea a young person today will live their parent’s dream, especially in an expensive city like Vancouver, is virtually unattainable.

Not fully autobiographical, playwright Sean Oliver Harris uses an amalgamation of memories, experiences and conversations as the basis for his play.
Not fully autobiographical, playwright Sean Oliver Harris uses an amalgamation of memories, experiences and conversations as the basis for his play.

“The young people that I work with in the theatre are all millennials and the idea of buying a house, getting married, having children is not really on their radar anymore,” says MacDonald. “The archetypal pattern of making a family at a young age is not there, and that is kind of sad. It makes them feel disenfranchised and it is feels like an impossible battle.”

For Harris part of the anxiety stems from not being able to live up to expectations.

“As I grew up my parents kept telling me this is the way you do it:  you go to university, get a degree and join the workforce.  But none of those opportunities were there for me.  I had all this debit and the expectations from my parents and the way the world is now is completely different,” he says.

Is there hope? According to MacDonald, for the four twenty-somethings in Bright Blue Future, it is a subtle one. For Harris though, real life may hold more optimism.

“Once you discover who you really are it makes things a lot better,” says Harris. “There is this idea of self-awareness after you pass through your twenties, and once you discover yourself it makes life so much better. When you discover who you are and what you want to be the anxiety subsides.”

Bright Blue Future plays Pacific Theatre (1440 West 12th Ave, Vancouver) from February 19 – March 5. Visit for tickets and information.

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