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Saturday, July 20, 2024

From tween to teen: 13 is all about growing up

Theatre company made up entirely of young people aged 13-25 take on Jason Robert Brown musical

Do you remember what it was like to be 13? Jason Robert Brown does.

To be presented by Vancouver’s Eternal Theatre Collective in August, the musical 13 tells the story of twelve-year old Evan Goldman going from tween to teen as he finds himself on the move from New York City to small-town Indiana. Dealing with this parent’s divorce, he prepares for his bar mitzvah while trying to navigate the complicated social circles of a new school.

In this Q&A with members of the company we find out more.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Tell us about 13.

13 is an upbeat, rock musical about a 12-year-old boy named Evan Goldman who loves his life in New York City. With his thirteenth birthday and his bar mitzvah coming up, Evan is stoked to throw the best party ever. But when his parents split up, he is forced to move with his mom to Appleton, a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, Indiana.

Evan does everything he can to get the popular kids to come to his party, but nothing seems to go as planned. 13 shows us the stories of a group of cool kids, cheerleaders, geeks, and outcasts as they learn to navigate through life, school, and friendships.

What was it about 13 that made you want to take it on?

We’re a group entirely composed of young people, so we wanted to do a show about young people! When 13 was produced on Broadway and the West End it was done with an entirely teen-aged cast and band. It’s the ideal show for us to do really, as it allows us to give young people the chance to shine in a show that was really written about and for them.

Why this play now?

The world is dramatic and scary. There is fear everywhere we turn, and climate change has made our future incredibly uncertain. Basically, as a planet, we are hitting puberty. Now is the perfect time for a lighthearted reminder that problems like these don’t have simple answers, just as you can’t expect that when you turn thirteen everything will become perfect. But you can keep trying. You can keep putting one foot in front of the other and just keep walking on.

Jason Robert Brown’s music is not easy to master. How did you approach the challenges his score presents?

We approached it like we approach all challenges, with open minds and hard work. Yes, Jason Robert Brown’s music is difficult to perfect, but we’re so lucky to have young actors and musicians who have such a great work ethic and are so dedicated to their craft. It’s easy to take on a challenging score when everyone involved puts in so much work.

Eternal Theatre Collective is composed entirely of young people aged 13-25. Does bring additional challenges in bringing a show like this to the stage?

Yes it does. A show produced entirely by young people comes with a whole basket of challenges you don’t see in other productions. Most of us are taking on jobs we haven’t had before. But what we lack in experience we make up from in heaps and heaps of dedication and passion for what we do. Otherwise, why would we do it?

The musical is about kids, but what’s in it for adults?

Kids will enjoy the singing, dancing, relatable content, and borderline ridiculous teen-aged problems. Adults will look at the plot, with its gossip and preteen drama, and understand that even though those things seemed to be of the utmost importance, they really never mattered in the end.

That’s the whole point of 13. To the characters, the problems they’re facing are the worst they can possibly imagine, but they’re things you completely forget about as you grow up. Adult problems seem just as intense as teenage ones, but maybe they’re actually just as trivial in the long run.

All these trivial problems are contrasted by Archie, a young character with muscular dystrophy. Adults will appreciate the reality of his condition more deeply than kids, and they’ll see the stark difference between his problems and those of the kids around them.

What do you hope audiences will walk away with after seeing 13?

Hopefully, everyone will walk away with their ears full of songs, their hearts full of laughter, and their minds ready to let the little things go. Life’s a chaotic mess, and not all problems can be solved right away, but day turns to day and we just keep going on. It’s easier to do that if you have friends, family, and perspective. 13 is about all those things.

13 plays the Revue Stage on Granville Island from August 9 to 12. Visit for tickets and information.

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