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PROPOSAL - The Outsiders

The Outsiders, written by S.E. Hinton and adapted by Christopher Sergel

Directed by Jax Kalberer

Vision Statement

What is grief?

Grief is waking up in the morning and choosing to open your eyes. Grief is sitting with your brothers in a once-bloodstained lot. Grief is looking at the sunset, from either side of town. Grief is the acceptance that you don’t stop loving someone after you lose them. Grief is the choice to live. 

Welcome to Tulsa Oklahoma, 1967. 

The Outsiders is a story of family. It makes us question our moral values about the dysfunction of childhood. I want to delve deeper into this story, beyond the audience’s biased expectations. I want to put a spotlight on the effects of violence, trauma, and grief on our youth. I want the audience to face the uncomfortable reality that life is not fair, and that there are consequences to that fact. And at the same time I want to encompass that gritty, tough, and sensational feeling that we all know.

Theater makes us think. It sparks conversations as we confront the emotions and ideas that it presents to us. 

Violence when it targets kids should not leave a lot of room for discussion. It makes us feel things like unease, anger, sorrow, fear, disgust. These emotions are important, but they do little to raise or answer any questions. That is why I want to ask something new: How does violence affect young people, and why are we so afraid of that answer? 

The environment in which we are raised defines how we perceive the world. A lack of stability in their lives leaves these characters to destructive behaviors. Tragic circumstances lead people to points in their lives with no exits. The characters in this play have never made it out of Tulsa due to significant socioeconomic divides and expectations set forth by their perceived fate. 

Let’s explore memory and how it warps and changes with time. Ponyboy is a peculiar narrator. 

S.E. Hinton published The Outsiders when she was 17 years old, offering an uncommon scenario in which the characters and the narrator are speaking authentically from a teenager's perspective. Ponyboy recalls the events in a small amount of time after they happened. The trauma that he went through is still fresh in his mind. He hasn’t had real time to process it before writing it down, meaning that this story is his raw break-down of his own memory. And the breakdown is literal. Our memories blur together with time. Intense moments in our lives are pinpointed by the straight facts and the larger details are covered. While Ponyboy is narrating the story, he is attempting to rebuild his memories. I imagine him working in real time, writing down events as they happen. No one can recall how it feels to get punched in the jaw, they only feel the ache afterwards. The fight scenes aren’t choreographed interactions with fake blood and bruises. That’s not the point of violence, and it's not how Ponyboy would have experienced it.

The recollection of these memories are brutal. Ponyboy’s tempered reaction establishes the narrative. His friends are cooler than they look; everything falls into place in his perspective. It’s a unique point of view that brings a new meaning to how we cope and live with trauma. 

There are moments of desperation, and regret. He feels, he grieves, he laughs. As much as a 14 year old can.

When visualizing the show, I see Ponyboy rebuilding his memories in order to tell the story. I envision 5-7 setpieces that can be moved apart and put back together in order to differentiate the scenes. Think a couch for the living room, except the wood paneling on the back allows it to be turned around to become a part of the church. This will further enhance the narrative that the story has been fractured in Pony’s mind and some of the details must be reconfigured. Costumes, makeup, and hair will all stay true to the time period. 

I plan on casting age appropriate performers. Certain roles, due to content, will be required to be 18+. My team and I are committed to creating a safe, collaborative, and inclusive environment throughout production. As a trans person, I recognize discrimination and extreme bias with casting. There is no preset expectation for what these characters look like. We embrace a collaborative environment that is inclusive and welcoming. 

This is a show that has touched generations. From the novel’s well received publication in 1967, to the blockbuster released in 1983, to the current educational curriculum in school’s nationwide. Not only does The Outsiders have name recognition, it is also relatable. From the words of S.E. Hinton: “Everyone feels like an Outsider.”

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