Middle School Musical

Actors Cabaret of Eugene premieres 13with a youthful cast

“A lot of people around age 13 are trying to find themselves,” says Jenny Bryant, performing this weekend in 13 at Actor’s Cabaret of Eugene. Castmate Angel McNabb adds, “The play relates to middle school, because kids are always trying to find a group where they fit in.”

With music and lyrics by the Tony award-winning American playwright Jason Robert Brown, book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn and direction and choreography by Lanny Mitchell, 13 features a cast of young people from around the region, ranging in age from 10 to 16.

This coming-of-age story centers on Evan Goldman, a New Yorker on the precipice of adulthood whose world is turned upside-down when his parents’ divorce forces him to make a fresh start in a small Indiana town.

Evan tries to make new friends, even if it means bending the rules a bit. The rousing number “All Hail the Brain” regales us with Evan’s attempt to score tickets to an R-rated movie. And later, in “Getting Ready,” Evan and Archie, played by Carson Conway and Glenn Rust respectively, suit up for their dates with the same girl (middle school is complicated). In the same song, the girl in question, Kendra, played by Rosie Williams, receives advice about how to be a “good girl” from her best friend Lucy, played by Carly Walker, and the girls’ honest and funny examination of teen intimacy will transport an adult audience right back to that tenuous time.

The musical gives voice to an oft-maligned age group, while allowing these young performers the chance to shine. When asked about why they like to do live theater, these kids aren’t shy:

“You put a lot of work into it until the point when it’s ready,” Rafael Batya says. “And then it feels good to know your hard work pays off.”

Hannah Lake adds a different spin: “Being able to perform helps me unwind,” she says. “It helps me to stop thinking about what I’m wrapped up in, and just relax.”

Conway can relate. “I like the connections in the show,” he says, referring to his fellow performers, and the play itself. Soon after the play closes, like his character, Conway will move out of state. But this tight-knit cast has helped to ease his worries.

All agree, they’ve become like a family.

So, are there backstage tiffs? Any show-mances?

“Middle school is known for drama, and there’s plenty of drama here,” quips Rosie Williams with a smile. “So … enough said.”

13 runs June 19-22 at Actor’s Cabaret of Eugene.