Actor Sarah Danielle Young has previously appeared in Plan-B’s SUFFRAGE and the Script-In-Hand Series readings of 8 and MARRY CHRISTMAS.
Sometimes I have a hard time articulating my thoughts about subjects that I am passionate about. I have an especially hard time if said subjects are directly related to me and the people around me. I tend to get bogged down in wishing I had an answer or plan to fix things, and then end up not expressing myself at all. That’s why when I was asked to workshop BOOKSMART about a year ago, I was very excited to finally be able to talk about issues that are truly important and relevant to me.
The life of my character, Alex, bears a striking resemblance to my own. I, too, graduated from college having taken out the maximum amount of student loans possible. I was told at the time that student loans were a “noble” debt worth having, but now have no way to pay those loans and no foreseeable way to do so in the future.
Like Alex, I also live alone in an apartment I can’t afford, after getting stuck there after a devastating break up. Unfortunately moving somewhere less expensive actually costs a lot of money, so I’ve trudged along paying rent that was, until recently, almost 60 percent of my income.
I’ve also worked my fair share of retail, and for the last year worked at a hotel, which is privately owned by an exponentially wealthy family who took little interest in the wellbeing of their employees. Despite technically paying well above minimum wage, the job never paid me enough for me to make ends meet. I sometimes worked odd jobs to make rent, but had to forgo vitally important things like health and car insurance, simply because the money wasn’t there. Many of my coworkers had children, and I still have no idea how they are getting by.
I, like Alex, have also seen people treat retail and customer service clerks as less than human during the holidays, for no other reason than that they simply cannot handle the stress of attempting to make things “perfect.” I never believed that people could be so ridiculous until I saw people screaming at me and the other front desk clerks in an attempt to get to the hotel’s Thanksgiving buffet before everyone else.
If you don’t recognize some of yourself in any of these characters of BOOKSMART the way I did, you will surely see someone who you’ve encountered. A teenage girl trying to pay for school and realize her dreams. The twenty-somethings trying to pick their lives up off the ground before they’ve really even had a chance to begin. The overqualified middle aged workers who clearly shouldn’t be working retail. Even the irate customer in line next to you. These people are us. And these issues and complaints are all of ours. We should all care about student debt, and workers rights, and wealth inequality, because it affects us all.
BOOKSMART presents these issues in a way that I can’t, funny and genuine without sounding too grim or preachy. It gives you information that makes you think while you chuckle. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. It also doesn’t have an answer to these problems and neither do I. But maybe if we take this play to heart we’ll start get to know the people serving us, be kinder, stand up for ourselves and others, and above all, remember to have a good laugh once in awhile. Maybe those are the answers after all.
Rob Tennant’s BOOKSMART receives its world premiere December 3-13, 2015 in partnership with The David Ross Fetzer Foundation for Emerging Artists, featuring Tyson Baker, Anne Brings, Joe Crinch, April Fossen and Sarah Young, directed by Jerry Rapier. Tickets are extremely limited – a handful of seats have been added to each performance and a new performance has been added. Click here for details and tickets.