Youth in Revolt
By Jerry Portwood
Photo: Gomillion and Leupold
Young love is intoxicating. Despite its joys, however, few people would ever choose to relive their teenage years -- that intense muddle of anxiety, hormones, passions. But Taylor Trensch and Jason Hite, both actors in their early twenties, will now be giving themselves up to that swirl of emotions eight times a week.
Hite, who is straight, and Trensch, who is gay, play high school boys in a secret relationship in the musical Bare. Set in a contemporary co-ed Catholic boarding school, the adolescents are buffeted by sexual urges, bullying, and drugs as they try to remain true to their desire for one another.
“Being a teenager is not easy,” Hite, 22, says. “Gay, straight, black, white -- it doesn’t matter. It’s an incredibly hard process to go through.”
But that doesn’t mean there can’t be delight in the experience, as Trensch, 23, explains. “I’ve been playing a teenager professionally for years,” he says. “It’s cathartic to revisit it—living some of the life you wish you’d lived but then leaving it onstage.”
A mix of heartfelt pop songs about high school drama and falling head over heels (think Beautiful Thing meets Spring Awakening), the original work, with book and lyrics by Jon Hartmere and music by Damon Intrabartolo, inspired a legion of fans when it was first performed in 2000. Since then, Bare has been staged more than 100 times around the world. Reimagined by the producers, who worked with Hartmere and Lynne Shankel (Altar Boyz, Cry-Baby), the latest version features eight new songs. It was the play’s potential to provoke intense emotions that inspired producer Paul Boskind -- who was behind the recent Tony-winning production of The Normal Heart -- to shepherd Bare to a new stage. “It has messages that are deep and wide,” he says. “This is very much what I came to New York to make happen.” But, importantly, he adds, it will remind adults just how scary it is being a teenager.