Youth Program Explores Voting Through Theater

Central Square TheaterThe Youth Underground cast. Photo courtesy of the Central Square Theater.

What kind of world do you want to live in? What do you think we—collectively, as a country—could do to get there? Do you think voting has any connection to that?

These are some of the questions that the young people of Youth Underground, Central Square Theater’s program for people ages 13 to 25, asked last summer during a series of interviews. They spoke to each other, to Somerville High School students, to activists, to local politicians.

Then, with the help of a professional playwright, they turned those interviews into a play: “Act Up & Vote!”

The play is mostly a series of monologues, according to Education Manager Kortney Adams. They’re meant to directly reflect the voices of the people who were interviewed, but the Youth Underground members and playwright have boiled down the conversations to find the story in each, Adams explains.

“The person who gave that interview should be able to look at it and say, ‘Yes, that is my story,'” she says. “The playwriting is in pulling out all those essential parts and putting it together into a story that makes sense, where it doesn’t feel like it’s just a collage of stories, but it feels like a play that has a through line.”

Youth Underground has tackled other topics relevant to teens and young adults in the past, including the achievement gap and immigration.

“It’s all about working with young folks ages 13-25 to create theater, write plays, about issues that are of interest to them,” Adams says. “So to help express their voices and their questions about issues that are relevant to their communities, and then to create dialogue within their communities about these topics.”

While “Act Up & Vote!” intentionally encourages young people to vote, Adams emphasizes that the play isn’t propaganda and takes a more nuanced look at the various ways people can effect change.

The play premieres this weekend at the Central Square Theater (450 Massachusetts Ave.), with performances May 25 at 7 p.m. and May 26 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10.

The cast will tour around Cambridge this summer and then throughout Greater Boston. The theater will organize voter registration after many of the performances, Adams says.