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April 8, 2002

'30 Below' takes temperature of Generation Y

By Deb Hammacher


Baby boomers need not apply for roles or crew positions for the upcoming Theater Emory production, “30 Below: Theater For, By and About People Under 30,” in which students will collaborate with Out of Hand Theater, a local theater company founded primarily by Emory alumni, to produce a bill of short pieces reflecting the world of today’s youth. The production runs through April 13 in the Mary Gray Munroe Theater.

Last fall, an ensemble of Emory students collaborated with members of Out of Hand during a two-week workshop to address questions that would help define the perspective of life in America for those under 30. Those influences and issues, as well as how they are dealt with and why they are funny, are questions at the heart of “30 Below.”

“We are a generation of marketed products: cereal, toys, transportation, even political figures,” said Out of Hand literary manager Allen Read. “We are commercials and jingles and split-frame TV. We are a generation of people with an identity carved out for us by big-business commercialism. And while we find this somewhat disturbing, we also are comfortable with it and find it humorous.”

So what are the influences and issues defined by the “30 Below” participants? According to Read, the ensemble discussions revealed that the influence of media and marketing are pervasive, including MTV, CNN Headline News and the prevalence of the Internet. Drugs and alcohol, sex, AIDS, gender issues, sexual orientation, dating and “the modern oppressed”—women, homosexuals, minorities dealing with ever-present racism—are factors of life facing the student generation.

How does the under-30 set handle it? With apathy, irreverence, drugs and alcohol, and finding humor in anything that runs counter to political correctness, Read said. And they don’t particularly need any help from their elders.

In fact, when Theater Emory Artistic Producing Director Vincent Murphy offered an idea for “30 Below,” he was quickly shot down. “They said, ‘And how old are you?’ so I was out,” Murphy said. “‘30 Below’ is a piece for, by and about the student generation, so if you are under 30, welcome to your life. If you’re like me, welcome to where the world is going.”

The ensemble includes Emory students Brittany Abbass, Raife Baker, Rhea Combs, Brian Crawford, Jon Herzog, Katie Kilborn, Karson St. John and Nathan Woodling. Out of Hand actors include Read, Ariel de Man, Brian Kimmel, Maia Knispel and Keland Scher. The directors are Read, de Man, Knispel and Adam Fristoe. The set designer is Jimmy Hilburn and the sound/media designer is Brian Ginn, both from Out of Hand.

The menu of works includes short pieces written for the Humana Festival of New Ameri-can Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville (Ky.) and for Chicago’s Neo-Futurist Theater, as well as plays by Atlanta artists and the “30 Below” company. These pieces include “Black-Eyed Susans” by Ayun Halliday, “Blondell” by Karen Christopher, “Cockamamie” by Mark Blankenship and Katie Kilborn, “A Date Under His Own Name” by Paul Gibney, “Drive Angry” by Matt Pelfrey, “Fighting Fears” by Jon Herzog, “Going On” by David Pollock, “Harris Teeter” by Shane Harris and James Buescher, “One for the Ladies” by Diana Slickman, “Play” by Steve Westdahl, “Slop Culture” by Robb Badlam, “Tragedi of Candi” by Matt Shapiro, “”Underground TRANSit” by Katie Kilborn and “Viewfinder” by Robert Earl Price.

Remaining shows of “30 Below” (which opened April 6) are April 10–13 at 8 p.m., April 7 and 13 at 3 p.m., and April 10 and 11 at 11 p.m. General admission is $10; Emory students $5.

For more information or to order tickets, call the Arts at Emory box office at 404-727-5050 or send e-mail to Note that some of the pieces include adult themes and language and may not be appropriate for children.