Photos: Justin Allen

5 Reasons to See Speech & Debate

by Tyler Conroy

Looking to escape the city and travel somewhere new to experience great quality theater? I traveled 123 miles north of Times Square to the hills of Western Massachusetts to see Barrington Stage Company’s production of Speech & Debate and, BOY, was it worth the trip! 

The play is a striking 90-minute journey of what happens when you happen upon someone who wants to take the time to get to know you, learning to be unafraid of letting them, and learning to fearlessly say what you need to say. 5 reasons you should see this production:

1. The plot. The play centers around three high school students who are struggling with how to come to terms and tell others about different experiences they have gone through turning to music, storytelling, and each other to fearlessly express themselves. Think modern-day “Spring Awakening” meets the writing style of “Juno”.

2. The relevancy. Self-discovery, fear of talking to parents, sexuality, and the power of the internet. It is important now more than ever to openly discuss the topics that are highlighted in this show and educate others to encourage these types of conversations with mutuals and superiors alike. Still, in 2017, we find at times that it may be awkward or seem uncalled for to openly have conversations around certain “adult” topics but all of us at some point have gone through or will go through these things. This show illustrates what happens when these conversations don’t happen and how to find an outlet to get answers or find a confidant.

3. The cast. A small, but electric cast of 4 with shared protagonist roles from three actors portraying three different types of high schoolers: Diwata, the Ellen Paige-like high school senior played by Betsy Hogg, who wants desperately to be recognized for her talents but also just wants to feel like she belongs. Solomon, Ben Getz, that one high-school student who you probably rolled your eyes at for always wanting to tackle topics beyond the class curriculum but also challenging adults to stop seeing teenagers as “kids”. Howie, articulately played by Austin Davidson, is the openly-out “new kid” who is just trying to breeze by unnoticed...but secretly has talents he’s afraid to express, due to events from his past.

4. Do you have a teenage child? Upon leaving the theater, I overheard an older woman telling her friend, “every parent needs to come see this show” and I could not hit the retweet button more on that comment! For a parent, this show could present you with talking points on how to talk to your kids about their lives or leave you wanting to further educate them (or even yourself) on certain topics. High school can be a scary place and it’s important for parents to understand the highs and lows their kids’ can go through...and maybe already are.

5. Are you a Dear Evan Hansen-generation millennial? This show is for you. This show is for anyone who’s ever felt embarrassed by something they’ve done and wants to just lock it in a closet, forgetting it ever happened. But the more you hide from the things that scare you to death instead of having the courage to face those fears and seek the help, the more you’ll lose who you really want to become. The more you keep yourself from doing the things you love out of fear of what your peers will think, the more you’ll lose your drive to be yourself.

Now playing at the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, MA through July 29th.