I have wanted to interview some teens in Williston Park for a while.
I have done articles on the husbands, the wives and the grandmothers but not the teens.
The teenage generation born between 1983 and 2003 has been called Generation Y, the Millennials, The Global Generation, Generation Next, the Net Generation and my personal favorite The Peter Pan Generation.
This cohort has been described as confident, entitled, tolerant, civic minded, non-political and interested in wealth. There is a 20 percent unemployment rate with them and have been forced to stay at home due to the cost of housing and due to underemployment.
They are wary of marriage having seen the failures in their parent’s generation. These descriptions are rather bleak.
But who do I talk to?
Providence intervened Sunday morning. I was walking past St. Aidan’s and heard a choir belting out a hit Broadway tune from Hello, Dolly! right there in the courtyard.
I listened for a while and then walked past a table selling tickets to the show. I was about to keep on going until I noticed something of interest to me.
In small print on the poster it said” Hello, Dolly! based upon the Thornton Wilder play The Matchmaker.”
“Our Town” by Thornton Wilder is my favorite American play and won the Pulitzer Prize. The next play Wilder wrote after our Town was “The Matchmaker,” which Hello Dolly! is based upon.
With inspiration in my eyes I ran back, found John Hayes who was directing the St. Aidan’s Summer Stage Production of Hello Dolly! and asked if I could come to one of the shows rehearsals.
Here was my chance to interview 45 typical American teenagers and get to watch one of Wilder’s great American plays at the same time.
I arranged to go to Kirwin Hall at St. Aidan’s last Wednesday after my practice and as I walked down the stairs and entered the auditorium there they were all 45 teenagers hard at work on one of the courtroom scenes.
They had been rehearsing the play for the last 2 ½ months and there was director John Hayes yelling “people, remember we have only seven more days so get your lines straight please!”
I watched for a while and then got to meet the leads of the play. I spoke to Nicholas Patino, Mary Fitzgerald, Dan Magaldi and Tabatha Garnica all perfect examples of the Millennials that I had been reading so much about.
I fessed up to my intention of trying to discover the identity of typical Long Island teenagers.
Granted it is not easy to gather abstract insights from a group especially when there is a musical being rehearsed in the background but I did take away some impressions. These kids were all very busy, realized that they all had very good educations, did look confident and pride.
When I asked them to define themselves they quickly said. “Well we’re the best, we have it all. We live near to New York but we have the country and the ocean too.” And these were the kids who are doing what every parent hopes for. They were participating in supervised group activities that contributed to the town they live in and to themselves.
I am always stunned to hear parents say they have major influence and control over their kids. The research shows that by the age of about 12 kids are learning far more by siblings, peers and teachers than by parents. And what could be better than to have these kids memorizing lines written by our greatest American playwright.
John Hayes wondered where these kids would be tonight if not here working on a play.
This play by Thornton Wilder suggests that true love is the answer most of life’s problems. In “Our Town” he pointed out that appreciating the little things in life is another of life’s great secrets. You may be interested in knowing that Wilder spent much time writing about the American identity which was my intention in interviewing all these kids.
Wilder said that we were such a young country that we do not know who we are as people yet and that we are all very busy trying to prove our worth. I for one see that this little group called the St. Aidan’s Summer Stage have proven to me that there certainly are some attractive and talented and hardworking kids that know how to spend their summers.
Turn off the television, walk down to St. Aidan’s Kirwin Hall and go watch Hello, Dolly! by the St.’ Aidan’s Summer Stage. Find out what Generation Next looks like.
The musical is running on Aug. 16, 17 and 18. For tickets call (516) 621-3171.