There's a long-held idea, fabricated by an optimistic adult, that the stories we tell teenagers should be optimistic, aspirational. Maybe that's why, when it comes to picking books for curriculums, we ban the ones that even sniff of hardship, violence or reality. But if you give a group of teenagers the chance to tell their story, to explain their reality, you end up with a book like S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders, and you end up with a play like The (out)Siders Project, onstage at the Latino Cultural Center through Saturday as Cry Havoc Theater Company's inaugural production.
Hinton's 1967 coming-of-age novel explores teenage violence in the context of two rival groups or gangs. It wrestles with insecurities, socioeconomic inequity and what happens when life spins out of your control. For The (out)Siders Project, playwright Shelby Allison Hibbs borrows Hinton's plot, but weaves in stories gathered from the actual cast — students at local high schools including Skyline High School and Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. What manifests onstage is an honest, compelling look at the methods teenagers use to band into groups, to form identities.