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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Vermont Play Tackles Teen Romance In The Age Of Social Media

Tim Calabro
Herald of Randolph
Local students run their lines for the play "m or f?" on stage Saturday, Jan. 24 at the Chandler in Randolph.

In 2005, Hinesburg writer Chris Tebbetts co-wrote a book titled m or f? with Lisa Papademetriou. On Jan. 24 at Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph, a group of local actors from various high schools will present the premiere stage adaptation of the book.

The book centers on the friendship between Frannie and her gay best friend, Marcus. When Frannie is too shy to make a move to talk to her crush, Marcus steps in and acts as a digital Cyrano de Bergerac, posing as Franny online.

The book became popular among young-adult readers for portraying the challenges of striking up relationships in the social-media age, asking the question, "How do you find love?" It examines how young people navigate in a world that isn't always accepting of difference.

VPR spoke with U-32 sophomore Kieran Verret, who plays Marcus, and Cher Laston, the show's director.

Verret said the story is a comedy of errors due to the anonymity the characters can have in the digital realm of chat-rooms and instant messaging. Verret said though his character self-identifies as gay, that fact is never an over-arching message in the story.

"What I love about this show is the fact that the fact that Marcus is gay isn't really a huge, huge thing. It's like, 'Oh, he's gay ... whatever.'"

Verret and the show's director, Cher Laston, spoke of the challenges of beginning with a script that was just 23 pages long at their first audition.

Bethel playwright Gene Heinrich fleshed out the stage adaptation's script to 119 pages by the first read-through.

"Gene worked diligently with the cast, listening to them, watching me as I started to stage it and worked that script beautifully to reveal the heart and soul of Chris and Lisa's book. It's been a script that's been developing as we've been working it," Laston said.

Verret says that he hopes the show sends an empowering message. "I personally hope that they take away that it's okay to be who you are, love whoever you love and find happiness where it lies," he says. "That's what really matters, I think."

The Winter Pride performance of m or f? is this Saturday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Chandler Center in Randolph. All proceeds will benefit gay and lesbian organizations at participating students' schools.

Update 1:35 p.m. Jan. 23, 2015 This post has been updated to include the name of the playwright, Gene Heinrich.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
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