What: A collection of interviews with teenagers across the US about their lives in the Covid-19 pandemic.
Who: Laurie Lathem, an independent writer, producer, educator, theater maker and listener committed to advancing the perspectives of youth who are and will be the frontier of our lives together and yet who remain largely dismissed and unheard. Laurie has over twenty years experience working with young people of all ages and abilities (fuller bio below).
How to Participate: Email Laurie at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an interview appointment. Interviews are informal conversations that take place over Zoom and last about an hour. Phone interviews can also be arranged.
Overview and background of the project:
The Coronavirus crisis of 2020 has upended the lives of millions of people across the globe. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, and in the US alone, more than forty million people have lost their jobs, and along with them their health insurance and housing. Life savings have been wiped out, and dreams and hopes shattered literally from one day to the next. Unlike any other calamity in modern times, our very connection to one another, the very thing that would have signaled hope and solace, poses a threat, and our sense of safety and community has been altered – perhaps forever.
Teenagers are uniquely burdened by the pandemic and the subsequent economic devastation, and are also uniquely unheard. At a time of transition in their own lives, they face this crisis without the clarity or promise their futures once held. To add to their stressors, teenagers have been forced into almost total isolation in the most crucially social time in their development. Every interaction poses risk. At the same time, they are being compared to previous “wartime” generations, the assumption being that it will be up to them to redefine and reimagine society.
Concurrent with and perhaps partly as a consequence of the pandemic, countless young people have taken to the streets to protest systemic racism and demand change in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Compelled to join thousands of protesters, many people came out of quarantine for the first time in months to do so.
What is it like to be a teenager in this time? What is it like to be forced into social isolation at the most social time in one’s life? To lose out on crucial rites of passage such as graduations and proms, end of year concerts, plays, events, sports tournaments and games? To be ready for your first year of college only to be told you’ll be learning remotely from a laptop in your parents’ house? To be laid off from one’s job, or forced to leave campus housing and live with parents who themselves face hardship due to the pandemic? What is it like to see relatives get sick with Covid-19, to battle the illness oneself, or to live with the fear of it as a new constant and invisible threat?
It is vital to hear in their own voices how this crisis is affecting our teenagers, how they are coping and what hope looks like to them. While the pandemic unites young people in a shared experience, each of their stories is unique. This project aims to lift their voices from the anonymity of statistics and to amplify those stories.
In order to bear witness, and to document this time in history, interviews with people ages 13-19 from across the USA will be conducted and archived. These in-depth conversations will be featured in writing for the public, including online and print magazines, and a final book.
There will also be possible performance and/or film projects that may include verbatim readings, adaptation into play or film form, and/or full performance of adapted material.
I have so far interviewed teenagers in:
New York City (the Bronx and Manhattan), Long Island, Puerto Rico, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Washington, Florida and Ohio.
About Laurie Lathem
I am an independent writer, producer, educator and theatre maker committed to advancing the perspectives of youth who are and will be on the frontier of our lives together and yet who remain largely dismissed and unheard. I have over twenty years experience working with children and young people including as Artistic Director of the Virginia Avenue Project (arts mentoring organization serving children in under resourced and struggling communities); Creative Director of the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre; Director of the Moment Work Institute at Tectonic Theater Project, and as a teacher of creative writing, playwriting and storytelling in juvenile detention centers and schools across the country, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. I am also the mother of an 18 year-old rising college freshman
Previous projects include:
– Reading Through, a collaboration between Santa Monica High School and the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust in which students interviewed Holocaust survivors and then wrote a play based on their stories.
– The Interview Project, an oral history project at Berkeley Rep School of Theatre, about which I wrote this essay in Remembering: Oral History and Performance, by Della Pollock https://www.amazon.com/dp/1403963479/ref=rdr_ext_tmb
– Old Man in a Baseball Cap (developed and directed), a one-man show written and performed by Fred Rochlin based on his experiences as a navigator in WWII. https://www.nytimes.com/1998/01/22/theater/arts-in-america-at-74-a-new-life-as-a-spellbinder-haunted-by-war.html