The way Neal Hebert sees it, the teens in John C. Russell’s “Stupid Kids” aren’t stupid at all.
But they’re necessary, because they offer something that’s not always readily available in Baton Rouge’s theater scene — contemporary theater, the kind that doesn’t pull any punches.
“It’s an underserved part of the theater community here,” says Hebert, artistic director of the newly formed Bang Bang You’re Dead Theatre.
And this group’s sole mission is to bring these stories to the Capital City, beginning with “Stupid Kids.” The show opens on Friday, Aug. 21, in Theatre Baton Rouge’s Studio Theatre.
“This is the kind of theater that appeals to millennials, because of its cinematic quality,” says Hebert, noting the show is R-rated. “The things they hear and the things that happen on stage are the kinds of things they see in film, and they relate to that.”
Hebert began putting the company together in February, though he doesn’t officially refer to it as such.
“We’re calling ourselves a collective now until we can get our LLC (Limited Liability Company) status, and then we’ll be a company,” he says. “After that, we’ll apply for our 501c3 nonprofit status.”
Hebert’s pursuit of a doctorate degree motivated him to form the theater group. He’s been working with a young group of actors while teaching at LSU, and he knows the kind of theater they like to do.
And he wanted to give them more opportunities to perform while he still lives in Baton Rouge.
“I’ll graduate in December, and I’m 34 now,” Hebert says. “I may still be here 10 years from now, but if I should go somewhere else, I want this company to be in a good position so someone else can step in and lead it.”
For now, the group is depending on GoFundMe for its money. It conducted two campaigns to stage “Stupid Kids” and is depending on the sale of at least 90 tickets to turn a profit to fund its next production.
“We’re already working with Elevator Projects on an interactive theater production in October,” Hebert says. “That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to partner with the kinds of organizations that will bring the kind of theater we do to different venues.”
Though “Stupid Kids” made its New York debut in 1998, it’s an edgy dark comedy that meets the group’s criteria. The story focuses on four teens, Jim, the rebel, played by Matt Reed; Neechee, the gay kid, played by Alexander Adams; Kimberly, the punkish riot lesbian, played by Emily Mack; and Judy, the popular cheerleader type, a role shared by Hannah Dougharty and Caroline Hebert.
The story opens after a police raid, where each character has been arrested for a different offense. They first meet in the police station and form an odd friendship.
“Jim is a rebel, and I think his friendship with Neechee and Kimberly is a rebellious thing to him,” Reed says.
“But Neechee is in love with Jim, and Kimberly is in love with Judy,” Adams adds. “So, Neechee is angry.”
Hebert points out that gay themes often are found in contemporary theater.
“I’ve worked with a lot of students in the theater department who are gay and are very passionate about the theater they perform,” he says. “This is another underserved part of our theater community, and I want to give them as many opportunities as possible to perform it. ‘Stupid Kids’ approaches the subject with respect, but it also doesn’t alienate those who don’t identify as LGBTQ. The language is rough, but the humor is great.”