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13 and counting: Teen angst takes center stage next week in Newburyport

Date Published: April 24, 2019

Author: Terry Date

A big cast of youths explores familiar ground — the shifting allegiances of school circles — in the musical “13.”

It opens next Thursday, May 2, at the Firehouse Center for the Arts in Newburyport, presented by Acting Out Productions.

“13” tells the story of a soon-to-be-13-year-old who has been uprooted from his cultured life in New York City. He moves with his mom to Appleton, Indiana, where he strives to fit in with the local kids — and avoid being cast aside as a geeky outsider.

The challenge for Evan Goldman becomes getting cool kids to come to his bar mitzvah. With this triumph, he figures, he’ll gain acceptance at his new middle school.

The production brings 28 actors between the ages of 12 and 17 to the stage. It’s directed by John and Deirdre Budzyna with music direction by Alisa Bucchiere and choreography assistance from Fontaine Dubus of The Dance Place and Exit Dance Theatre.

Three performers — twin sisters Olivia and Hanna Gustafson, 14, and Lucy Jones, 13 — sat shoulder-to-shoulder for an interview Monday in Acting Out’s studio in The Tannery Marketplace.

The eighth-graders are energetic girls, prone to laughter, excited talk and finishing each other’s thoughts.

They “way” recognize the characters in “13” from their day-to-day world at River Valley Charter School, a K-8 public school in Newburyport.

“Oh, my God, that was me,” Hanna said of one character.

“Oh, I knew that kid,” Lucy said.

“I was that kid,” Olivia said.

“We are living ‘13.’” Hanna said.

Lucy and Hanna are in the ensemble. Olivia plays Cheerleader No. 2.

“I think she wants to fit in,” Olivia said of her character. “She does what the main characters do, what the cool kids do.”

This includes being mean to Evan, she said.

The three teens take turns recalling action in “13,” sometimes cueing their observations by singing snippets from the musical. Or their singing becomes a way to throw quotation marks around the point they are making.

At one point, they sing with a mocking tone, reflecting some Appleton students’ disdain for Evan’s cerebral qualities.

“I have a plan, I have a plan,” the three girls sing. “Brain’s gonna do it, Brain’s gonna do it.”

John Budzyna said that the actors in the ensemble get to bring their own attitudes and gestures to their roles.

In this way, they bring something of their selves to the role, a fun way to explore things that they are experiencing or that their friends are experiencing.

The musical is a lighthearted drama with a sweet ending that considers what it’s like to be on the doorstep of adulthood. The angst, the wanting to be older, the wondering when they will get to exercise responsibility, Budzyna said.

The musical had its first production in 2007. The music and lyrics are by Jason Robert Brown and the book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn.

Hanna said that the play will entertain kids who are in their early teens or even preteens, giving them a glimpse of what’s next for them.

Adults will reflect knowingly on the action in “13,” Budzyna said.

They will remember their own middle school days or recognize the challenges their children grappled with in those years.

Olivia said that she sometimes thinks that the everyday drama at her school can’t get any worse, but she knows that someday, as an adult, she will look back on it and laugh.

Heck, she and Lucy and Hanna are laughing at it now.

If you go

What: “13”

When: May 2-4, 7 p.m.

Where: Firehouse Center for the Arts, Market Square, Newburyport

How much: $20 for adults and $18 for students and seniors; special $13 admission for students on opening night

More information: 978-462-7336 or

The cast

Newburyport: Matt Bazenas, Molly Bernard, Lucy Cameron, Maddie Desimio-Maloney, Sebastian Freeman, Talia Goodman, Hanna Gustafson, Olivia Gustafson, Will Hopwood, Lucy Jones, Lily Martino, Isabella Riethmueller, Jessie Rosenthal, Aria Scannell, Jonas Trach and Tiegan Trach

Amesbury: Juliet Brzozowski, Sadie Cacho-Negrete and Liz Conrad

Salisbury: Gabe Rundlett

West Newbury: Caitlin Gagnon and Massima Iacobucci

Haverhill: DeShawn Standard

Wenham: Natalie Caccivio

Beverly: Emilia Tagliani

Reading: Timmy Duggan, Cole Kenyon and Anabel Moda

Also on tap

Running in repertory with “13” this weekend is “The Great Fairy Tale Caper,” a new play written and directed by Jack Neary, with assistant directors Deirdre and John Budzyna.

Detectives Harry Hare and Terry Tortoise are determined to crack the case of Humpty Dumpty: Did he fall, or was he pushed? The suspects include familiar characters like Rumpelstiltskin, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty and more.

The cast includes Violet Aldrich, Aiya Alkhatib, Anniekate Ames, Jack Ames, Millie Basler, Sally Basler, Reese Beauparlante, Bo Weese, Annabel Burkhardt, Sadie Cacho-Negrete, Maia Cantone, Kaitlyn Christie, Phoebe Coffey, Hailey Cotter, Juliana Cowles, Oliver Dehner, Lucy Donahue, Max Donahue, Shelby Fisher, Noelle Gerth, Hanna Gustafson, Olivia Gustafson, Shea Hoffman, Parker Jackman, Madeleine Jackman, Lucy Jones, Eve LeBlanc, Lily Martino, Kendall Martyn, Sydney McIntosh, Charlie McIntosh, Mia McKay, Catherine Melnick, Quinn Morrissey, Jared Newman, Ava Roy-Arsenault, Gabby Smith, Tiegan Trach, Sam Valentine, Ava Valianti, Una Whyte and Sawyer Wilson.

Shows are set for Saturday, May 4, at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. and Sunday, May 5, at 3 p.m. at the Firehouse. Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 for students and seniors, with special pricing of $13 for all students for the opening show.

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