Fresh-Faced Punk Rockers Look Back on Bullies, First Relationships and High School Isolation

News   Fresh-Faced Punk Rockers Look Back on Bullies, First Relationships and High School Isolation
 
Punk Rock, the Off-Broadway drama by Curious Incident playwright Simon Stephens, is set in a high school of angst-ridden teenagers who deal with bullies, violence and relationships. Cast members look back at the real-life experiences that shaped their onstage counterparts.

Colbie Minifie and Douglas Smith
Colbie Minifie and Douglas Smith Photo by Joan Marcus

The New York premiere of Punk Rock officially opened Off-Broadway Nov. 17 after previews that began Oct. 29 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre.

Trip Cullman directs the MCC Theater production that is scheduled through Dec. 14.

*

Douglas Smith

Have you ever witnessed someone being bullied? If so, did you do anything about it? If not, were you scared to take a stand? Why did you make the choice that you made? Would you change it?
DS: Yes, I witnessed bullying. I can't remember ever doing anything to stop it. I remember being relieved whenever I saw it happening — that I wasn't the one being targeted.

Was there a time that you felt isolated in high school?
DS: I moved to a new country the August before starting high school as a freshmen. So I pretty much felt isolated the whole of freshmen year.

What was your biggest obstacle in your teenage years — whether that be in friendship, finding yourself or simply getting through high school?
DS: My biggest hurdle in high school was just surviving. Finding an identity was fun, too. And then another identity. And then another.

What was your first relationship like?
DS: My first relationship happened after high school.

If there was a specific time you would go back to as a teenager, what would it be? A specific day, a year, a party, a place?
DS: I don't have an honest answer for this last question.

Colbie Minifie and Douglas Smith
Colbie Minifie and Douglas Smith Photo by Joan Marcus

Colby Minifie

Have you ever witnessed someone being bullied? If so, did you do anything about it? If not, were you scared to take a stand? Why did you make the choice that you made? Would you change it?
CM: Louis C.K. talks a bit about how technology doesn't help teach kids how to be nice to each other. I was in high school when Facebook became available for people our age, which opened the floodgates of opportunity to poke fun at each other with a smaller percentage of consequence. There was this heinous application where you could send anonymous messages to people, which was heartily abused by the whole school. I remember receiving an awful comment that called me out on being a phony. I was convinced it came from a girl I had particular problems with, and I retaliated with an equally harsh comment on how I thought she had no autonomy and simply copied what other people did. I remember hovering my mouse over the "send" button. I never would have told her what I thought to her face, but clicking a button seemed easy, and I wouldn't have to watch her face contort in pain. So I clicked send.

If I could go back, I would have saved myself a ton of anguish by deleting all my social media accounts a lot earlier than I did. I would have learned how to deal with people in the flesh and how to stand up for myself without the protection of a virtual platform. And, consequentially, I think I would have learned how to be kinder and less judgmental.

Was there a time that you felt isolated in high school?
CM: I remember feeling isolated in high school all the time. It's interesting because high school was generally a wonderful time for me. I had a lot of fun and had a ton of friends, but all of it seemed to be happening on the periphery of what was happening inside me, which was pure fear of not being liked, trusted or welcome. In that way I felt isolated constantly, but it was brought about by myself. Ha! So funny to look back on it now.

What was your biggest obstacle in your teenage years — whether that be in friendship, finding yourself or simply getting through high school?
CM: Comparing myself to other people was, and still is, a problem for me. It was a lot worse when I had a Facebook and an Instagram, and I am much better about it all now. But all throughout high school I wanted to be the best at everything, rather than finding what my best was. What was your first relationship like?
CM: My first relationship was hilarious. It lasted three weeks, and he was away all three weeks, and the day he came back, he took me to Starbucks and broke up with me. Great.

If there was a specific time you would go back to as a teenager, what would it be? A specific day, a year, a party, a place?
CM: I don't think I would ever go back to high school. But if I could experience high school in another era, I think I would go hang with Thoreau and Louisa May Alcott in the mid-19th century.

Annie Funke
Annie Funke Photo by Joan Marcus

Annie Funke

Have you ever witnessed someone being bullied? If so, did you do anything about it? If not, were you scared to take a stand? Why did you make the choice that you made? Would you change it?
AF: I've learned a lot from my character (Tanya) about standing up to the bully. I've always felt like an easy target, so I feel like saying something only draws attention to yourself. But I may be more apt to say something now that I am adult if I saw a situation that wasn't right.

Was there a time that you felt isolated in high school?
AF: Not in high school, but certainly in middle school. I had very few friends in my actual school — most of my friends were outside of school. School lunches were the worst… I switched schools the last year of middle school, and that changed everything for the better.

What was your biggest obstacle in your teenage years — whether that be in friendship, finding yourself or simply getting through high school?
AF: I put far too much of my energy comparing myself to others.

What was your first relationship like?
AF: It was a first love and a learning experience. I learned more about myself than I could have thought possible.

If there was a specific time you would go back to as a teenager, what would it be? A specific day, a year, a party, a place?
AF: I would go back to my junior or senior year of high school. I loved it. I just had the best time!

Lilly Englert
Lilly Englert Photo by Joan Marcus

Lilly Englert

Have you ever witnessed someone being bullied? If so, did you do anything about it? If not, were you scared to take a stand? Why did you make the choice that you made? Would you change it?
LE: Have I ever witnessed someone being bullied? I have seen much bullying in various degrees — people being excluded, verbally and even physically abused. I wish I could have been more courageous and intervened but I never was. I think I was trying too hard to fit in and didn't want to be the victim myself.

Was there a time that you felt isolated in high school?
LE: I felt constantly isolated during high school. I moved to Italy at the delicate age of 13 and couldn't speak the language. Initially I was very alone. I slowly learned Italian but was always in some way an outcast. I came from a different culture and, as hard as I tried, could never quite fit in.

What was your biggest obstacle in your teenage years — whether that be in friendship, finding yourself or simply getting through high school?
LE: I was my biggest obstacle in my teenage years. I was so judgmental and concerned about trying to be cool and accepted. I was obsessed with my hair and appearance and trying to do the right thing. I desperately needed to chill out!

What was your first relationship like?
LE: My first relationship was with someone who was six years older than me, and everyone in the village thought he was really cool. He wasn't. He used to go to tanning salons in his free time. Our relationship didn't last long as I soon discovered he already had a girlfriend. Agh! Horrible!

If there was a specific time you would go back to as a teenager, what would it be? A specific day, a year, a party, a place?
LE: I would change most of my teenage years, many fashion mistakes… And, I think a few things I said to my wonderful parents were mean and unnecessary!!!

Will Pullen and Noah Robbins
Will Pullen and Noah Robbins Photo by Joan Marcus

Will Pullen

Have you ever witnessed someone being bullied? If so, did you do anything about it? If not, were you scared to take a stand? Why did you make the choice that you made? Would you change it?
WP: I witnessed a lot of bullying when I played sports in high school. Usually, it was the bigger kids and/or the stars on the team picking on the littler ones or the ones who weren't as good. I never intervened because some were my friends, and I didn't want to go against them, but more likely, I was hoping the bullying wouldn't shift towards me. In high school, it's such a risk to support something or someone, that I think it's easier to just stay quiet.

Was there a time that you felt isolated in high school?
WP: There was a time in high school when I had gotten into a lot of trouble. So my parents wouldn't let me go out and when I did I'd have a strict curfew and couldn't drink. I would always feel isolated because everyone else seemed to be making all these memories, and I felt like I was on the outside looking in. I realize now, that the only thing I missed was drunkenly sitting in a McDonald's late at night or loitering in a park and smoking, so in retrospect it was probably for the best. But, at the time it was hard.

What was your biggest obstacle in your teenage years — whether that be in friendship, finding yourself or simply getting through high school?
WP: My biggest obstacle was being okay with who I was. I was a theatre, orchestra and choir kid and was really ashamed of it. All my friends played sports, so I tried to be on a bunch of teams. I boxed for a while in high school and through college in order to gain and feel respected by my group of friends. It took me a long time to be okay with being proud of myself and what I love to do.

What was your first relationship like?
WP: It was horrible. I thought I was totally in love with this girl, who didn't really feel the same way. She'd always lead me on, and I obsessed over the idea of us dating. We never did, and I'd always beat myself up about it. If there was a specific time you would go back to as a teenager, what would it be? A specific day, a year, a party, a place?
WP: I wouldn't want to go back to anytime as a teenager; once was definitely enough. Maybe I'd go back to the summer before everyone went away to college. I remember that being one of the best summers of my life because my parents sort of gave up trying to discipline me. My friends and I tried to soak it all in because we were all going to different schools.

Pico Alexander
Pico Alexander Photo by Joan Marcus

Pico Alexander

Have you ever witnessed someone being bullied? If so, did you do anything about it? If not, were you scared to take a stand? Why did you make the choice that you made? Would you change it?
PA: Yes, I witnessed it — did a fair share of it myself. [I] was bullied in middle school and decided it wouldn't happen again, so I took to the offensive. Wish I hadn't. It kills me.

Was there a time that you felt isolated in high school?
PA: Of course. All the time. I feel like everyone feels isolated in high school. Isn't that the problem?

What was your biggest obstacle in your teenage years — whether that be in friendship, finding yourself or simply getting through high school?
PA: I was a late bloomer — probably the last of my friends to go through puberty. Could never get the girl I wanted. F*cking tragedy.

What was your first relationship like?
PA: It was beautiful. In the mountains, on a lake. No phones. No Facebook. Pure and short-lived. She lives in England.

If there was a specific time you would go back to as a teenager, what would it be? A specific day, a year, a party, a place?
PS: LaGuardia HS. What an amazing place. Such diverse and wild people. If only I knew what I know now. Still the best of times, though.

Noah Robbins
Noah Robbins Photo by Joan Marcus

Noah Robbins

Have you ever witnessed someone being bullied? If so, did you do anything about it? If not, were you scared to take a stand? Why did you make the choice that you made? Would you change it?
NR: There was one time when Two-Face kidnapped Detective Gordon's son, and I stepped in and saved him. I wasn't the hero Gotham deserved, but I was the one it needed.

Was there a time that you felt isolated in high school?
NR: I felt very isolated during my sophomore year. But that's just because I spent the year trapped in an elevator.

What was your biggest obstacle in your teenage years — whether that be in friendship, finding yourself or simply getting through high school?
NR: My biggest obstacle during my teenage years was learning how to hear Soulja Boy's "Crank That" and not do the dance.

What was your first relationship like?
NR: My first relationship was with Lara Croft from "Tomb Raider." Wait, did you mean real relationship?

If there was a specific time you would go back to as a teenager, what would it be? A specific day, a year, a party, a place?
NR: If I could travel back to any moment in time as a teenager, I would travel back to 1776. Historians would forever talk about that time when the Founding Fathers did a keg stand with a 17 year old.

(Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)

 

Today’s Most Popular News: