Lauren Young GRD ’14 staged two readings of her new play and solo show, “College Classified: Sutton Summers’ Literally Real College Application Season Vlog” before the Yale community this past weekend.
Hosted by the Yale Drama Coalition, the raw readings gave Young an informal platform to test out new materials before future performances, she said. The performance consisted of 13 monologues by Young’s character Sutton Summers — a peppy and smart, but extremely narcissistic and privileged high school senior applying to colleges while dealing with a lingering breakup.
Each monologue was a fictional vlog, or video blog, in the fictional series Young devised called “College Classified.” Audience members played the role of “Summertimers” — Sutton’s vlog followers, whom she addresses at the start of the play. In June, “College Classified” premiered at the 2016 Hollywood Fringe Festival — an annual theater festival in California that features work by up-and-coming artists.
“I wrote it as a parody, send-up of contemporary college culture — the very one-track mind, material notion of living inside the bubble,” Young said.
Young said Sutton’s character derives from a composite of individuals she encountered while tutoring students in Los Angeles. Young noted that the youthful confidence she ascertained in little girls and the unhealthy Ivy League obsession among teenagers in wealthy suburban neighborhoods contributed to the character’s development.
Additionally, Young said she was drawn to unlikeable female characters while crafting Sutton, whose character’s egotistical nature is amplified throughout the college process. When faced with the Common Application prompt asking applicants to describe a time they failed, Sutton responds: “Sorry I’m not sorry I never failed.”
Though she is overly pompous and narcissistic, Sutton is driven, smart and accomplished, Young said. Through the course of the monologues, audience members learn that Sutton interviews celebrities for the Huffington Post and writes for Vogue.
After the reading, Young discussed the show’s dialogue in light of mainstream society’s negative perception of powerful women. She said after a previous performance, an audience member raised the question of how viewers would have reacted if Sutton were read as a male character.
During a post-reading forum where Young asked audience members to offer input on the show, Melanie Pagan, a graduate housing manager for the University, noted moments in the script that surprised her, which she felt were meant to “soften” Sutton’s character without changing her.
“There were moments where I thought bubbles might burst that didn’t happen,” Pagan said.
Fernando Giron, another audience member, said he would consider Sutton’s character the epitome of white privilege, perfectly embodying “stereotypes of what older people think of rich, spoiled kids.” Despite his negative perception of the play’s lead, however, he complimented Young for handling the difficult task of creating such an in-depth character well.
In addition to playwriting, Young writes for the Huffington Post and Ms. Magazine in Los Angeles.