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The singing journal-ist: Musical draws on teenage diary

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Dear diary, today a group of strangers got to hear all about you!

A Bushwick playwright has turned her teenage diary into a multi-media musical about the pains of high school romance. “I’ll Never Love Again,” opening at the Bushwick Starr on Feb. 24, provides a window into the hyper-emotional adolescent brain that it is rarely seen in the mainstream media, says the playwright.

“I don’t see my true weird teenage self reflected in any of the books or popular movies that I’m consuming,” said Clare Barron, who also acts in the show. “I remember it being a really existential time of life where you’re thinking about the big questions.”

The play focuses on the diary pages scribbled in the days after 16-year-old Barron was dumped for the first time. She compulsively wrote down every detail of the time she spent with her high school sweetheart, terrified of forgetting how it felt to be in love for the first time.

The production narrates the heartbreak through both quirky musical numbers and straight theater — the first act features a 12-piece choir singing the words of the journal gospel-style, while the second act features more traditional scenes, with diverse characters acting out dialogue taken word-for-word from the lovelorn entries. The play uses actors of different ages and genders to express Barron’s teenage thoughts, as a way of making the story speak to a broad range of audience members.

“I didn’t want it to be about me,” said Barron. “I want to share it among many different voices, and I wanted to let the language live in the bodies of many different actors so it didn’t become about this singular person’s experience.”

Barron hopes that the place can help audience members better understand their present selves by confronting their formative pasts.

“I wanted to investigate the psyche of someone changing the way they thought about love and sex in very small increments,” she said.

Barron did omit a few particularly embarrassing passages, she says, because she feared the hyper-personal anecdotes might detract from the show’s universal appeal.

“I wanted the emotional truth of what I was saying to land,” she said.

“I’ll Never Love Again” at the Bushwick Starr [207 Starr St. between Irving and Wyckoff avenues, (917) 623–9669, www.thebushwickstarr.org]. Running Wed–Sun at 8 pm until March 19. $18.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobbs@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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