Natalie Lane lets music be her guide when getting a play ready for the stage.
"That really sets the tone. I use it in all of the scene changes and even some underscoring of themes," the Arts Live director says. "That's the first thing that I do to figure out what tone I want it to be. And [how to] help the audience feel like they're being dropped into that time period."
For the Arts Live production of "The Outsiders," she introduced the young actors to the music of The Beatles, The Supremes, Simon and Garfunkel and The Who, among others.
"The heart of the '60s," Lane says. "That's what was in the air at the time."
"The Outsiders" centers on the conflict between two rival groups in 1967 Tulsa -- the poor and disadvantaged "greasers" and the up-and-coming rich kids, the "socs" -- short for socialites -- as told through the perspective of a 14-year-old greaser named Ponyboy Curtis. After two of the greasers befriend two socs girls, hostilities between the groups lead to deadly consequences. The novel was written by S.E. Hinton, who was 16 when she began writing the book. Arts Live is using an adaptation written for the stage by Christopher Sergel.
"We did cut the script down just because we like to have shows that aren't a whole lot longer than an hour," says Lane. " I have a consultant who is a middle-grade teacher, and she feels like I'm staying pretty close to the book. The major difference is that I changed three of the main characters to female characters -- Ponyboy, Johnny Cade and Darry."
Lane says that part of the reason is that more girls than boys auditioned for the play, but it afforded a unique opportunity to interpret these characters differently.
"It's a different time period, but there's still that clash now of different groups of people and bullying that happens. I think then, at least in that story, it was much more physical," Lane says. Another way that young people connect with the material is by seeing characters who struggle to find their place even in their own social class.
"Sometimes we find [that] we choose our families," she adds. "I've run across a lot of kids that don't have a good home life and find their family at the theater or don't have friends that support them or get them or understand them. They show up at the theater, and here are all these people that are also different, and are not quite the mainstream. They get a lot of comfort in that."
Arts Live has created a space for kids to learn about theater through hands-on experience putting on the shows -- both onstage and behind the curtain. For this performance, Lane says that her assistant director, Kayla Henderson, who has been with Arts Live for six years, has been invaluable.
"She is exceptional," Lane beams. "She acts as an assistant director and stage manager, and [she] will run lights for the show. She helps me with everything. She's my right hand." In addition to her technical duties, Lane says that her 18-year-old counterpart also serves as a sounding board for ideas on directing the story.
Henderson is sharing her knowledge with the younger crew, too.
"There are students that are interested in that side of things that don't really want to be on stage, which I love because we need those people. That's a huge part. None of it would happen if it weren't for the crew. So, [Henderson] actually has a younger student that is shadowing her.
"I'm just really impressed with the maturity of this cast," Lane adds. "They range from 12 to 17. And they are so focused, and you can tell they really care about the story. They're so interested, and a lot of them have read it. So then I can take it to another level when you've got you've got a bunch of focused kids that are working together as a team."
WHAT -- In 1967 Tulsa, Okla., the hardened hearts, aching souls and romantic dreams of Ponyboy Curtis, Johnny Cade and their band of greasers take center stage in a fight for survival and a quest for purpose. Based on the novel by S.E. Hinton. For ages 10 and older.
WHEN -- 7 p.m. Feb. 2-3, 2 & 7 p.m. Feb. 4 and 2 p.m. Feb. 5
WHERE -- Arts Live Theatre, 818 N. Sang Ave., Fayetteville
COST -- $10 for students, $12 for adults plus fees
INFO -- artslivetheatre.com/fun-page