Staying Golden at The Empty Space: Local theatre portrays societal struggles in “The Outsiders”


The set for “The Outsiders” at The Empty Space in Bakersfield, Calif on Jan.31.

Lauren Hill, Features Editor

  The impact left on an audience after a few hours in a small building on Oak street is anything but small. 

  The story, The Outsiders, has been made famous by the novel in 1967 followed by its film in 1983. Now, The Empty Space theatre in Bakersfield is running their portrayal of The Outsiders on select dates from Jan. 24 through Feb. 8. 

  The theatre company has successfully sold out their first two weekends, with only 10 reserved rushed seats available at the door for each. 

  The Outsiders is a story that focuses on societal issues of the time, many of which are still prevalent today. Director Nolan Long has decided to take the story to the next level with his direction and casting. 

  “It’s a non-traditional casting […] Primarily the show is done by an all-white male cast, and I knew I didn’t want to do that. When I started breaking down the script and everything, what I found was that a lot of the struggles that are put upon the greasers are inherently and consistently struggles of marginalized groups of people and of women. I really wanted to get the diversity of the cast to help tell that level of the story,” Long said. 

  Two of the stories most popular characters are played by women. Christina Goyeneche, an adjunct professor at CSU Bakersfield plays Sodapop and Kiera Gill plays the dynamic character, Johnny. 

  Gill said, “Having the opportunity to be cast in a role, not because of who I am or what I look like but what I could bring to it, is very exciting […] I’ve been having a great time with Johnny, I love his vulnerability. These young men in this show are doing what they do because of what society thinks they should be doing and Johnny brings a vulnerability to them that I feel like they would not be comfortable expressing outside of his company.” 

  According to Long, it felt wrong to not cast a woman in the role of Johnny, as he is a character who walks on the street in fear, begins to carry a knife for self-defense, and develops PTSD after being jumped. 

  Kelsea Johnson who plays a “Soc” named Cherry in the production said of the character, “Cherry definitely comes from privilege […] I Feel like that could go one of two directions: You can be completely blind to society because you’ve been raised with so much that you don’t really understand the flip side of the coin, but she has this nature about her where she wants to know and understand others struggle.” 

  Long explained how the community at The Empty Space embraces everyone and makes them feel like they play a vital role. Long believes there is power in the process and one thing that is very encouraging is the way that this cast came into every rehearsal and gave it their all.  

  “If you put the same amount of love and respect that you want into something, you’ll receive it every time; Especially at the space,” said Long.