Youth In Revolt: Tavi Gevinson's Broadway Debut

by Whitney Spaner / photos by Victor Skrebneski
Tavi wears a Comme des Garcons shirt, Ikram skirt, Alexander McQueen boots.

This fall, as her fellow Oak Park and River Forest High School alums get settled into their college dorms, Chicago native Tavi Gevinson will be making her Broadway debut in Kenneth Lonergan's 1996 play This is Our Youth. Her character, a feisty FIT freshman named Jessica, would probably read Rookie, Gevinson's online magazine that created an outlet for a new culture of creative girls. But Gevinson was hardly even a gleam in her mother's eye in 1982 when the dark comedy -- about three New York high school grads trying to navigate adult life while smoking a lot of weed and cursing their rich but disappointing parents -- takes place.

An OG from her Miu Miu clogs up, Gevinson started her fashion blog Style Rookie at the ripe old age of 11, earning her the attention of the fashion designers she admired and front row seats at New York Fashion Week before she learned to drive. Her inherent self-confidence throughout her rise has been an inspiration to her followers, who happen to be in the most awkward and insecure times of their lives; it has also helped her hold her own on stage against her more experienced costars, Michael Cera and Kieran Culkin.

(L-R)  Kieran Culkin, Michael Cera and Tavi Gevinson.

The cast prepped for their transfer to Broadway's Cort Theater with a much more intimate summer production of the play, directed by Anna D. Shapiro, at the Steppenwolf's Upstairs Theatre in Chicago. While there, they gathered for this photo shoot at the legendary photographer Victor Skrebneski's Old Town studio, on a street named in his honor. The collegial trio, who all started their careers at a young age, were eager to get to New York, where Cera and Culkin live and Gevinson was about to move in with Rookie contributing photographer Petra Collins. "It's time for me to leave [home]," says Gevinson during a break at the studio. As the conversation moves from impersonations of Rosie Perez's New Yawk accent to jokes about this summer's ridiculous Godzilla remake to a debate as to whether Fargo is a comedy, it's hard to remember that she still lives with her parents. The 18-year-old Gevinson relates to the 31-year-old Culkin and the 26-year-old Cera -- until they start talking about landlines. Culkin, who plays the hustling drug dealer Dennis, is on the phone for much of the play, pacing around his apartment, pulling the cord along with him. "Do you even have a house phone?" Culkin asks Gevinson. "Oh yeah, but the window for me having to memorize my friends' numbers and call them on the landline probably ended in middle school," she says. "That's when it was more normal for people in my bracket to have cell phones."
Now that Rookie has a full editorial team, an ever-growing group of young contributors (who range in age from their teens to their 30s), and Rookie Yearbook 3, the website's third annual anthology, has been sent to the printer (it's out October 21), Gevinson's able to focus on her acting. I ask her if there's anything she's learned from her two famous costars. "I have learned Mario Kart. I knew what it was; I just hadn't played it," she says. Cera adds, "It's a nice blast of adrenaline before you go onstage." Youth culture has officially arrived on Broadway.

Digital Tech: Nathaniel Smith. Styling by Theresa Alleva. Hair and makeup by Frances Tsalas for Factor Artists Chicago. 

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