[ATTENDED: May 23, 2016] S.T.O.P.
If you have a teen or pre-teen and you are concerned about how they will deal with bullying, sex, body issues or, heaven forbid, heroin, this performance is a must-see both for your child and you. The performers are all high school students. They wrote the pieces and they are intended for high school students (and middle school). If you can’t see them yourself, contact your school or community group to arrange for them to do their show. It is intense and really effective.
When the fifth grade completed the D.A.R.E. program at school, the ceremony included a piece by this group. The piece was called “Jack & Jill” and it told the story of how an underage party led to the death of two teens. There were a couple of moments of humor, but the message was intense and the acting was really good (they “rewound” the story and the actors did a great job of going backwards–including one boy who “fell up” the couch (he fell off it earlier).
After they were done, they said that the troupe would be doing their full hour-long show in May and that was open to anyone in 5th grade and older. I was amazed that Clark wanted to go as it’s not really his thing. And so we went. He was bummed that only a couple of kids he knew showed up. I was bummed at how few people showed up at all. And so I wanted to post about the show to get the group some recognition because what they did was really powerful and I think should be seen by just about everyone.
When we arrived, the teacher in charge of the group Miranda DeStefano-Meene told us that the show would be uncensored and pretty intense. The program says that the words on stage “may embarrass, hurt, offend, scare and anger you. That is intentional.” The second paragraph spoke of the heroin epidemic in our society which is bigger than any other drug epidemic in recorded history, which I did not know.
And so we sat back and watched this show. Now, I happen to think that Clark may not have been exposed to a lot of what was going on in this play (which I’m grateful for). So this show may have been really intense for him (I know I spent the whole show wondering what he thought). After the show the only thing he said was that it made hm sad. And we did talk a little about the messages, but he’s a tight-lipped kid, so I can only hope he’ll come back to me with more questions if they arise.
And what questions he must have. For this show tackled so many problems facing teens.
Before describing what they did, I want to make mention of the incredible cast: Liam Devlin, Alyssa Franchino, Heather Kolatac, Trevor McNaught, Josie McNeil, Kati Murdock, Ciara Nicholson, Tyler Stasienko and Tim Weimann. They dealt with some really emotional subjects and remained amazing actors through the whole thing. In addition to giving great performances of some pretty tricky dialogue, they were really believable. I don’t know how they did it.
We knew the show would be intense because the show opens in a “morgue.” There are bodies on the floor covered in sheets. The (recorded) narrator talks about how the story ends in a morgue and will have to start at the beginning again. All of the bodies remove their sheets, sit up and yell “Shit! I’m late.” And indeed, that first word let me know that this show was going to be uncensored.
And here’s the topics they covered. “No Means No” which was about all kinds of sexual abuse–both date rape and abuse to children. What I liked about the piece (and the whole show in general) was that these weren’t complaints from victims, they weren’t “this is bad…you should not do it.” They were stories and the actors were believable as people in these stories.
“Depression” was about suicide. And how even the worst day can be survived if you just wait it out. That killing yourself is never the answer. The pull quote from the script: “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
They did “Jack & Jill” again and it was just as sad this time. One boy drinks too much and stops breathing (the kids are afraid to call 911) while another girl leaves the party drunk and kills a person.
“Abuse” was a monologue about a girl who was finally going to stand up to her abusive boyfriend because she deserved better. I wanted to give her standing ovation for this one.
“Baby Names” talked about teenage pregnancy and “Sex” was a monologue about it being okay to say no to sex. This one was done by Tyler and she was really intense and powerful.
“Love is Love” was a piece in which five people told (presumably) their parents that they were in love and then each revealed that he or she was also gay or bisexual or transgendered. “Being Gay” followed that and Liam gave a monologue about how hard it is to be gay but that no amount of intimidation or violence can change what you are. And it will get better.
“Cutting” was a really intense piece about a girl who cuts herself. I never expected this to come up and I’m not even sure if Clark knew people did this. It was really scary as each person who was close to her reacted in a different way and none of their reactions were helpful to her.
“A Game of High Stakes” was the most conceptual piece. In it, drugs were treated like a game of high stakes poker and the drug dealer was the card dealer. Each of the “players” had to ante up to buy more drugs. I’m not sure the concept was obvious to younger kids, but I thought it was really clever. The players began to sell their possessions (or worse) to get more money. But the most eye-opening thing for me was when she went from selling high-priced prescription drugs to incredibly cheap heroin ($7 a hit!). They all started shooting heroin and one of them ODed. But there was another person in line to take his place. Wow.
“Body Image” was my favorite piece. It was a monologue delivered by Kati. And while it was addressed primarily to girls it applied to everyone. She spoke of how magazines make you feel like you should look a certain way and that creates more pressure to live up to an unattainable goal. The piece ended with her stating and us reciting that we were beautiful as we are. I feel like every girl needs to see this from grade 2 up. It was empowering and powerful. “Control Freak” was the flip side of that about a girl who felt she couldn’t control anything in her life except her weight and so she became bulimic.
“Picture Pressure” was a short piece about a girl who sends her boyfriend a sext and how quickly that picture gets around even though she thought it was just to him.
“Cyber Bullying” was another really clever concept. A boy wants to show how easy it is to ruin someone’s life with a text. So he texts to a friend that the girl got a ride home from a boy, and he wonders what she did to pay him back. And then the instigator stepped off to the side of the stage and “conducted” the music as the rest of the cast started texting between themselves. And soon enough the story went from her getting a ride to her giving a blow job (that was an uncomfortable moment) to having sex with him. This eventually gets back to the boy’s girlfriend and she starts harassing the girl. Things get crazier and crazier until the girl hangs herself (that was a moment). And moments later she is “found” by her mom. Holy crap.
The final piece was called “Lock Down” and was a terrifying scene of there being a gunman in a school (with very loud gunshots). I’m not exactly sure what the point of that was because there was no message other than to stay hidden. I’m sure Clark will never think of a lock down drill the same way again.
The epilogue returned everyone to the morgue. Each person told how he or she died–from abuse, overdose, suicide, a drunk driver. And all of the cast climbed back under their sheets and lay still on the stage.
When the curtain closed I think we were all just speechless. It was a really emotional hour. Yes, all of that covered in one hour.
The cast did a Q&A after the show but we didn’t stay for that (an hour was enough).
I want to encourage anyone to contact this group to see about getting a performance for teens or pre-teens. They said that the pieces can be modified or shortened if need be. The cast is great, the pieces are really well done and, afterwards, the cast is really friendly and approachable. And you realize that these are just high school kids (at least one was only a freshman). And they really want to help.
The group has a Facebook page. They don’t have a website, but you can contact them:
Booking shows for high schools, middle schools, youth retreats and other community events. firstname.lastname@example.org