Community

Students tackle drug use — from the stage

Avio Brooklyn, Anna Rose Warren and Rob O’Brien, part of the cast of “Wake Up: The World’s On Fire,” take a break during rehearsal. Performances are at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, May 21 and 22, at McMurray Middle School. - Courtesy photo
Avio Brooklyn, Anna Rose Warren and Rob O’Brien, part of the cast of “Wake Up: The World’s On Fire,” take a break during rehearsal. Performances are at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, May 21 and 22, at McMurray Middle School.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Islanders’ words come to life on the stage this week, when “Wake Up: The World’s On Fire” tackles youth substance use through documentary theater — a performance taken almost entirely from first-hand interviews and articles.

The event’s the last in a series of community forums on the topic, and organizers said they’re looking forward to the chance to come together to look at the issue from new angles on May 21 and 22.

A discussion will be held immediately following the free performances — an important chance to process and share reactions to the content of the documentary theater piece, organizers said.

“We’re trying to open up dialogue so the community understands this is an issue young people are dealing with,” said Amy Ezzo, Vashon Youth Council’s program director. The play includes many perspectives about the contentious issue, she added.

A group of Vashon High School students recorded the words of teachers, principals and students at the high school and McMurray Middle School. Director Harris Levinson created a script using these interviews and written commentaries by parents and others interested in the issue of drug and alcohol use on Vashon.

“We are trying to honor the voices of this community by using their words, so much of what our script is comprised of is verbatim,” said Levinson, who teaches performance arts, American studies and Spanish at the high school.

Today, the cast of eight performs “Wake Up: The World’s On Fire” for the entire McMurray Middle School student body — an acknowledgment, said director Harris Levinson, that Island youth may be confronted with substance use before they are teenagers.

“Students are dealing with these difficult decisions earlier and earlier,” he said.

Next week, the cast will return to McMurray and discuss the issues raised in their performance with students, which Levinson said could be a “valuable tool” in the dialogue about drugs and alcohol.

The documentary theater performance has an important lesson for parents as well as young people, he added.

“The take-away message of the show is that if our com-munity is concerned about young people’s usage of drugs and alcohol, then they need to step up to the challenge of truly open and honest communication,” Levinson said — starting with the community discussion just following the shows on Thursday and Friday.

“I think that the play does a good job of giving you all the sides, of not just giving you, ‘Drugs are bad,’ or ‘Drugs are OK,’” said freshman Lizzy Schoen, who plays an eighth-grade girl and herself in the performance. “I think the play really plays to everyone and everyone’s opinions and really raises awareness.”

Fellow cast member Brooke Kipling said she’s excited to be part of a production with an important message to its audience.

“I’m looking forward to sending a message to everyone letting them know what’s going on,” she said, “and telling them, ‘Now it’s your job to take action.’”

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