Then Frank, a turquoise-colored puppet withshort white hair, appeared before Alex and bolstered his confidence.Frank made Alex realize that a person can do anything if he has enough self-esteem.
Alex got the message. And directors of this youth musical, called "Turn Right!" hope the audience gets it, too.
"This is a show about kids making healthy choices," said director and writer Debra Barber. "It shows, for example, how to deal with anger, howto deal with drugs. Also it explores the meaning of 'popular.' In this play, Chris is the 'cool' guy. Then he gets busted for drugs."
Added co-director and co-writer Mac Bogert: "Self-esteem is the overriding issue, because kids with high self-esteem do not do drugs."
The 24-member cast, who range in age from 7 to 15 years, have been rehearsing the play at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts Inc. in Annapolis. They will perform the play four times: at Annapolis ElementarySchool on Sept. 19 and at Maryland Hall on Aug. 21, Aug. 22 and Sept. 14.
Bogert and Barber credit Susan Still, director of Outreach Programs for Maryland Hall, with coming up with the idea. She suggested producing an educational play for kids during the summer. Then she obtained a $3,000 grant from the city of Annapolis.
Bogert and Barber did the rest. Realizing they needed more money, they began soliciting donations. Their lawyer and dentist donated money. Even two local hair salons made donations.
"We begged and borrowed, but we didn't steal," Barber said.
After their fund-raising campaign, they settled down to write a script. Immediately, they thought of a play centering around the drug issue. Both had written and produced "Bad Medicine," an anti-drug play for Anne Arundel County public schools. But they didn't want it to be a 'just-say-no-to-drugs' performance.
"We didn't want it to be preachy," Bogert said. "I don't think that really helps."
So they wrote a 40-minute, one-act play that deals with kids who gain self-esteem and avoid drugs because of it.
It's actually a play-within-a-play: kids at a school audition for an anti-drug musical. Most worry about whether they're good enough to make the cast.
Among them are Chris and Alex, two kids with opposite personalities. Chris is outgoing and popular. Alex, however, is shy and withdrawn. He admires Chris. But a puppet convinces Alex that Chris isn't a good role model. And he finally begins to believe in himself.
Ironically, several of the cast members say they have boosted their confidence by acting in the play.
When they started rehearsing lastweek, most refused to sing even "Happy Birthday." But at a rehearsalon Tuesday, they were singing, dancing and spouting out their lines.
"Once they got over their shyness, they were fine," Barber said. "Shyness is not a problem now.
"We just told them that this was a safe place. It's OK to make fools of yourself. You have to if you want to be an actor. Acting and life is about taking risks."
Dyan Rucks, for example, wouldn't even look at Bogert or Barber. Now she has one of the lead roles in the play. She plays a popular girl, Suzanne,who only wins a role in the chorus.
"I felt uncomfortable at first," said Rucks, 12, of Annapolis.
Others felt the same way.
"I felt really nervous before," said Polly Disharoon, 9, of Annapolis. "Now, I've gotten used to everyone. I'm not shy anymore."