Students improvise dramatic skits on drug, alcohol issues for symposium

March 03, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

Several students milled around the lobby at Liberty High School on Tuesday, filling the air with after-school chatter.

They paid little attention as junior John Johansen and sophomore Maria Eppig argued loudly about who would be driving home.

"I am not drunk," he shouted. "If you loved me, you would get in my car."

The pair, members of the Liberty Improvisation Group, had not been drinking during school hours. They were actors improvising and rehearsing a scene they will perform during Liberty's Drug and Alcohol Abuse Symposium.

The young actors reworked the words and actions. Once John and Maria had a script to their liking, they tested their interpretation with other group members.

"Am I too serious?" Maria wondered as she finished the scene and got in the car with an intoxicated driver.

"You did great," said senior Agnes Mattegunta. "After all, your life is on the line."

A few suggestions from drama teacher Kathy Schnorr added more conflict to the already tense drama.

"Look at her more, John," she said. "Maria, how about you are in driver's ed but don't have your license yet, and you are stuck for a ride?"

All the skits, which actors will perform in classrooms during the symposium, end with the players making the wrong choices and bowing to peer pressure.

"They end wrong to get the point across," said senior Vince Buscemi. "You use your imagination to see what happens. He is drunk and driving, and something could go wrong."

Another skit deals with a couple offered drugs on their first date. After they debate with their consciences -- which are also played by two improvisers -- they make the wrong choice in hopes of impressing each other.

"You wrestle with your consciences so long, but not with each other long enough," said John.

Classroom teachers know the story lines and prepare discussions on the plots. The skits have a bigger impact on students than lectures, Vince said.

"Lectures can be boring," he said. "This has action, movement back and forth. The kids know us, too. We are their peers and friends."

The 16 improvisers use no props and wear their school clothes.

Story sequences deal with alcohol and drug abuse, date rape, anorexia and peer pressure. The scenes run "just as long as it takes to get our point across," said Maria.

Rehearsals break for critiques from the students and Ms. Schnorr.

"The students set the scene, then add or subtract," she said. "Everybody watches and critiques."

Often different actors improvise on the same theme and pick up lines from one another.

Ten troupe members also form the Just Say No Group, which takes the anti-drug message to fifth-grade students at elementary schools.

"The group improvises skits to show kids they can say no and still be cool," said Agnes.

After they have played a scene at the elementary school, the actors take suggestions for different endings from the younger children.

"We care about these kids and want to help," said Agnes. "They should be ready for the first time somebody offers them drugs. They will know they don't have to say yes. "

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