Manchester teen uses acting to bridge gap with Russian youths

August 31, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

The tried-and-true diplomacy of humor worked for Mark Bray, 17, on his trip to Russia last month.

One of the Russian youths working on a theater production with him kept upstaging him. So Mark firmly told him to cut it out.

"I said, 'We're cooperating here,' in a humorous way and made him laugh," Mark said. "He stopped [the upstaging]."

For his summer vacation Mark, a North Carroll High School senior, was one of five students from Delaware and Maryland to go to Russia through Creative Response. The organization sends students to countries such as Russia, Ireland and South Africa, to foster cultural and diplomatic exchange through the arts.

"I felt that it could help me in my soul," said Mark, whose older brother, Matthew Bray, went to Ireland five years ago through Creative Response. They are the sons of Bennett and Barbara Bray of Warehime Road in Manchester.

"I thought that it could broaden me, that maybe I could make a change, maybe to help 30 of those kids to feel just the way I want to feel, to make them feel a little more secure that we can get along."

After a few orientation sessions in Delaware with the other students and one adult who accompanied them, Mark spent 24 days in Moscow and youth camps in surrounding towns.

He lived in a camp for part of the trip, and then with a family in an apartment.

The five Americans and 25 Russians, ages 13 to 20, had a specific mission: to write and perform a show about their experiences together.

"The show was just anything that happened to us on our trip," he said. "As soon as I got to Russia, I noticed there was a tremendous environmental problem. There was trash everywhere and pollution."

Mark, already interested in the environment, decided to write a skit in the show in which he played a man who changes places with a tree.

Before going to Russia, Mark had considered a career in acting, but he was also interested in working with the environment either as an educator, lawyer or engineer.

Since his experiences there, he said, he is more committed than ever to environmental causes.

At North Carroll, Mark remains active this year in the chorus and drama club, as well as in Fool Proof, a youth theater group that performs skits on social issues such as teen suicide and substance abuse.

He said he found the young actors in Russia to be less sophisticated than the American high school students with whom he usually performs.

"The only reason for that was in their community, they don't have too many theaters around to act in," he said.

"With acting, they had to be told to pick up their arms and how to carry themselves on stage. They were like freshmen."

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