Play is taken from the streets Art imitates life: A high school play is about homeless people's hunger for food and their need for love, friendship and respect.

November 24, 1995|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,SUN STAFF

NEW MARKET -- If Carl Freundel wanted only to entertain, his drama students could easily sell out Linganore High School's auditorium with a light-hearted musical, such as "Guys and Dolls."

But Mr. Freundel, a drama teacher at the Frederick County school who also is a playwright, seeks to challenge his students. And his audience. He wants people to think, to see something with social relevance.

So the school production this fall was "Hunger," a play with music and dance that was written by Mr. Freundel.

The two-act, two-hour-plus play -- inspired by Baltimore's Fells Point neighborhood -- is about the homeless, not only their hunger for food, but also their need for love, friendship and respect.

"This play was really a way of pointing out the inappropriateness of certain aspects of our society and what we must do to change that," said Mr. Freundel, 36, of Westminster. "High school is really a time of change. And that has never been more evident with these students than during this play."

The play, which includes music written by Mr. Freundel, has a cast of 20 students who portray the homeless, clergy who try to help them and police officers who harass them.

The plot revolves around a clash between a do-gooder and a priest, who have different ideas about helping the homeless.

"Hunger," which premiered at the school, ended its three-night run Saturday. Despite its serious subject matter, the play was well received and Mr. Freundel is looking to have the work published. "It's something I'd like to see performed in small venues," he said. "I hope to keep the play alive."

To research their roles, Mr. Freundel took his students to a homeless shelter in Baltimore, visited Market Square at Fells Point where homeless people often congregate, and served food to homeless men, women and children at Loaves and Fishes, a soup kitchen in Westminster.

The students not only helped serve, but they also sat down at tables and ate and talked with the homeless. "When the kids said goodbye at the soup kitchen, some cried. There was hugging. Some of the homeless cried, too," he recalled. "We all fed each other in different ways."

They are donating about $1,000 -- profit from the play -- to Loaves and Fishes.

During the play's run, the Frederick Rescue Mission, which provides shelter and food to the homeless in Frederick, set up a booth at the high school about its operations and needs.

"We have not done a good job of selling ourselves. This was an opportunity to explain to the community what we do," said Ben Lindsey, director of the 100-bed shelter. "It's too early to tell what the impact will be but I think the play itself made people more aware of the plight of the homeless."

While some playwrights might clamor for larger audiences and experienced actors, Mr. Freundel said he finds satisfaction working with high school students.

"Student actors are more accessible to taking risks," he said. "They possess a vulnerability and an innocence older actors don't have. They're really flattered to be a part of an original play. I stress to them that they're really creating the roles. No one else has done them before. It makes them work harder."

Tyson Strang, who has one of the leads in "Hunger," will attest to the hard work involved in one of Mr. Freundel's plays.

"It's been tough. We're not doing high school work. We're doing professional-level work," said Tyson, 16, a junior.

Like other students, Tyson said the play has taught him a few lessons. "One thing is to treat everyone equal," he said. "So many people tell you that, but you can't really learn [it] until you've been kicked in the butt enough. The play made me realize people hunger for so much more than food."

Karol Strang, a clinical social worker and Tyson's mother, attended opening night and was impressed with the play.

"I felt depressed after the first half with the heaviness of the entire problem and how it seems so overwhelming," she said. "But by the end, there was so much hope -- that stone by stone, person by person, we can work together to try and address the problem. It was really inspirational."

K? Said Tyson: "I hope that the play will open people's eyes."

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