Out Cast: theater with a purpose

A nonprofit troupe started by a county schoolteacher allows young actors to present dramas that connect to teens' lives

September 21, 2005|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,Special to the sun

All Linda Carneiro wanted to do was put on a show.

So the former English and language arts teacher at Broadneck High School started the Out Cast Theatre Company, with the help of parent Dianna Steve, now the assistant program director.

The nonprofit theater group, which was formed in the spring, is putting on its first performance this week, a play called Bang Bang You're Dead, written by William Mastrosimone and inspired by the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado. (A 2002 movie by the same name was based on the play.)

"The play is about school violence; it's about a shooting that takes place in a high school," Steve said.

There will be no charge for the performances, which will be in the Humanities 112 Theatre at Anne Arundel Community College at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. The college donated the space, Carneiro said.

Carneiro, who teaches at West Baltimore Middle School in Baltimore, started a drama program at Broadneck about three years ago, when she was a teacher there.

"There was no drama club at the school at the time," Steve said, "and so she started on with the idea in mind that she really wanted to do pieces that were relevant to the lives of young teenagers, of high school students."

Bang Bang You're Dead was Carneiro's first production, in 2003.

"It received a lot of attention at that point of time," Steve said. "Since that time we continued to have local organizations that have asked us to do it again because it is such a moving piece. It does actually do a very good job of educating students on the awareness of violence and educating parents on what the realities of the situation really are and the things that can lead up to it."

Carneiro decided she wanted to start a drama program of her own, one not affiliated with a school. With the help of Steve, she established Out Cast, which is now a program under the umbrella of the nonprofit Broadneck Community Resources organization.

"It was kind of developed out of a need to kind of expand what we were doing in the schools - at Broadneck in particular," Carneiro said. "I decided that I would look into starting my own theater company."

She did some research, and found a need for a theater company focusing on dramas that youths from middle school to college could perform.

Most of the actors in the play, which has six main roles and several other parts, are high school and college students. Many of the actors either go to Broadneck or have graduated from there, but Carniero predicts students from elsewhere in the county - and even Baltimore - will join the theater once it gains recognition.

Rehearsals began in July at Broadneck Baptist Church. Chynna Steve, the 16-year-old daughter of Dianna Steve and a junior at Broadneck, plays Emily, a neighbor of the boy who turns violent.

"I had worked with Miss Carneiro at the high school on her other productions, and I really like the way she ran things," Chynna said.

Though she said the script "kind of freaked me out a little bit" the first time she read it, she believes the production carries an important message.

"I think it's very relevant to teens today," she said. "Nobody really likes to think of teens hurting themselves or other people." But the play, she said, "is a necessary course of action to at least shed some light on the subject, if not solve it."

Amanda Torchia, 19, of Glen Burnie is serving as the production's student director, helping with the acting, blocking, lighting and sets.

She graduated from Broadneck and is studying at Anne Arundel Community College.

"It was a good opportunity for me because when I left high school two years ago, there wasn't a whole lot outside of high school drama to be involved in," she said.

Carniero said she hopes Bang Bang You're Dead is the first of many productions for the theater company. Out Cast also holds "battle of the bands" competitions and a coffeehouse every month where artists can sing or read poetry.

"We call it a coffeehouse where everybody can come and put on their pieces in a supportive environment," Steve said. "They don't have to have written great American literature.

The next coffeehouse is scheduled for Oct. 14. Anyone interested in performing should contact Out Cast by e-mail at outcast theatreco@aol.com.

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