News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 9, 2013

Play doesn’t sugar-coat teen issues

Upcoming production puts ‘blunt’ face on kids lives

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — It’s not for the faint of heart.

“Dead Serious About Life” is deadly serious.

It’s a play/musical about the problems and choices teenagers face daily. To add to its authenticity, the script is updated and changed annually by the teenagers playing the roles.

The production deals directly with teen suicide, pregnancy, abortion, bullying, sex, peer pressure, self mutilation and much more.

“Hang on to your seats. It’s real life,” said Holly Kirby, one of two paid workers for the Ohio-based not-for-profit Christian group that puts on the musical in more than a dozen cities and towns annually.

But “Dead Serious About Life” also has its lighter side, said Susan Treash of Clay County, who is helping organize the showing of the production in the Northview High School auditorium next weekend.

“Some of the characters are absolutely hilarious,” Treash said.

The kids who make up the cast of “Dead Serious” attend high school in the Cincinnati area, which is where Mishpachah, Inc., the not-for-profit behind the production, is based. The young people make a year-long commitment to travel and perform all over the country, but mostly in the Midwest.

The story begins when Todd and Stephanie, a brother and sister, are left alone for a weekend and decide to host a big party. It’s through the party that the audience learns about the variety of characters in the performance.

The main goal of “Dead Serious” is to prevent teen suicide, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was the third-leading cause of teen death in 2010 behind accidents and homicides.

At the conclusion of the performance, which is more than two hours long, cast members speak openly with the audience about real-life problems they have faced. And young people in the audience are invited to “listening rooms” if they have challenges they’d like to discuss with someone one-on-one, Kirby added.

“Dead Serious” is a Christian production, but is not “preachy” or “in-your-face,” Treash said, adding that the organizers hope parents will attend to learn what their kids are facing each day. And while the play is taking place at Northview, the school is not sponsoring the production, she said.

“It’s blunt,” Treash said. “But it’s life.” Parents are often shocked by what they see, but, as for the kids, “it’s not going to phase them.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com