The following was submitted by the Salem Theatre Company:
Salem Theatre Company and Salem Cyberspace has announced in-school and public performances for four short plays that were created by local 7th and 8th graders from Salem Public Schools as part of grant project from Healthy People 2020. The $8300 grant from the Healthy People 2020 Community Innovations Project, a program of the US Department of Health and Human Services, promotes healthier lifestyles for youth and adults.
The public performance will be held at the STC Theater, 90 Lafayette Street in Salem, on Tuesday, March 27 at 6:30 p.m. The performance is free and open to the public.
Under the creative direction of storyteller Judith Black of Marblehead, eleven students ranging in age from 12 – 15 have been hard at work for the past two months improvising and sharing personal stories to create the four plays. They are: Edwin Acosta, Mercis Arias, Chanel Garcia, Rocco Geary, Destiny Gregg, Amy Gonzalez, Yadira Martinez, Angela Sanchez, Andy Martinez and Cheyenne Valdez-Ledford from the Collins Middle School, and Alex Bull from Marblehead Veterans’ School. Julianny Vittini and Jaycee Cruz from Salem High School assisted Ms. Black and Scarlett Gonzalez from Endicott College provided Business Management and Assistance.
In addition to the public performance, the plays will be presented to students at Collins Middle School, Saltonstall School, Salem Academy Charter School, and will be filmed for broadcast on SATV and You Tube.
The four plays are:
The Cereal Wars features a father and son in the cereal isle of the local Market Basket (thank-you to the Salem Market Basket for costumes). Our harried dad learns how to read a cereal box’s nutrition guide so that he can make the best choice for his son who is throwing a tantrum in the aisle.
In Chess Game and Mean Girls the students explore the dynamics of a bully/bystander/victim situation and that “gang of girls” in school that you would rather avoid. Each has five brief scenes that explore how any player in a situation can change the relationships and outcome of a bullying scenario.
The full cast comes together in Love My Friends, a Song/Dance/Story drawn from the students’ authentic experiences with alcohol, cigarettes, and other substances. When viewed together it becomes clear that their love for one another is stronger than the draw and results of substance abuse.
"As an organization that helps middle and high school students improve academically," says Linda Saris, Director of Salem CyberSpace, "we must also address the mental and physical health of our students. Unhealthy living provides yet another barrier to learning so, as part of our mission, we must teach our students how to develop strategies to build a healthier lifestyle."
Salem Theatre Company and Salem CyberSpace have been exploring ways to work together for the last two years. "Salem Theatre Company sees theatre and storytelling as a powerful way to bring people together and build community. We're especially excited to partner with Salem Cyberspace, our neighbor, and an organization that works so effectively with local youth," said Peg Voss Howard, STC's Board President, who penned the grant in collaboration with Saris and Black. "We want to engage youth and the broader Point/LoLa neighborhood in live theater," concluded Howard.
STC is pleased to have secured the international storyteller Judith Black to work with the youth on this project. A professional storyteller with a national following, Ms. Black most recently created the original production Bittersweet Midnight which ran, to rave reviews, for 15 performances at the Salem Theatre Company. In 2001 Black was inducted into the National Storytelling Network's Circle of Excellence "for exceptional commitment and exemplary contribution to the art of storytelling." For more information about Judith Black, visit www.storiesalive.com.
"Judith Black is exceptional, with extensive experience in theatre and storytelling... and with youth! This program is sure to offer a great experience to performers and audiences alike," Howard said.
Participating students, selected through Salem CyberSpace with input from area schools, have worked with Ms. Black one day a week since January, researching and writing the skits. They also worked four hours a day through their February vacation to rehearse the skits.