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Volume VIII Number 10 . . . . January 18, 2002
(from "The Day Billy Lived")
Billy: Well that's just it, isn't it? We got cell phones, microwave ovens, and so much food we have to puke to stay thin. We got Disney, malls, and free health care. We got all this stuff. We got it better that anyone else, this is as good as it gets in the whole world, and I STILL feel like hell. I mean there's probably nothing great about being dead, but what is so great about being alive?
One: So we're on the road, swerving a bit, it's true. And we see this car coming the other way, so Chauncy's really pissed, so he thinks it'll be totally funny to flash his lights on and off and play La Cukaroacha on the horn.
Chris Craddock, a young award winning playwright, has written three plays about teens, intended for teens, either as an audience or actors.
In the first play, "The Day Billy Lived," we are introduced to Billy, a 16-year-old young man who takes painkillers to end up in a place in between life and death (?). It is here he encounters many characters that question him about his choice to commit suicide, the influences others have had on his life, and he on theirs. There is a subtext included here about animals that becomes a bit confusing in its use, one which may possibly take away from the play rather than add to it. A song sung about Billy's life, hopes, and dreams offers many opinions on who Billy is, and who he wants to be, as closure. The ending is offered in the title.
In the second play, "Wrecked," three sets of characters weave in and out of each others' story lines, offering insights into their encounters with alcohol and drug abuse. Lyle and Buddy are two 16-year-olds dealing with their own curiosity about alcohol and drugs by putting together a video on the subject for a local contest. Lyle is also coping with his alcoholic mother and the responsibility he feels towards protecting Suzy, his 10-year-old sister. In another story line, Sharon, mother to Lyle and Suzy, attempts to deal with family problems through alcohol and her relationship with a local bartender. One more story line involves Teens 1,2,3, and 4 dialoguing about their drug and drinking encounters. Vignettes of these are presented in a collection of settings at the house, at Sharon's bar - each under separate titles. In the end, Lyle and Buddy win the contest, and Lyle uses the money to find a place for him and his sister to live on their own.
The third play, "Do It Right," deals with the topic of sex through the relationships of four experimenting 16-year-olds (Jen, Becky, Daryll, and Brad), Leo and Joey (two curious ten year olds), and with parents, a priest, an older single teen mother, and each other. Jen discovers she's pregnant with Daryll's baby, and after telling Daryll and her other friends, she spends time trying to discover what she should do next. Becky enjoys the company of Brad, but neither one of them wants to date. Becky figures if she doesn't date, she will be in no danger of getting pregnant, and Brad doesn't date because he is waiting to move to a bigger city where it will be more acceptable for him to have a boyfriend. Leo and Joey want to know how to have sex, and in their journey through asking older guys and looking through sex magazines, without warning, get a long, detailed account of sex and its consequences from pregnant Jen. A fresh touch at the end offers three scenarios, each outlining a different decision Jen could make (leaving members of the audience to decide for themselves).
All three issues presented in the plays speak to the youth of today and offer some very innovative ways to approach the subject matter, such as the alternative ending in Do It Right. How the subject matter is presented though might make the greatest difference between this being a script book for a local production presenting theatre for teens in the community or becoming a collection of plays a teacher could use and present in a classroom or other school setting. In his introduction, Craddock clearly states " you must try to avoid preaching and foul language and also blasphemy," when writing plays for the teen audience, but he then proceeds to set these suggestions aside numerous times throughout all three plays thus contradicting himself.
Although the playwright states at the beginning of each play that producers " should feel absolutely free to change and update them according to their specific social context," the topical and local references would probably not be the first areas of concern. Explicit language and content will throw up red flags for any teachers considering taking this material into a school setting. Then again, Craddock does not profess to be a teacher, and the title, Naked at School, only suggests an educational connection. Therein lies the dilemma.
Recommended with reservations.
Jocelyn A. Dimm teaches courses in adolescent literature and drama education in the Faculty of Education, the University of Victoria.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.