March 1, 2000
volume 11, no. 43
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NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

California Teenagers in True Life Situation Theater

    LOS ANGELES, FEB 29 (ZENIT).- The play "No Way to Treat a Lady," opens with Marie, a pregnant girl, speaking of love and loss. "He was older, and he was so good looking. He told me that if two people really love each other, they shouldn't be afraid to show it to each other." A voice answers her sternly, "Too bad some girls like you, Marie, are ignorant enough to think that the only way a guy thinks you can show him love is through sex." The play is being used by California schools to help youth to speak about the topic of love among themselves, and to hear things they did not know about the risks of premature, immature relationships.

    According to the Associated Press, the play is being staged by 15-year-olds of Southern California who want to encourage dialogue on the topic of sexual abstinence among youngsters of their age. Each actor of the Phantom Projects Troupe, as the group is called, takes a different position on the subject. After each show, the audience, composed primarily of 6th to 8th graders, can discuss their problems.

    "The center of all our shows is that everything comes down to self-control," Steve Cisneros, the group's producer-director, said. "It's natural to have feelings of wanting to have sex. It's natural to be intolerant to what others are and do. The actors are going through these same peer pressures themselves at their schools," he added.

    The play has been so effective, that several educational centers from New York to Arizona, have requested performances. In California, some 75 schools of Los Angeles, Orange, and Santa Barbara counties, have contracted the work for 4 days. An additional 15 schools, many belonging to Catholic parishes, have also requested performances of the play. The actors, who come for half a dozen different schools, rehearse on weekends and are given permission to miss class on the day of a performance. Some schools give them credit for this extra-curricular activity.

    Phantom Projects began when Cisneros was 17, and a student of Bruce Gevirtzman, an English teacher at La Mirada High School, about 20 miles from Los Angeles. Gervirtzman, a playwright since 1976, wrote "No Way to Treat a Lady" and other works now performed by the group. Teenagers "should be able to depend on the family, to always know that they are loved," Gervirtzman said. "But that's not the case anymore. There are a lot of substitutes for the love they're not getting: violence, sex, drugs."

    Tired of seeing so many misguided teenagers at his school, Cisneros believed he and his peers could reach out to urban middle-school students and teach them survival tools for their turbulent years. After a recent performance of the play, pupils raved about the life lessons it offered. "I learned some interesting and important facts about sex and the effects it could have on my life that I didn't know," a 14 year old boy said. "I've been pressured to have sex with someone more times than I can remember. Sometimes it's so hard to resist."

    One of the girls said the play "almost made me cry, just because it's such a scary world -- STDs, AIDS, pregnancy. My mind was set to not have sex until I'm married, but now it is written in stone," she said.

    Some parents have been unhappy with the frankness of the troupe's plays. A father, who identified himself as a former actor in a Christian drama company, praised the cast but also said: "they are not qualified to field students' questions on this sensitive subject."

    Cisneros defended the effort. "I wanted to combine my passion for theater and the power to teach. This is the way I could do it," he said. ZE00022901


March 1, 2000
volume 11, no. 43

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