Thursday, May 16, 2002

Troupe provides inspiration

Teen performers help peers relate to life's problems

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

        LIBERTY TOWNSHIP — Heath Stephens walked onto the stage last week at Lakota East High School's theater, took a deep breath and told students the group that was about to perform had changed his life.

        His emotional introduction began this year's final performance of Under Pressure, a group of 37 teen-agers who write and perform short skits directed toward their peers. Topics depict situations the students have been in: pregnancy, suicide attempts, drugs or alcohol,divorcing parents, mental health, sexual relations, eating disorders, AIDS.

        “I like to think of Under Pressure as the greatest dysfunctional family ever put together,” said Mr. Stephens, 18, who has performed with the group for three years. “I was on the verge of tears before I left. I never knew what kind of impact it had ... until they told me.”

        Since its first performance four years ago, the group has performed at conferences, including the Ohio Peer Helpers Association. It is sponsored by Amica Insurance and the Butler County Council on Alcohol and Chemical Abuse Prevention.

        Groups from Beavercreek High School outside Dayton and Lakewood High School, near Cleveland came to get ideas for their own groups.

        “The most important thing (Under Pressure) tells kids is, "You're not alone.' Kids just don't get that,” said Rich Schmaltz, who directs the group with his wife, Lisa. “There are kids who tell me because of this (show) they are alive.”


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