CINCINNATI (Sheila Gray) — It’s an age old struggle.
Parents think teenagers don’t listen to them. Teens think parents don’t understand all of the issues they face. A group of Ohio high school students is trying to spark communication with a show they perform around the country.
One student actor’s brother died of leukemia. Others are children of divorce. Some are separated from parents, and some have been victims of bullying. These high school students have already been forced to overcome some of life’s biggest challenges. And they share how to survive them in a production called “Dead Serious About Life.”
The show touches on many of the issues teens face, from drinking and the pressure to have sex, to sexual abuse and suicide. Show Director Terri Hopton once asked them how many of them have contemplated suicide. She says three fourths raised their hands. Hopton runs the non-profit which takes the production around the country and says she’s seen the show save lives.
“I get countless emails from students. One girl said I had 24 suicide notes written, and I just want you to know I saw the production tonight, and I came home and I burned them all,” said Hopton.
She believes kids see on the stage that there’s always hope. One quote from the play is, “If you would’ve held on just a little bit longer, you would’ve seen that everything was going to be fine.”
It’s not just the message which sets the show apart. It’s also what happens after it’s over. The student performers talk with kids in the audience after the show, and what they’ve found is they have a lot in common.
High School senior, actor Hannah Heismann met another teen whose brother was struggling with leukemia.
“It was hard to get through the day even, knowing that my brother wasn’t there. Directly relating to someone who shared the same struggle with me was very touching,” said Heismann.
High school senior, actor Jake Love was victimized by bullies. He says like most teens, he didn’t talk to his parents when he was having trouble.
“I just didn’t know what to say. I didn’t think they would do anything,” said Love.
Heismann lost her brother to leukemia. She says teenagers think their parents have never gone through what they’re experiencing, but her mom didn’t give up.
She said, “That was a big step for me, that my mom said, how about we go and get you some help?”
In more than 10 years of working with teens, the show’s director says they’ve all learned that kids just need to talk to someone.
“Whether it’s a school counselor, a parent, a teacher, they need to be talking about what they’re feeling,” said Hepton.
Opening up on stage is changing the kids in the show. They hope “Dead Serious about Life” will help more teens open up and change some outcomes for more families.
All of the teens in the show are volunteers. They raise donations to travel and perform around the country.
CLICK HERE to find out more about the production.