CM . . .
. Volume XVIII Number 29. . . .March 30, 2012
Rites of Passage: Three Plays from Roseneath Theatre.
David S. Craig & Chris Craddock.
Toronto, ON: Playwrights Canada Press, 2010.
130 pp., trade pbk., $19.95.
Grades 10-12 / Ages 15-17.
Review by Amy Dawley.
TRENT Ask me why I'm here.
RAYZEE Okay. Why are you here?
TRENT My father got me arrested.
RAYZEE How does that make you feel?
TRENT "How does that make you feel?" Whoa, Psych 101. How do you think it makes me feel?
RAYZEE I dunno. Betrayed, resentful, hurt, angry, embarrassed..?
TRENT Have you done this before?
TRENT Your approach is kinda obvious.
RAYZEE Have you done this before?
TRENT Yeah, but it was a lot different. He had windows.
RAYZEE How was it for you?
TRENT You don't need to check in with me. I'm not stupid. (From "Smokescreen.")
Rites of Passage: Three Plays from Roseneath Theatre is a collection of plays designed and written specifically for young adults by David S. Craig and Chris Craddock. The introduction, written by Craig, describes how live theatre is stereotypically not an art form that is welcoming or relevant to young adults, and the plays in Rites of Passage are a result of Craig and Craddock's efforts to engage this population. Each of the stories addresses ideas and issues that are familiar to modern teens, and the language and delivery of these plays is accessible to a teenage audience.
"Smoke Screen" is a play about a teen named Trent who is mixed up in dealing and using marijuana, with the core conflict being his disconnection from his father Jeff. Rayzee is a young and inexperienced youth case-worker assigned to Trent's "easy" case, and the interaction between these three characters in Rayzee's dingy office is the backdrop to the conflict. Trent has been convicted of trafficking drugs, and part of his sentencing has been to meet with a youth worker for assessment or he will face jail time. Jeff hasn't seen his son for months after Trent left home to live in a shelter, and when he finds out that Trent will be speaking to Rayzee, Jeff intends to listen in on their conversation to find out what his son has been up to. While teachers and educators should be aware that "Smoke Screen" includes some swearing and offensive language, these details take a back seat to the overall message of how tragic a breakdown of communication between family members can be, and ultimately the struggle it takes to rebuild that lost trust. Trent's father is caught between doing the "right" thing by the law, while also wanting to support and protect his son. On the other hand, Trent longs to return to his old life with his parents, but being mixed up with drug trafficking has him trapped in a criminal lifestyle and he sees no way out. Ultimately, the play leaves it up to the audience to judge right from wrong, and this is the real strength in "Smoke Screen": it presents the issues but does not pass moral judgement on Trent's choices in life.
"Wrecked" is a play about the impact of alcoholism and drinking on the lives of young people both in a family and a social setting. The play switches between the story of teenager Lyle and his younger sister Susy (their mother, Sharon, is an alcoholic) and short scenes that include the kind of post-party chatter heard in high school hallways at the beginning of the school week. After his parent's divorce, 16-year-old Lyle became the adult in the household when Sharon's drinking worsened. Going to school and juggling a full-time job while also keeping the house and caring for his younger sister, Lyle grows increasingly bitter toward his drunken mother. He is frustrated when Susy insists that their mother's drinking isn't as bad as Lyle makes it out to be. Oscillating between showing loving concern and being emotionally and physically abusive, Sharon is not fit to be a mother, and Lyle has been doing his best to hide her illness from his friends and the authorities for fear that he will be separated from his sister and put into government care. Between this family story are episodes of high school students relating their stories of how "wrecked" they gotóbe it at school, at a party, or before a danceóand the consequences of that behaviour. "Wrecked" paints a realistic picture of the effects of alcohol on the lives of teens, especially those with alcoholic parents. However, it provides a sense of hope toward the end as Sharon works toward staying sober after her children leave her to set out on their own.
"Napalm the Magnificent" is a quirky, post-modern style play delivered almost in its entirety by a dwarf character who has been arrested and sentenced to do community service in the form of a performance for young people. The structure and delivery of "Napalm the Magnificent" suspends the audience's belief, blurring the lines between real and fakeóthe stage is surrounded by razor wire, and there is a security guard character present, all to keep Napalm away from the audience and to ensure the audience members' safety. For the majority of the play, Napalm is on stage by himself, delivering a continuous monologue about the pathetic state of the modern world by commenting on capitalism, the government, consumerism, and everything to do with western culture. Interspersed in his diatribe are incidents designed to shock or jolt the audience, including the lights going out, things setting on fire, or Napalm's trying to escape the razor wire.
"Napalm the Magnificent" would most appeal to young adults who are passionate about current events and who are social activists in their own right. While this play is less suitable for a school production than "Smoke Screen" or "Wrecked," it would be of interest to youth theatre groups looking for something different to stage, or for those teens that are looking for ideas and inspiration for a solo act of their own.
Overall, Rites of Passage would be a solid addition to libraries supporting school or community drama programs for teens, or for those libraries that have active theatre groups in their communities.
Amy Dawley is the teen librarian at the Prince George Public Library in Prince George, BC.
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