Youth Theatre Tackles Tough Issues

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Carole Mikita ReportingSocial tensions and complex issues that young people face today is the subject of a production that just opened at the University of Utah.

The program is Youth Theatre at the U. and for years it has opened the world of this art form to teens and also taught them about themselves.

Beatles fans can be found in every generation and every circumstance, such is case in the play "John Lennon and Me". It focuses on young women who meet at a residential treatment hospital. They begin with little in common and become great friends.

Maren Ritter, Youth Theatre at the U."I play star, a girl with cystic fibrosis, and she's really spunky and she wants to be an actress but her disease is holding her back. And she meets this girl named Courtney and it totally changes her perspective on life."

Cassie Crockett, Youth Theatre at the U." I play Courtney who is pretty much a newcomer to this entire world...and through her friendship with star, and through her own experiences with sickness, she kind of has to learn to accept that not everybody's born healthy."

The play is part of a theatre program for young people held year round at the University of Utah. In the summer they learn not just acting but costumes, makeup and sets. They also learn to voice their opinions and to resolve conflicts. Amy Oakeson, Artistic Dir. Youth Theatre at the U. "A lot of times, kids don't feel comfortable talking about the way that they feel, and talking about things that are important to them. But here I think a lot of our classes give the kids the opportunity to do that."

Many of the young actors have told the playwright they can identify with these characters, the humor and the challenges in their lives.

Cherie Bennett, playwright 'John Lennon & Me': "In my experience, kids have so much more depth than adults give them credit for. And if people come to see this play, they will see young performers who have an incredible amount of depth and sensitivity."

"John Lennon and Me" runs through July 19th at the Babcock Theatre at the University of Utah; it's in the Pioneer Memorial Theatre Building.

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