There were 20 scenes of in-your-face drama.
Teenagers portrayed characters discussing rape, sexual abuse by family members, drug addiction, cutting, promiscuity, suicide, homosexuality, growing up in foster care, and struggles to fit in at school while dealing with problems at home.
Eleven high school students performed monologues and vignettes Thursday in the Arthur J. Glatfelter Community Room at Harrisburg Area Community College, York Campus.
More than 30 people watched the invitation-only performance done by Reach, a student-based theatrical group that produces plays addressing challenges faced by 21st century teenagers.
Reach was started in 2008 by Ben Hodge and Nick Curry and is a production of Ben Hodge Studios. Hodge is an acting teacher at Central York High School, where Curry teaches music.
Hodge said the idea for the group came to him after several of his students asked him to do something to shine light on the real - and often hidden - lives of teenagers.
While contemplating their request, Hodge said the inspiration to start Reach came from reading sermons written by civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
"In many of his sermons, King asked what are you doing for others," Hodge said. "We want (the plays) to be about the reach aspect of learning what (teens) are dealing with and then connecting teens and families to the programs that are right for them."
In December, Reach became a new program of the YWCA of York, where Hodge and Curry meet with youth from local schools to develop and practice plays.
Audience members - teens or adults - who ask for help or more information on dealing with issues are referred to the appropriate programs offered by the YWCA, said Rick Azzaro, the agency's chief services officer for Access-York and Victim Assistance Center programs.
"I saw this play several years ago when my daughter was 16, and she said, 'That's real high school,'" he said. "We want the community to know (Reach) is available to them. It's a wonderful door opener for parents and adolescents."
Police Chief Thomas Hyers, of the Springettsbury Township Police Department, said he plans to have officers view a 2010 video of a Reach performance.
He said play character "Chad" - a promiscuous teenager - validated advice he gave to his four daughters to beware of boys who claim to love them with sexual motives in mind.
"I remember washing dishes while I had the birds and the bees talk with my daughters," Hyers said. "My hands were shaking under the dish water." Reach's plays also challenge adults - parents, school administrators, community and youth leaders - to remember how they themselves were when they were teens.
The play presented Thursday also showed how teens are negatively affected by adults' actions, including divorce, dysfunctional relationships, parental abandonment and abuses. The play's prologue and epilogue were performed by Hillary Grove, a 16-year-old Central York sophomore who played Mary.
The character learns the importance of reaching out to a "loner" student named Melinda who struggles to reveal that she is a victim of incest and her family was torn apart because of the abuse.
After learning Melinda's secret, Mary convinces Melinda that Melinda is a strong survivor and can count on Mary's friendship for support.
"I just want people to learn these issues and know that it actually exists," said Hillary Grove, 16, a Central sophomore. "We want to encourage people to listen and search for ways to help others going through tough issues."
Reach performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8, and 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, in the Arthur J. Glatfelter Community Room at Harrisburg Area Community College, York Campus, 2161 Pennsylvania Ave. in York.
Reach's plays contain some adult language and themes and my not be suitable for children under the age 13.
For information about Reach, call Ben Hodge, producer/director, at 574-7870 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at email@example.com.