02/16/12 — Students present play with message

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Students present play with message

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 16, 2012 1:46 PM

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Kristie Johnson acts out a scene from "Only Seventeen," one of four vignettes in "DUI=DOA," produced by the N.C. Children's Theater. Ms. Johnson, 16, plays the part of one of the main character's schoolmates and also wrote one of the vignettes. The play centers around the death of a 17-year-old because of driving under the influence.

Kristie Johnson is very much at home on the stage.

From playing the lead in "Anne of Green Gables" at Wayne Community College to a lesser role in "Snow White" for Missoula Children's Theater, the 16-year-old has enjoyed any opportunity to act.

But sometimes performing is about more than the applause, she says, and her latest production inspired her to write her own monologue and a vignette that became part of the show.

"DUI=DOA" is already scheduled to be presented at 15 area middle and high schools by the N.C. Children's Theater, or NCCT, based in Fremont. The play, which highlights the dangerous effects of drinking and driving, is also sponsored by the Wayne County ABC Board.

The 55-minute show also features a time of discussion, allowing student audiences to hear personal experiences from the show's director, Deborah Jaenicke, herself seriously injured in a car accident involving a drunken driver, and a police officer explaining the ramifications of getting caught and having a DUI.

The 11 actors in the show are primarily students from public and private schools in Wayne County.

Ms. Johnson, a sophomore at Faith Christian, wrote "Why," depicting a student talking to her deceased mother and brother at the graveyard.

"I was just thinking of a million different things that come about and I just felt like the ones hurt the most would be family members," she said, reflecting on her motivation for writing the scene. She said it centers around the surviving brother who steps into a parental role, vowing never to drink but later betraying that.

Other vignettes include "The Waiting Room," featuring 10 "dead" students in a hospital room recalling how they got there and the effects on them, even though none were drinking.

In "Only 17," friends pass by the casket of a fellow student, pondering what they could have done to prevent him getting behind the wheel of a car in an impaired state.

In "Peer to Peer," teens discover ways to avoid peer pressure to drink.

The bulk of the cast previously worked together in other productions, Ms. Johnson said, so they had a familiar chemistry.

But the most rewarding part of the experience is the message being presented to students across the county.

"I just love meeting new people," she said. "I have always gone to the same school. It will be really cool to go to different schools and try to get in-tune with the audience.

"This is not intended to entertain. This is intended to help them make decisions. That's my goal."

NCCT, a non-profit theater group, offered the performances at no cost to area schools.

Starting Friday at Wayne Early/Middle College High School, from now until the end of April, it is scheduled to be presented at both public and private schools.