By Tim Jimenez
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A dozen students from a Kensington High School, affected by last week’s triple slaying in Juniata Park, hit the theater stage Wednesday night. They told the story of overcoming drugs, violence and other issues plaguing teens in their neighborhood and their city.
The show “Of Mythic Proportions” was put together by a class at Mariana Bracetti Academy High School. For a semester they wrote stories using their own experiences and those of their peers growing up in Kensington.
They finally were able to act them out Wednesday night in front of a standing room only crowd in the cozy Walking Fish Theatre on Frankford Avenue.
Among the topics displayed and discussed on stage: drugs, teen pregnancy and street violence; which hit a chord in the wake of the murder of three teens last week.
“We see drugs everyday,” explained one of the actors, senior Jose Reyes. “We see violence, we see guns, we see murder. I’m tired of seeing this. I just want to get rid of it. We go through more than people realize. It’s a struggle that we all have to fight out of.”
Reyes also told a story of growing up without a father and not growing up to be him.
“It was painful. My mom has struggled. I will never let my daughter go through that. I want to be a better father than my father,” he said.
It was a story that was also portrayed by junior Gilda Rodriguez.
“I talked about a girl who was so in love with a boy and they ended up together. And he left her with a baby so she raised him on her own without him being there,” she said.
Giovanni Rodriguez, a junior, got on stage and described what it was like dealing with the deaths of his uncle and best friend.
“I became an alcoholic. I did a lot of bad choices in my life,” he explained. “But then I started to become a better man.”
The recent teen deaths in Juniata Park really hit home with the kids, some saying they knew the victims. Senior Tionna Burch, 18, could not believe what had happened.
“They’re so young, they’re younger than me. They were 14, 15. Their life hasn’t even started yet,” she said. “It was just the beginning.”
Burch and the others were proud of their school and expressed disappointment that it had been in the news for such a tragic incident.
After the show, there was a Q&A session with the audience. A woman in the crowd recounted her experience growing up as a teen mother. Another woman, with her daughter and niece, thanked the actors for setting a good example.
Also in the crowd was Rich Negrin, Deputy Mayor and Managing Director of Philadelphia. He thanked the students for their work and even recalled his father’s death, using that experience to sympathize with the teens on stage.
“Forgiveness, love, getting together as a community,” Negrin said of the themes of the show. “Those things are critical and these kids understand that. It’s one thing when a person like me says it but when it’s a teenager who is living that lifestyle and understands it, it’s an incredibly powerful message.”