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Lambrick drama students take on edgy, real-life stories of street youth

Yuriko Clark

Instead of putting on an elaborate production of Romeo and Juliet or Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat, drama students at Lambrick Park are going for something with a little more edge.

Juve is a fact-based play that tells the real-life stories of teens, living on the streets of Vancouver, as they deal with issues such as prostitution, addiction and incarceration.

"Sometimes, as a principal you will be faced with decisions with regard to content that's a bit scary," said Lambrick principal Kevin Luchies. "But it's provocative, and it's meant to evoke a reaction. It's meant to shake people up – wake them up to the fact that stuff's happening, not all of it is good, and yet there's a measure of humanity that comes through the script."

The play was written in 1978 by Vancouver playwright Campbell Smith, who interviewed street youth in the city as a way to honestly tell their life stories. But Luchies, who himself was about the same age as those teens in the late 70s, told drama teacher Drew Kemp that for the play to have that resonance, it needs to be adapted for a more modern audience.

"Kevin was the one that picked it up and said, 'This is really dated. Kids today could care less about running around in their hot rods … the kids wouldn't say something like this,'" Kemp said. "He's been very supportive of this, and the kids have taken ownership of the material because of that."

Luchies says the student rewrote the material for their generation, but were able to maintain the integrity of the play's message and overall objective of truth and education.

"It's a fine line between being provocative and poking people with a stick. And waking people up and making them realize that the truth of what was being shared in 1978, with different language, different clothes, different cultural attributes, but is still the same," he said. "It's still the truth, from the perspective of this beautiful, safe enclave of Gordon Head and Lambrick Park – but, not so far from here, in inner-city schools, kids experience the same things as what was portrayed in 1978."

Luchies says the message the play presents is one that's already hitting home at Lambrick. The idea of social responsibility fills the classrooms and hallways, as hundreds of the school's students participate in environmental and leadership endeavours.

"The most powerful thing I think they get through this play is looking after their brothers and sisters, as other humans. Always have a little bit extra for everyone else – that's the spirit behind this play," he said. "The students are basically communicating: 'We realize children sleep in doorways in our city. They sell themselves. They have addictions. And in their quiet moments, it doesn't go perfectly. Bu there's always something we can do.'"

Juve opened Wednesday and runs through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., nightly, at Lambrick Park (4139 Torquay Dr.). Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for kids. They can be picked up at the school or by calling the office at 250-477-0181.