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Acting Duo Help Educate About Alcohol And Drug Abuse

May 5, 2009 by Josh Morgan

Acting as the Marlboro Man, performer Daniel Kelly showed off how “cool” he could look as he pretended to smoke a cigarette.
Then, as Kelly began to cough and wheeze in front of the audience, he admitted that smoking and being “cool” was just a myth and portrayed the reality of a lifetime of smoking.
The message was clear.
On April 23, the Interactive Educational Theatre came to Cheshire to share information on the risks of smoking and abusing alcohol. The Cheshire Coalition To Stop Underage Drinking sponsored the performance as part of the annual Alcohol Awareness Week in Cheshire.
Around a dozen members of the community attended the presentation at Dodd Middle School, where Kelly and Magda Skomal performed skits and routines that relayed a serious message.
“We want to educate the audience by using humor,” Skomal said. “We are talking about difficult topics and we find if people laugh, they will remember the show and retain the information we present.”
The group performs a range of presentations, from skits dealing with bullying to the importance of HIV testing, but last week’s show focused mainly on tobacco use and underage drinking.
“There is a lot of stuff out there that no one is talking about,” Skomal said. “These are serious topics, but we have a little bit of fun with them.”
During a routine about the myths and realities of drug and alcohol use, Skomal and Kelly portrayed different characters. After Kelly’s Marlboro Man impersonation, Skomal showcased a cheerleader character, saying that the myth of smoking makes a girl look sexy and cool. The reality, Skomal showed, is that she can’t stop coughing and her voice is raspy and harsh.
Asking for a volunteer from the audience, Kelly, Skomal, and audience member Chris Settembri went “skiing” on the Dodd Middle School cafetorium stage. At the end, Kelly “dropped dead,” and relayed an important message.
“One out of three people won’t die when they go skiing,” Kelly said. “But one in three will die from smoking.”
Skomal reinforced the message.
“Adults don’t start smoking, they start at your age,” she said pointing to the crowd of youngsters. “The best thing to do is not to do it.”
The finale was the “underage drinking game” with Kelly serving as the game show’s host. Spinning an imaginary wheel, Skomal landed on different “prizes” of underage drinking, including getting into an accident, starting a fight, and dying from alcohol poisoning. The only winner of the game show was a young volunteer who said he wouldn’t drink underage.
“If you can wait until you’re 21, the chances of becoming an alcoholic is slim,” Kelly said.
After the show, Settembri said he brought his four children to the performance to help them learn about the risks that are out there.
“I really wanted to educate our kids about this issue,” he said. “They did a good job and captured everyone’s attention.”
His daughter, Summer Settembri, said she enjoyed the performance and thought it was funny and said she learned a lot.
For the Interactive Educational Theatre, educating the public in a way that lightens the mood is what makes the job rewarding.
“Some people are nervous to talk about this,” Skomal said. “We give them an opportunity to laugh and then they can sit back, relax, and listen to the message.”
Now in its 15th year, the Interactive Educational Theater travels all over the state to perform and Skomal said it is “absolutely gratifying.”

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