High School Students Bring Passion to Acting Innocent Theatre Company

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Vaughn Sherman, Stefanie Tedards, Griffin Johnston, and Guy Norris - ELI RENTERIA
  • Eli Renteria
  • Vaughn Sherman, Stefanie Tedards, Griffin Johnston, and Guy Norris

Ah, the passion of youth. When the leaden yoke built by dealing with stupid adult stuff has yet to settle its heavy arm around one's shoulders.

I say, thank the heavens for it. That passion, I mean. Nothing is impossible. Everything is not only possible, but likely. Without this passion, the world would be a stagnant and dreary place.
There is a group of young folks here in town, high school students, who have brought their passion and youthful energy to an enterprise which can be quite daunting: the creation of a theater.

It's called Acting Innocent Theatre Company, and it opens its second show this weekend. Leveling Up, a play by Deborah Zoe Laufer, probes the fuzzy intersection of the real and virtual worlds played out in the lives of friends. There are three guys that spend much of their lives gaming online, and one actually lands a job with the National Security Agency because of his gaming skills. They want him to manipulate drones and such. This may have the feel of a game, but is it?

Griffin Johnston and several pals from Catalina High School launched Acting Innocent Theatre Company after they had been awakened by their drama instructor, Terry Erbe  (who has now moved out of state), to the power of theater not merely to entertain, but to help us look at things differently.

“It has the power to address social issues, to change minds,” Johnston says, who is the artistic director of the company and is also directing Leveling Up. “And we're trying to bring in younger people, who often think theater's not relevant to them.”

I asked him how the name of the company came to be.

“The company name came to me,” he said in an email, “at about 2 a.m. I liked the way it had multiple meanings; the fact that the youth are often seen as not capable of real life choices and thus have to act innocent, even when we are just as vulgar, deceitful, and brutal and are capable of loving and appreciating life as an older generation is, as well as the more literal meaning of young actors acting.”

Built into the theater's purpose is to contribute proceeds to various non-profit agencies or groups. They donated $165 to TLGA (Tucson Lesbian and Gay Alliance)/Tucson Pride after their first play, and they are planning to give Veterans for Peace what's left over after they pay their bills for Leveling Up.

This is an impressive group of bright and driven young folks showing no fear in giving legs to their idea that they can contribute to the community through a medium they passionately believe in. Check them out. They will be performing Leveling Up for three weekends through May 2 at The Community Playhouse 1881 N. Oracle Road. Tickets are $15.

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