“Dear John” is described as a one-act play “about the choice to live,” and director Christi Watson is hopeful about its message.
“Suicide may be the most challenging subject to tackle on any platform, especially a creative platform,” she added, noting the play evolved from a classroom exercise assigned last year. “
“Dear John” begins at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 8, in the Concord Kids Theater located inside First Baptist Concord.
“Why take on such a hard issue? As members of Gen Z, they are very empathetic, and wanted to find a way to talk about it. If followers of Jesus do not wade into difficult matters with our students, they will wade into them on their own, with popular culture as their guide,” Watson said.
“As followers of Jesus, it is so important for us to know our identity as being loved and chosen is something no one can take away from us,” she added. “Hope in Jesus … cannot be taken from us. Health can be taken from us. People can be taken from us. Possessions can be taken from us. Hope in Jesus cannot because it defies death. I pray that (viewers will) receive a message of hope.”
Stephanie Mason, director of marketing for CCS, said while student suicide has not occurred at the school, “kids have struggled, as it has certainly been something that has happened in our community, and has impacted them.”
Watson said once the students seized on the topic, “their spirit of positivity just took over on how to best address it, and it has been my privilege to work with them on this.
“Every part of this theatrical piece is covered with the fingerprints of the students,” Watson added.
The students not only wrote it — playwriting credit is given to Briggs Barnhill, Caroline Burnette (also a cast member) and Kylie Mahar — but assisted in the direction, built and painted set pieces and assisted in the tech booth.
“Students thought through what their characters would wear,” she said.
“A student designed the poster and the T-shirt.
“As their teacher, it was my honor and my resolve to point them to hope throughout the process,” Watson added.
Braden Rich portrays the lead, Johnny, who attempts to take his life.
Ainsley Malone as Dakota and Caroline Burnette as Jordan are described as “the friends who help Johnny understand his worth.”
Additional “Dear John” cast members include Trevor Sublett, Emma Lee, Connor Sherrill, Reagan Frandy, Megan Wright, Charli Crawford, Catherine Sweeney, Sky Jin and Addi Brown.
The student production
team consists of Kylie Mahar, Nehemiah Franklin and Deborah Allion.
“My hope for this show is that everyone in the audience leaves knowing that they are not alone in their struggles and that there is always hope even in the darkest times,” Burnette said.
Sherill said he came away from it thinking, “Be careful how you treat people because you never know what they are going through. Sublett said he believes it’s important for people to know “whatever you are going through, you are not alone.”
Tickets are $12 at the door.