Offering hope to teens struggling

One of her daughter’s peers was hospitalized after cutting herself deeply. She also heard of a 12-year-old battling anorexia — and yet another student who was suicidal.

All three incidents occurred over the past two weeks in local schools, a Columbus parent said.

So Myriam McCray said she is glad she moved quickly to book the teen musical drama, “Dead Serious … About Life.” It will be presented Saturday and Sunday at Southside Elementary School auditorium by a group of Ohio high school students linked with the theater group Mishpachah Inc.

“When they performed this in Brownstown last year, the teens watching in the room were crying, their reaction was so heartfelt,” said McCray, who attended that performance.

McCray added that, afterward, teens formed a long line to talk to professional counselors and others about what they had seen, and how it related to their lives. For those needing it, professionals extended a range of other resources to the students or arranged for some sort of follow-up.

The presentation takes a no-holds-barred look at challenges that teens face, including suicide, cutting, bullying, teen pregnancy and drug use. While the presentation includes a Christian influence, the show’s focus on hope for the future also has reached plenty of young audience members with no church background, according to leaders of the troupe.

The local production has become the senior project of McCray’s son, Columbus North High School student Alex Janvier.

One local father, with tears streaming down his face because of his teen daughter’s own struggles, told McCrary such presentations are badly needed in the Columbus area.

Tyler Tolbert, student minister at First Christian Church in Columbus, has been helping publicize the event among area churches. In just three years of ministry, Tolbert mentioned that he has seen firsthand many of the topics the production addresses.

“This is a musical that doesn’t beat around the bush,” said Tolbert, who has been encouraging members of the Columbus Area Youth Ministries Alliance to attend and bring their respective youth groups. “It definitely deals with real issues that some middle and high school students are facing — and it points them toward positive solutions.”

That includes embracing the Christian faith. Yet, Tolbert said he can appreciate that the presentation offers its share of heartache without easy answers or a Pollyanna approach.

“They didn’t want to make it a simple case of ‘happily ever after,’” Tolbert said.

In fact, teens themselves helped write the script.

And at the end of the show, the actors themselves share some of their own struggles with the audience.

McCray has spent considerable time publicizing the event, contacting churches and media outlets. But she sees the expended energy as a good choice.

“If this touches one teen’s life,” she said, “then it’s all worth it.”

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Tackling big issues” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

What: Mishpachah Inc.’s presentation of the teen production, “Dead Serious … About Life,” outlining hope for young people’s challenges such as suicide, cutting, drug use, pregnancy, bullying and other hurdles.

When: 6 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Southside Elementary School auditorium, County Road 200 South, Columbus.

Admission: Tickets are $6 in advance and $7 at the door.

Information: 800-459-7268 or