It all started with photographs on the floor. A random assortment of magazine cut out images and newspaper clippings. From there, the teenage members of East Falls-based Yes! And…Camp formed back stories of these photos, personalities, and eventually, characters that would populate their world for the production of “Green People,” which runs Sept. 9, 10, 11 and 16 at 845 N. 23rd Street.
In “Green People,” an environmental catastrophe has reduced the earth to a wasteland. Two tribes of teenagers are the only survivors, and they stake out a primitive existence on the last remaining patch of green land. That is, until it it stops raining. The discovery of an infant and the drought that follows reawakens the nurturing human instincts in tribe and triggers the animalistic spirits of the other, who blame the child for the draught and want it sacrificed to the river god.
16-year-old Emma Moreno, a student at Abington Friends, plays one of the lead roles as a fierce bodyguard for her tribe and also the maternal conscience torn between killing the infant and saving it.
“After the apocalypse she took up a protector bodyguard role and she grows up,” says Moreno, of her character. “I’m usually [performing] a giddy, sweet little thing, so I decided to flip the role.”
Demitre Rodriguez, 17, of Germantown, says his group felt inspired to write a post-apocalyptic tale involving teens because his kids in his age group are always being reminded that they are the future.
“We want to send a message about how everything about us isn’t true,” says Rodriguez, a student of Parkway Northwest in Germantown, in regards to flash mobs and youth crime. “We need to be heard.”
Rodriguez says he and his castmates wrote the entire play, improvised the lines during rehearsals and then scripted out the story without censoring anything.
“It’s a complex human interest story even though it takes place after the apocalypse,” says Michael Brix, who runs the Yes! And… Camp’s Shadow Company for teenagers in high school. Brix supervises the students as they write their performances each year, with many sticking on board throughout their entire four years of high school, and sometimes even afterward.
Shemi Carter, 18, of Germantown, met Brix and became involved with Yes! And…Camp at 10 years old.
“I didn’t know what to do in the summer,” says Carter. Last year, Carter received his high school diploma and now works full time, but he stayed involved in Shadow Camp’s “Green People” production as a stage director. Brix says teaching young students how to collaborate and learn behind the scenes production roles may be more important as the acting experience they gain from performances.
“It’s kind of scary how we’ve grown outside our comfort zone,” says Carter. “We trust our director and eachother and we’ve been able to build off each others’ ideas.”