Mundelein High School addresses Internet safety in David Schwimmer play
From left to right, Mundelein High School students Rachel David, Stephen Ferro, Colton Schroetter, Patricia Roques and Sydney Salit rehearse a scene from “Trust” while visiting DePaul University to meet with original actors cast in the play.
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From Mundelein Review.
Mundelein High School’s next play is far from your average high school musical.
Theater students are putting on the first high school production of “Trust,” which tells a scary and realistic story about sexual predators online.
Written by acclaimed actor David Schwimmer — best known as Ross in the NBC show “Friends” — the play outlines how a man coerces a 14-year-old girl into an illegal sexual relationship via the web.
The play has only been produced once before, at the Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago in 2010. Mundelein High School’s student-only show is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 13, while public shows are set for 7 p.m. on Nov. 13, Nov. 14 and Nov. 15.
Theater teacher Jonathan Meier said he became acquainted with Schwimmer through their joint work at the Lookingglass. Meier asked for permission to produce the play two years ago, and Schwimmer emphatically gave the OK.
“The purpose of creating “Trust” was to generate awareness and inspire conversation among students and their peers, parents and educators,” Schwimmer said in a written statement. “I couldn’t be happier that Mundelein High School, under the direction of Jonathan Meier, is bringing this play to the community with such commitment and passion.”
Meier said he got permission from then-Principal Lauren Fagel and then-Superintendent Jody Ware to run the play, but Fagel ended up resigning in June 2013 and Ware decided to retire in June 2014, before the students got started.
So they could get settled into their new roles, Meier decided to wait some time before asking new principal Anthony Kroll and new Superintendent Kevin Myers. The three sat down and made a few revisions to remove some curse words before Meier held auditions. Otherwise, he said he was given a green light.
“This thought-provoking play has a poignant message,” Kroll said. “The students in our theater department will put a spotlight on a real issue which is timely during the rollout of our 1:1 Computing Initiative this year.”
Meier agreed with that assessment.
“We just put computers in the hands of every kid in our school,” Meier said. “We’re not trying to scare anyone, but on the other hand we’re encouraging students to be resourceful so we should probably make parents and students aware of what’s out there.”
Myers said the message is one that can’t be stressed enough, and that community support for the play grew after Meier began holding auditions.
Throughout the week leading up to the show, school officials planned an assembly for each of the four grade levels at the high school to explain “Trust,” so students could make informed decisions on whether or not to attend.
Furthermore, scripts of the play were sent to parents of students who showed interest in auditioning.
“We are straying away from the word ‘controversial,’” Meier said. “There’s some minor swearing and a little bit of sexting, but that’s about it. The message doesn’t come from what’s said or done on stage. It’s the idea of what’s being implied, which is pretty obvious and something a lot of people already worry about.”
School officials agreed the preventive message is more important than any potential backlash regarding the mention of sex in school.
Schwimmer is a board member of The Rape Foundation of Santa Monica and has been an active supporter of the Rape Treatment Center in Los Angeles for the last 12 years. Stories he’s heard and people he’s met are what he says inspired him to write Trust.
Rape counselors were on hand after the 2010 show and introduced themselves to the audience afterward, inviting people to make contact if they or someone they knew needed help.
Mundelein High School is doing the same thing. Representatives from the Lake County State’s Attorney’s office and Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center, along with school resource officer Brian Kisselburg, will make two-minute speeches after each show and then stand at a table in the hallway for any follow-up questions.
The cast of “Trust” consists of 22 students. Junior Patricia Roques portrays Annie Cameron, the young girl who is the victim of the Internet predator. Seniors Colton Schroetter and Sydney Salit play Annie’s parents.
On Sunday, Nov. 2, Meier took his students to the theater in DePaul University, where he went to college, and two of the show’s original main actors watched a rehearsal. They were Allison Torem, who played Annie, and Phil Smith, who played her father.
“The only other people in the world who played these roles were there to give advice. The kids loved it,” Meier said. “I’d say their major point was to not hold back during those high emotion moments. Let everything go and make the audience uncomfortable.”