Taking a dramatic approach

By AISHA MORI   from the LOS ANGELES TIMES
   

 Asian Youth Center in San Gabriel prepares to stage play that teaches teens about AIDS.

 written by Drake Lopez, artistic director for the Asian American Community Teen Theater.

      "Live for the future now,

     And warn them about my past.

     HIV will stop somehow.

     Ignorance should never last."

     -- lyrics from the "HIV Song,"

   


 SAN GABRIEL -- Teenagers from the Asian Youth Center in San Gabriel are keeping it real about AIDS/HIV. Next Friday, they will join several youth groups for a presentation of drama, music, dance and spoken word about various teen concerns. The Asian American Community Teen Theater group will showcase its play, "The Real HIV World," an allusion to the popular MTV show, "The Real World."

"The most important thing we've learned is to understand the seriousness of HIV/AIDS because most people think it's more of a joke and that they can't get it," said Bessie Leung, an 18-year-old San Gabriel High School senior who sings the play's "HIV Song."The teens conceive, write, produce and perform the material in a way that their peers will be able to really hear them. In the play, a young woman asks her friends to participate in a class project by taking an HIV test, which produces dramatic results. The actors use humor and down-to-earth language to address homophobia, promiscuity, drinking and myths about AIDS/HIV.

"When I first started this, even though I took health class, I didn't know much about HIV and AIDS," said Amy Luong, 19, a business management major at Glendale Community College. She said she and her friends at the Asian Youth Center sometime chastise each other about practicing what they preach.

"We say, '[After] what we learn at AYC, you'd better use a condom,"' she said. "Don't come here for no reason if you didn't learn that."

The outreach benefits the actors as well as audiences.

"This helps them to become better leaders in the community and empowers them when they're in these situations in their own relationships so they can prevent risky behavior," said Rosary Villegas, 26, the program coordinator for Asian Pacific Islander Consortium for HIV/AIDS Prevention.

Drake Lopez, 25, artistic director for the Asian American Community Teen Theater, said he hopes the play will represent "activist theater."

"It's already been 20 years since AIDS became an epidemic, but now it's [regarded] like chicken pox or hepatitis," said Lopez, a graduate of USC. "This brings it back to the forefront. ... It's like a community service and their hearts are in it to help others."

     IF YOU GO:

WHAT: "Youth & Identity," an evening of drama, spoken word, music and dance

     WHEN: 6:30 to 10 p.m. June 22

WHERE: East West Players' David Henry Hwang Theater at the Union Center of the Arts, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St. (formerly San Pedro), Los Angeles.

   COST: Free

WHAT ELSE: Asian Pacific Health Care Venture Inc. and Lodestone Theatre Ensemble present the show, which features acts from Asian American Community Teen Theater, REAL Youth Center Hip Hop Dance Troupe, and from Hawaii, Kalihi Palama Health Center's Prevent, Perform, Pass It On! -- "It Could Happen to You!"

     * INFORMATION: Seating is limited, so call (323) 644-3884 or e-mail vyin@aphcv.org to RSVP. For more information, visit the Web site at http://www.REALyc.com




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