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Carroll actors participate in video on teen alcohol use

Kathleen Zimmermann and FoolProof troupe member Shannon Driskell wait as a film crew sets up a scene depicting the consequences of underage drinking Friday.
Kathleen Zimmermann and FoolProof troupe member Shannon Driskell wait as a film crew sets up a scene depicting the consequences of underage drinking Friday. (JOSH SINN/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

Rolling in 3, 2, 1.
Action.
The camera focused on Kathleen Zimmermann. Her voice filled with regret as she recited the lines of her character, a mom whose house was filled with minors the night before.
While in character, she told of receiving a citation for providing alcohol to her "daughter's" friends. She told of how she thought she was doing the right thing, keeping the kids safe, by confining the party to a place she could watch.
Instead, the scripted party spiraled out of control. A kid who had been drinking drove with others in the car. A girl was sexually assaulted. And her own "daughter" received alcohol poisoning.
This story line was one that members of the Carroll improvisational theater troupe FoolProof and four Bowie State students acted out Friday. A production crew filmed the video for the national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency that is asking each state to create a short film to put on its site at http://www.stopalcoholabuse.gov/statevideos/default.aspx and to disseminate to county prevention coordinators to use as educational material.
Larry Dawson, a state Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration technical assistant, was charged with pulling together Maryland's video. He recruited a team of prevention coordinators, two of whom were Linda Auerback, of the Carroll County Health Department, and Vanessa Cooke, of Bowie State University.
Each state chooses its own direction, writes its own script and decides its own message. For Maryland, Dawson said the group came up with its theme early on - they wanted to send a message to parents that they shouldn't host parties or allow their children to drink alcohol.
"You may think you're doing a safe thing [by hosting]," Dawson said, "but you're not because kids could still have alcohol poisoning and sexual assaults and different things happen at parties that nobody anticipates."
So the theme was set. Now the group just needed student actors - the first state to use them, according to Jessica Fonoroff, production coordinator at ICF International, which SAMHSA has contracted to shoot and edit each state's video.
Auerback asked the FoolProof improvisational troupe to participate and work on the skit, an acting group comprised of Carroll teenagers who sign a pledge to abstain from drugs, tobacco or alcohol. The theme was similar to skits that the troupe already performs in middle and high schools, at the rehabilitation Shoemaker Center and in front of other audiences, according to FoolProof Director Paul Zimmermann.
Then Cooke recruited four students from Bowie State University. Auerback found a Westminster house she thought was a perfect fit, a two-story home with a basement. The filming location and script were set.
On June 22, the actors met and practiced for the about five-minute video. Then, last Friday, at about 2 p.m., the production crew and actors gathered to work on the video. They wrapped up at 2 a.m., according to Auerback.
It was worth it, many participants said, to spread a message that attending parties with alcohol and drugs - and hosting them as a parent - can lead down a slippery slope. In this case, they may have just been acting, but sexual assaults, alcohol poisoning and drunk driving can and do occur, said several participants, including FoolProof troupe member Jake Wilhelm.
"People know that bad things can happen, but they don't think they're going to happen to them," said the Westminster High School student. "You cannot deny that these are real people, that this can happen. ... This is real life."
The script depicts the unfortunate truth, said Maryland State Police Capt. Jim DeWees, who plays the role of the policeman in the film. Parents may take the car keys away from the kids, but that doesn't put them in a protective bubble.
"I've gone to so many of these it's not funny," he said. "I've responded to hospitals and spoken with victims of sexual assault at parties like this or I've made notifications to Mom and Dad because their daughter's dead or their son's dead from dying in a collision from parties like this."
So around 3 p.m. Friday, the participants got into costume to show these scenarios. The production crew set up lights and camera equipment in the living room of the Westminster home.
At 3:30 p.m., some actors congregated in the basement, lounging on the couch, snacking on popcorn and chatting. Upstairs, Zimmermann and FoolProof troupe member Shannon Driskell, who plays Zimmermann's daughter, got into their position on a green couch in the living room, ready to shoot a scene for the first time.
Fonoroff scurried down the basement steps: "Can we be super, super quiet for 15 minutes?" she asked the group in the basement.
The voices hushed. The camera equipment was situated.
Rolling in 3, 2, 1.
Action.

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