Dozens of county residents filed into the Carroll Arts Center on Friday night to kick off their holiday weekend with a performance by improvisational theater troupe FoolProof.
The group has been working to spread the word about issues facing youth for 29 years, co-founder Paul Zimmerman said. It hosts performances at schools, churches and rehabilitation facilities all over the region, Zimmerman said, and Friday's show was their end-of-year performance for friends and family.
From date rape to suicide to drug and alcohol abuse, FoolProof, a nonprofit, addresses issues that affect teens in a relatable way, he said.
"Basically what we want to do is we kind of want to shine a light on these subjects," he said. "We want to get people to talk about these issues that they otherwise wouldn't talk about."
The subject matter is what drew Nicole Bank to the troupe. Bank, a senior at Westminster High School, said she has always been passionate about health and abstinence from drugs and alcohol.
"I always took to heart the health lessons where they showed all the ways it can ruin your life," she said.
Combined with the opportunity to act, Bank said, FoolProof has been a perfect fit for her. It's also helped her expand her own views, she said.
"FoolProof has taught me that it's OK to be friends with those people [who do experiment with drugs and alcohol]," she said. "The thing is, you have to be a light to them."
"It's made me a better friend in my life for people who do engage in that stuff," she said.
Eric Gabriel, a sophomore at Francis Scott Key High School, said he got involved in the group after his sister Carly auditioned.
"It's a lot of fun," he said. "It allows me to use my skills … in a way to help people."
The benefit of the group's work spreads to both the audience and the student actors, said Savannah Field, co-director of the troupe and an alumna of the program.
Field, who was home-schooled, joined the group when she was 14 years old and participated through all four of her high-school-age years.
"Being home-schooled, I was fairly sheltered," she said. "It opened my eyes in a million different ways, all for the better."
FoolProof, she said, presents the kinds of issues that many people struggle with every day in a way that really affects people.
"I think that so many people don't see addiction or domestic violence or those issues in a real way that's relatable," she said. "We want to bring reality into it in a relatable way, especially for teenagers."
FoolProof will hold auditions for its 30th season June 4 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at East Middle School.
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