It has become an unwelcome reality, living from paycheck to paycheck and worrying about job stability, but what about being born a guiltless young person growing up with a drug-addicted parent, no job skills, and no home?
Meet Rich, for example. He sits down to scan the classifieds, itching incessantly. "You need a license for this one — don't have that. Gotta have a drug test for this job — can't do that. You need a GED for this one — don't have that." He wipes his nose, shakes his leg nervously, and tosses the paper away in complete discouragement at finding himself back at square one.
Rich is one of four characters in Listen Up, a play put together by Maine Inside Out, a performing and creative arts organization working with young people both in and out of the juvenile detention system. The idea is that even prisoners need opportunities for creative expression, and doing so can be helpful in reintegrating with society upon release.
The four cast members are all working their GEDs, as well as vocational studies, and collectively chose the theme of poverty for the play, because each has personally suffered its consequences. Each character is a different victim of society: a single father making minimum wage, a 10-year-old girl with a crack-addicted mother, a teenage hustler, and a young man abandoned by his family and living on the streets who turns to drugs and alcohol.
In a post-performance discussion, cast members said the characters were, while not entirely true to life, based on their own and others' real experiences. And it provided a view from outside themselves, as well: After an audience member stood up and said the performance had brought her and the stranger sitting next to her to tears, the sole female cast member said, "I look back in history and I realize the way I live is not my fault."