For two and a half hours, teen-agers get to vent their spleens onstage before an audience of their peers, parents and anybody else curious enough to buy a ticket.
They wrote the play, they perform the play and, in effect, they are the play, which is called "Still Under Age."
"I've never been involved with anything like this," said Jeanne Averill, drama teacher at Lawrence High School and producer of "Still Under Age." "The average teen-ager has so much angst. This kind of work lets it out."
Under the direction of Laurie Vander Pol-Hosek, "Still Under Age" is actually the third production of a series of short sketches that student actors write and perform.
Vander Pol-Hosek produced the first "Under Age" in 1986 at the Lawrence Arts Center, the outgrowth of an improvisation class. In 1988, Averill produced "Under Age II" at the high school.
The current production opens Thursday.
FOR THIS version, Vander Pol-Hosek and company are adding new sketches and fleshing out old ones.
"There were some pieces from the original that just didn't work," Vander Pol-Hosek said. "With this show, we were able to bring it up to date."
Parents, teachers, love, suicide you name it, the students write it or act it. The sketches range from the flip and funny to the intensely serious, as in a sketch in which a boy and a girl talk of suicide.
"It's so real because the actor and the actress play it so seriously," said Jason Ware, an LHS student and cast member. "It's so dramatic, so good."
THE STUDENTS go through a painful if educational rehearsal process. Writers and actors improvise sketches that they perform for the others. Sometimes after days of rehearsal, a sketch gets cut because it's too long or it doesn't work very well.
"(I handle them) delicately. Carefully," Vander Pol-Hosek said. "At the beginning, I'm very careful with them. I'll say something is interesting and ask for comments from the rest of the cast. Then as Jeanne and I get closer to the cast we can get a lot franker."
"You get mad when you work on something that long and it gets kicked out," said Betty Douglas, a student and member of the writing team.
But the process does allow the best to rise to the surface, and the sheer number of sketches more than 30 gives the audience a chance to see a whole range of viewpoints on student life.
"It's almost impossible to choose a favorite because there's so many," said cast member Megan Arnaud.
Vander Pol-Hosek, who directed the Lawrence Community Theatre production of "Quilters," said the idea came from other collections of student sketches now on the market.
"I'VE ALWAYS wanted to put together a volume, much like Peter Dee's `Voices from High School,'" she said. "I was influenced by that, but I didn't take the idea directly. I felt we could really go and do it better locally."
The first two productions drew teen-agers in droves; in 1988 Averill and Vander Pol-Hosek held the production over one week. After this production, the director wants to publish the work in much the same way as "Voices from High School," so other groups can perform it.
"Still Under Age" plays at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at the Lawrence High School auditorium, 19th and La.