Intervention is a "Let's get tough" technique used to confront drug abusers and alcoholics when their families and friends usually in sheer desperation literally trap them into embarking on a positive course of action.
Not hardly the topic that great musicals are written about. (Has anyone ever suggested setting "The Lost Weekend" to music?)But music especially youth-oriented compositions has the unique ability to sway young minds.
A few months ago, Jan Bullock, president of the Utah Federation for Drug-Free Youth, saw a short, teen-oriented musical dealing with chastity. "A Time to Love" was written by author Carol Lynn Pearson and composer Lex de Azevedo.
Bullock felt that the same type of uplifting, educational production could tackle an equally serious subject teenage drug abuse.
She approached de Azevedo, who moved to Utah about a year ago from his native Los Angeles, and he agreed. He contacted Pearson, his frequent collaborator, who lives in Walnut Creek, Calif. She agreed to write the book for the project.
As a kickoff for the federation's two-day Utah conference at Symphony Hall next week, "It's My Life!," de Azevedo's and Pearson's new musical-drama about a family coming to terms with the chaos caused by a drug-abusing child, will premiere 8 p.m. Thursday. The public is invited.
Although I'm sure neither writer would recommend tackling such a project under such short notice, Pearson and de Azevedo and their director, Ben Lokey, are hoping their effort will make an impact on those in the audience. A black-tie gala will be held Thursday to raise funds for the federation.
"It's My Life!" (with a title that could have been derived from nearly every teenagers' rebelious confrontations with their parents) will also be presented on Friday as an optional workshop for those attending the conference.
Admission is $50 per person for those who want to attend the governor's reception and dinner before Thursday's performance.
Tickets for just the play are $8, $10 and $15 and are available at all Dan's Food Town locations or at the door. All tickets for the Thursday evening activities are tax deductible.
For reservations and/or information, call the federation at 538-3949.
Reservations for the gala should be made by calling Marsha Wade at 272-5900.
When Pearson was contacted by de Azevedo with the proposed project, they both felt that, even though it had to be given immediate priority, they couldn't pass it up.
For de Azevedo, who had moved from Hollywood to Utah primarily because his "heart was in writing music for a cause, not just cranking out songs for money," it was another chance to do just that create something that would have a positive impact on youths during these troubled times.
The project caught Pearson at just the right time. She had just completed a second book for Random House (the first was her internationally acclaimed best-seller, "Goodbye, I Love You," about her ex-husband, a homosexual and AIDS victim). The latest book is a sort of continuation about how she has coped with raising her children as a single parent.
In her initial research for "It's My Life!" Pearson read a book by Dr. Lew Hancock of the Dayspring treatment program, in which he described the technique of "intervention."
"When I read that page," says Pearson, "it struck me as a marvelous dramatic device."
The play runs less than an hour, so there's only enough time to focus on one family and how it utilizes intervention in an attempt to halt the drug abuse by their oldest daughter.
Cindy, the teenage drug abuser, will be portrayed next week by Pearson's oldest daughter, Emily, who is a sophomore at BYU majoring in music-dance theater and who's also involved in BYU's Young Ambassadors.
There've been some interesting real-life mother-daughter exchanges during the rehearsals for "It's My Life."
At one point, Cindy shouts at her counselor (Jared Shaver), "Well I'm saying shove it! I certainly don't need you and I can take care of myself!"
Then Emily Pearson leaned over to her mother and whispered, "Mom, does this sound familiar?"
For more resarch on the intervention process, Pearson and de Azevedo attended a family session at Dayspring.
During these sesions, several families and drug abusers are seated in a large room together. The usual format is for the abuser and his/her family to exchange dialogue utilizing microphones in the room.
"Several times on the night when I was there," said Pearson, "younger brothers and sisters spoke up to their older siblings. I remember one little boy who remarked, over the microphone, that `you always told me drugs were stupid, and now I KNOW they are because of what they've done to you,' after which the drug abuser burst into tears.
Three of the show's 10 tunes were particulary poignant, said Pearson.
Take "Blame the Mother," for instance: "If the kid goes wrong, just blame the mom. Sure, blame it on the mother.
"I gave too much or not enough, I did it one way or the other."
As Pearson explains it, mothers frequently take on this added burden of guilt, blaming themselves if their children fail or go astray.
The father's song, too, is a touching refrain that may bring tears to the eyes of those in the audience: "Daddy always made it better.
"Daddy picked you up every time you fell.
"No matter what it would be, you'd come runnin' to me.
"Daddy. . .can't now, and it hurts. . .like. . .hell!"
This is one time that Daddy can't come gallantly to the rescue of his little damsel in distress. He can't stop taking drugs for her it's something she's got to handle herself.
And Becky's sad confrontation with her older sister someone she had once looked up to is heart-wrenching.
"I wanted to be just like you, I loved you so much.
"I'll keep your picture where it's been, and remember when I was 10 and I wanted to be just like you."
Elements of both despair and hope permeate the production, said Pearson. "Although it focuses on family dynamics and the human element of despair, there is definitely an element of hope."
Although working under deadline pressure is nothing new for de Azevedo (he used to score the music for weekly televison shows), he only had roughly one week to complete the music for "It's My Life!" So when he found a few free days between scoring the soundtracks for a new series of animated scriptures videos, he and his wife headed for remote Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands, where he wrote every day on Utah time 3 a.m. until 1 p.m. until he finished.
Although the show was cast several weeks ago (Heather Young, Nelden Maxfield, Cody Hale and Jared Shaver are seasoned professionals), it wasn't until about two weeks ago when de Azevedo was able to pin down a director choreographer/director Ben Lokey, who's based in Santa Monica.
Lokey, a Texas native, attended the Uiversity of Utah. He acted in "A Chorus Line" on Broadway, was a principal dancer for Ballet West in 1965-7, and choreographed two recent Michael Jackson mega-hits his "Thriller" video and the "Captain EO" 3-D movie at Disneyland.
He also choreograhed "West Side Story" at the Triadtheater.