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Gallo 'Cranked' to highlight drug issue

A one-man hip-hop show, "Cranked" updates the old "Just Say No" anti-drug message for today's teens.

The idea is that kids will listen more when the message is presented by a cool young man in a tilted baseball cap than from a parent or other authority figure.

"The show is very dark and gritty," said 27-year-old Canadian actor Kyle Cameron, who will perform "Cranked" at the Gallo Center for the Arts on May 9. "It confronts the issue head on. It gets in your face."

Cameron, who works for Vancouver's Green Thumb Theatre, also will perform the show at about a dozen other sites throughout the county, including Patterson and Modesto high schools and Juvenile Hall. His weeklong tour of the region has been co-funded by several area organizations who are concerned about changing the valley's status as one of the nation's top sites for methamphetamine distribution and addiction.

Sponsors include the Stanislaus County Behavioral Health and Recovery Meth Task Force, the Stanislaus County Police Activities League, Modesto Police Department Weed and Seed Program, the Center for Human Services and the Stanislaus Office of Education Prevention Program.

"Our hope is that the youth in our community understand that the arts not only provide a powerful approach to delivering the message about the devastating effects of methamphetamine use but also provide a way for youth to understand that they can respond to issues by utilizing their artistic gifts and talents," Denise Hunt, director of Stanislaus County Behavioral Health, write in an e-mail.

The play is part of the art center's Pathways to Creativity Arts Education Program.

"It's a show that illustrates how the arts are relevant to our everyday lives and how they really can have an impact in the community," Gallo Center Executive Director Dave Pier said.

Cameron plays Stan (aka "Definition"), a rising teen rap star who almost loses everything because of his methamphetamine addiction.

Stan talks about his pain over his parents' divorce, his problems in school and his addiction to zombie movies.

Written by Michael P. Northey, the show was named best original script in Vancouver's 2007 Jessie Richardson Theater Awards.

A singer/songwriter who prefers folk music to rap, Cameron acknowledged that he has no experience with the drug.

"I got the part because I was skinny and wiry and twitchy," he said. "Meth has never affected my life in any way until I did the show."

He said he was a little worried at first about how believable he would be as a rapper, but was heartened from the great comments he got from the show's off-Broadway run in January.

"Kids in New York from Brooklyn and the Bronx were telling me that I should get signed," he said.

Though the show is designed for teens, you don't have to be young to appreciate it.

"Grown-ups come to it," he said. "It's not just a moral piece. It's absolutely a compelling, interesting piece of theater."

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