Actors at last year’s Reality House depicted a scene where a teenager got alcohol poisoning at a party. File photo by Kevin Hanson

Actors at last year’s Reality House depicted a scene where a teenager got alcohol poisoning at a party. File photo by Kevin Hanson

Keeping it real at Reality House

From underage drinking to suicide, the annual event helps parents understand pressures their children may be facing.

Reality House is returning to the Plateau, and for the first time, bringing in the city of Buckley.

The free annual event aims to educate local parents about different kinds of pressures their children may be facing, from being peer pressured into drinking or taking drugs to online bullying and sexual harassment.

It’s organized by the Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation in partnership with the Enumclaw and Buckley fire and police departments and the Imagination Theater Co., a nonprofit youth theatre company based in Enumclaw.

Word to the wise, this event is not for the faint of heart — the Imagination Theater Co. actors will be portraying graphic scenes that can be triggering, said Amy Trachte, the Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation’s mental health community project manager.

The first scene this year will cover the topic of cyber bullying and suicide, specifically female suicide.

Mental health and suicide prevention has been a large focus for the Foundation this year, ever since the death of former Enumclaw High student Kione Gill. The Reality House is the third of a three-part event series, which started in November with a community conversation about suicide, followed by a showing of the film “Angst,” which discusses anxiety in teenagers and how it affects their lives, in March.

The second scene will be involve driving under the influence, and the third is a part scene depicting underage drinking, vaping, and sexual harassment.

“Vaping on the Plateau, I think everywhere, it’s becoming really easy for kids to get,” Trachte said. “It’s real prevalent at the high school level.”

Each scene is roughly five to seven minutes long, and after all three are finished, parents are able to debrief with firefighters, the EHS school resource officer, and other professionals.

Stu Johnson, the founder of Imagination Theater Co., believes the Reality House is a valuable way to start conversations about uncomfortable topics.

“It’s easier to turn a blind eye than to see what’s really going on,” he said. “I grew up in Enumclaw — I remember what it was like to be a teenager, and the trouble we can get into. To help parents start that conversation with their kids about drugs and alcohol and harassment and inappropriate touching, especially when it comes to high school, it’s really important that we have open lines of communication. That’s why I do it.”

Johnson said he does a lot of research in order to help his actors and actresses portray realistic scenes.

“I work with kids all the time, and I’ve heard stories from kids, maybe not about them, but about their friends, things their friends have through, [things] a family member have gone through,” he continued. “It almost seems as if we are embarrassed to talk about these things, and we can’t be. We have to be very open about everything, so that it doesn’t happen.”

These scenes do take a toll on the actors and actresses, but can also help them be aware of the world around them.

“It’s one thing to do plays and theatre and do the fun shows,” Johnson added. “But to act our a scenario where someone is going to kill themselves is emotionally draining…. I think for the kids, it really helps to open their eyes to start looking around them and start noticing signs.”

The first Reality House event is Thursday, April 11, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Enumclaw Fire Department.

The second is Thursday, April 18, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Buckley Fire Department.

Registration is required, as space is limited — you can register for a time slot at rfwellnessfoundation.org or by calling (360) 802-3206.

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