The Turnaround Skit
Edited by David Clark
The Turnaround Skit is a very simple and extremely powerful anti-drug skit. While there are many variations, the version presented here has been performed by the Junior Counselors at the Michigan West/North HOBY Seminar for many years and has proved to be very effective. Every detail of the skit has symbolic meaning.
- A recording of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler. The song lasts about 7 minutes.
- A ball of string.
- Enough tagboard to make a sign for each Drug.
At least 6, to an almost unlimited number of people are necessary for the skit.
- Druggie: The main character. For some reason, the skit works best if the Druggie is female.
- Friend #1: The friend who stays.
- Friend #2: The friend who leaves.
- Friend #3: Optional, if you have enough people. The friend who doubts.
- Drugs: 3 to 10 of the remaining people are Drugs. While their appearance is inconsequential, the best effect comes from a "Chorus Line" of many different appearances. There must be at least 3 people to play Drugs.
- Trees: All of the remaining people are Trees. They form a motionless, emotionless backdrop for the rest of the skit. You can eliminate the Trees if you don't have enough people.
Using the tagboard (about a half of a sheet per sign), markers, tape, and string, make a sign for each Drug to wear. Each sign needs a loop of string so that it can be hung around a Drug's neck - signs should not be taped to the Drug. If you wish the Druggie to rip the signs off at the end of the skit (as opposed to simply taking the signs off), make sure that the tape isn't too strong.
These signs should include substances and activities generally recognized as addictive and dangerous. Some examples: Smoking, Alcohol, Marijuana, Cocaine, Crack, Heroin, Uppers, Downers, etc. You can adjust these to be as general or specific as warranted by your audience and number of Drugs. Be careful with younger audiences - it might be better to generalize "Marijuana, Crack," etc. into simply "Drugs" and use other general terms like "Violence" as well. You want to avoid questions like "What's Crack?" The signs should be easy to read but not fancy - they should strike you as stark.
Before anything else, the Trees walk onstage, holding hands. They should stand near the back of the stage, facing the audience. They remain holding hands, motionless and emotionless throughout the skit, not making eye contact with anyone.
Before they enter, each Drug should put on a sign, with the tagboard on their back with the printing facing outwards. The drugs, not holding hands, walk onstage after the Trees have entered. The Drugs stand in a line towards the back of the stage with their backs to the audience, so that the audience can see their signs clearly. While it may be hard, the Drugs should be arranged in some sort of order from "least bad" stage right to "worst" stage left - with "gateway drugs" such as Marijuana, Smoking, or Alcohol earlier. Throughout the skit, the drugs should be expressionless and cold. At the start, the are motionless, all standing with arms at their sides.
This is a short outline of the skit. For details, see the detailed description below.
- Druggie and Friends walk across stage twice, mime having a fun time.
- On second pass, Druggie starts noticing Drugs
- Music starts just before this
- Friends distract her
- Druggie hugs Drugs and takes their signs
- Friends fight with her, gradually give up
- Druggie resists, gets more violent
- Friend #1 stays, Friend #2 leaves, Friend #3 (if there is one) goes and then returns
- Drugs form a moving circle around the Druggie
- Friends #1 and #2 try to pull her out
- She resists, has a great time
- Drugs tighten the circle
- Druggie gets frightened
- Friend #2 returns to help
- Friend #1 finally breaks the circle and pulls the Druggie out
- Druggie refuses the Drugs
- Slaps their hands down and spins them around
- Resists at first, gets easier
- Friends encourage
- Druggie tears signs off
- Group hug
- Everyone walks off
- The Druggie never looks back.
What follows is an extremely detailed description of the skit. Everything is mimed to the song "Total Eclipse of the Heart," so there is no speaking whatsoever. As I mentioned, every detail of the skit is symbolic.
The Druggie and friends (1, 2, and 3 if enough) enter stage right having a great time. The Druggie should be in the middle of the friends, clearly happy. This group walks the length of the stage, not noticing the Drugs. They then turn around casually, still having a good time, but now the Druggie starts to glance at the Drugs and occasionally move closer towards them. The music begins as the Druggie starts noticing the Drugs. The friends notice and distract her or pull her back and then forget about it. This should be very obvious by the time that the group reaches stage right again.
The group turns around again. This time, they have barely walked past the first few drugs when the Druggie goes directly to the first (stage right) Drug and taps it on the right shoulder. The drug turns around and holds its arms out directly in front of it, as if mechanically and coldly waiting for a hug. The Friends coax the Druggie away and start walking away, but the Druggie goes right back, hugs the Drug, takes the sign from around its neck, and puts it around her own (facing outwards, so that the audience could see it). The Drug remains standing facing the audience, emotionless, hands at sides.
The Friends fight with the Druggie as she moves on to the next Drug, tapping it on the shoulder. It also turns around with its arms out. The friends try to coax the Druggie, pull her away, talk sense into her, some of which works at first. As the skit progresses, the Druggie resists more and more, becoming very violent and physically hitting the friends as she reaches the middle of the line of Drugs. She should also, to some extent, take on any characteristics of the signs she receives, especially for "Violence" or "Alcohol." Be careful not to be comic about these actions.
Friend #2 starts to give up just before the middle Drugs and start moving away, leaving. He or she should hesitate briefly, come back slightly, then give up totally. This is especially effective if Friend #2 has a place to sit on the edge of the stage which can be spotlighted during the skit. In this case, the friend can display emotions reflecting what's happening onstage.
As Friend #2 is leaving, Friend #1 (and #3, if there is one) try to convince Friend #2 to stay, while also trying to save the Druggie. It becomes too much for them, so they give up on Friend #2 and continue trying to convince the Druggie to give up. When the Druggie gets very violent (beyond the middle of the line), Friend #3 starts to give up and walk part way away (if there is one). Friend #1 convinces Friend #3 to stay.
Friend #1 is the friend who never gives up. Through the entire line of Drugs, Friend #1 is doing everything he or she can to get the Druggie away from the Drugs. This should start with coaxing and gentle pulling, and then fluctuate between frenzied attempts at (mimed) talking sense into the Druggie (with a good deal of gesturing, but not comic!) and physically trying to move the Druggie away from the Drugs. The Druggie should resist more and more. Through everything, Friend #1 always returns focus to the Druggie. Towards the very end of the line, Friend #3 gives up (if there is one), and then Friend #1, feebly trying, gives up also.
Once the Druggie reaches the end of the line, the Drugs immediately hold hands and curl to form a circle at stage left with her in the center of the circle. This happens at one of the piano interludes in the song, after the series of "turn around" lines. This circle turns clockwise at a moderate pace (also symbolic, but obscure: the passage of time) as the Druggie dances, waves her arms, making it obvious that she's having a wonderful time. The Drugs which make up the circle also dip up and down, for effect and especially so that the audience can see what's going on inside. Friends #1 and #3 move around the circle, counterclockwise, trying to reach or break inside and save the Druggie, but she slaps away their hands. They can't break into the circle.
Around this time, there is a "thunder crash" in the music. Just before this, the circle tightens so that the Druggie hardly has room to move. She starts to get scared and instead of waving and dancing happily, she instead starts reaching frantically for help. Friends #1 and #3 (if there is one) continue trying to break the circle as Friend #2 finally decides to return and joins the other friends - a true friend is there for you in your worst times. Finally, at the "thunder crash," the Druggie and Friend #1 grasp hands and the circle breaks. The drugs immediately re-form their line. Although having the Drugs in the same order as before isn't essential, it is nice if you can manage it without much fuss.
At this point, you have a choice: The friends can convince the Druggie to take the signs off and throw them away, or this can wait for later. It is a bit easier to move without the signs around her neck.
Here, beginning at one end of the line, the Trees start raising their still-clasped hands, as in triumph. They remain emotionless. The friends start encouraging and pushing the Druggie to head in the direction of the last (worst) Drug, which has its arms stretched out in the same mechanical hug as before. She resists strongly but the Friends finally force her to the last Drug. She reaches out to slap its arms away but hesitates and turns away - it is painful for her. The friends finally force her to slap the Drug's arms down and also turn it around so that its back is towards the audience.
With the first Drug "defeated," the process continues. As the Druggie stands in front of each Drug, the Drug puts out its arms. The Druggie resists less and less but also turns back several times as if she can't stand doing this. By the end, she easily slaps away the last Drug's hands and turns him or her around confidently.
If the Druggie still has the signs around her neck, then in one strong movement, she tears all of the signs off from around her neck and leaves them strewn on the floor. There are also cues in this part of the music, especially thunder crashes. The friends hug her in one big group hug, and then walk off happily, preferably down an aisle through the audience. The Druggie never looks back.
Here are a few useful tips for performing the skit.
- The absolute minimum number of Drugs is three. In this case, you need to make a total of 6 signs, and have each Drug wear one on his or her back and one on his or her front. Then, once the Druggie has taken a Drug's first sign, the Drug moves the other sign around to his or her back, turns back around, and the Druggie makes another trip along the line. I would suggest doing this if you have less than about 5 Drugs.
- Having more than 10 Drugs can throw off the timing in the skit and make it "feel" long as well.
- This skit can obviously be extrememly emotional for both the actors and the audience. It's best to let the Friends and Druggie know before the skit that it is perfectly acceptable for them to show true emotion during the skit. It's not unusual for almost everyone to be crying or holding back tears by the end of the skit.
- While performing for a church youth group, we once tried a "debriefing" after the skit which was rather successful. The idea was that, after performing, we sat down with the audience (about 15 middle schoolers) and chatted about their experiences, views, questions, etc. about drugs, alcohol, violence, and peer pressure. This is especially effective if you have personal stories to tell -- middle school is one of the most impressionable ages.