America has a gambling problem.
It's been said before. But what's been left unsaid is that gambling is an issue that plagues American teens.
"One in four teens has an issue with gambling," said Walt Shepperd, dramatic director and producer of The Media Unit, a local teen theater group produced by and for teens. "Even the people who are familiar with The Media Unit say, 'Gambling, is that a problem?!' "
Surprise or not, Shepperd and The Media Unit are taking on the issue with more than plain talk.
The Media Unit is approaching the issue of teen gambling with a new production of a play, "Don't Bet On It," that premiers at 2 p.m. Sunday Nov. 28 at The SPOT, a youth center in Shoppingtown Mall. The public is welcome.
"'Don't Bet On It' shows what can happen when you gamble," said BriAnna Kent, a senior at Henninger High School and aspiring actress with The Media Unit.
The play is based around four characters, all of whom are stereotypical to gambling issues. The production is interlaced with high energy, choreographed dancing, singing and comedy. As with most productions by The Media Unit, the play is used as an ice breaker for an interactive Talk Back that follows the show, a personal sharing experience of sorts for viewers.
Teen gambling is a real issue for American teens.
"Some kids take money from their parents - it's a real problem," said George Stroman, a south-side native and 20-year-old member of The Media Unit.
The issue of teen gambling is not given as much attention as other issues of teen concern, but the dangers are subtle and potent. From betting on video games and sports to online poker interfaces, gambling has many quiet paths to teens.
"Televised poker makes gambling out to be stardom," noted Alexander Feuerstein, a 23-year-old member of The Media Unit.