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From the outset, Take Charge Theater's Stopping the Desert tries to make a statement of contemporary American values, morals, responsibilities -- and about the University. The show, which opens tonight at the Harold Prince Theatre, continues on the tradition of Take Charge shows which are regularly based on socially relevant themes. For instance, the group's first production, Bent, dealt with homosexual love. Written by playwright Glen Merzer, the black comedy tries to show how contemporary American society "has very shallow and very questionable morals based on economics rather than true idealism or true concern for others," according to the show's director, Randy Wise. But the show has been adapted for the University community with themes that will relate to college-age students. Take Charge Theater creator and Student Performing Arts Coordinator Kathryn Helene said she and Wise chose this play because students would be able to relate to a character or scenario and would be forced to understand the message. In addition, organizers hope students will understand the significance of the title, which refers to the continual erosion of values and is a metaphor for a desert where ideals are dead and can't grow back. According to the show's organizers, Stopping the Desert relates the story of a group of young people deciding their stances on issues such as racism, the environment, colonialism, anti-materialism, artistic freedom, values and responsibilities, and eventually how they feel about each other. But the production does not stop with just words. Organizers have spent hours creating a set that they hope will reflect the sterility of American society. What they came up with was a 1990s garbage dump filled with wire fences, trash cans, tires, broken refrigerators, and aluminum cans -- which is also designed to represent West Philadelphia. Cast members said they were extremely excited as the play came together for its opening night. For most, this play is their first at the University and they hope to make in impact on the performing arts community and the University. Stopping the Desert will be showing at the Harold Prince Theatre of the Annenberg Center tonight through Saturday, at 8 p.m. Tickets will be on sale at the Annenberg Center Box Office, 3680 Walnut Street (898-6791) or on Locust Walk this week for $4.

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