A small army of zombies infiltrated the halls at Boulder's Fairview High School on Tuesday, looking like flesh-eating monsters but with only the best of intentions.
The dozen or so students and teachers were helping with a public awareness campaign designed to help Fairview students recognize difficult "zombie" emotions so they don't turn to drugs, eating disorders, cutting or other destructive ways of coping. The zombies will be featured on posters and in a video.
"Everyone has their bad days; everyone has their moments," said Fairview junior Rebecca Viale, who portrayed "imperfection." "Nobody is the stereotype of Mrs. or Mr. Popular. You're not alone. You can get through it."
Organizer Richard Goode-Allen, an adjunct instructor at the University of Colorado, said he chose zombies to capitalize on the popularity of the living dead.
"Prevention is really what we're attempting to do here, using zombies as a metaphor," he said. "The zombies are the emotions we attempt to bury and escape. They come back to life and slowly advance on us."
The posters and video will be used during the school's upcoming awareness week and online at the not-yet-live AwarenessDrive.org website. The awareness week, which starts March 18, will include two days of a resource fair with information on everything from dating violence to suicide prevention from local organizations.
Goode-Allen said he also plans to make the posters and video available to other schools.
Students were transformed into zombies Tuesday by the makeup wizardry of the staff at Boulder's Theatrical Costumes Etc. The makeup artists, who donated their time, said the key to a realistic zombie look is restraint. They used lots of gray and dark green makeup, augmented with "gash" and "oozing wound" sets. Paintbrushes added strategic red blood spatter.
"You want lots and lots of blending," said Melinda Wolfe, who considers theatrical makeup a hobby. "Less is more."
Some students went with "light decay," others asked for "as gory and disturbing as possible."
Zombie disguises in place, the students posed for photos for the posters. For the video, the zombies advance on a blindfolded girl trying to open her locker. She "wakes up" and removes the blindfold to see the zombies -- representing things like "stress," "expectations" and "regret." Last, she uses a rope to pretend to climb over a wall, overcoming the zombie problems.
Many of the students helping with the video came from the school's Humans vs. Zombies club. The club plays a tag game that gained popularity on college campuses.
"If you need people willing to be in a zombie movie, our club is a good place to look," said senior Shawna Gustafson, the club's co-president. "It's been pretty fun. I've never been in a real movie."
Fairview intervention specialist Jenny Hecht, who's organizing the awareness week, said the video and the week are a way to reach a large audience of students.
"I'm a big believer in prevention," she said. "High school is a good time to learn coping strategies."
Added English teacher Paul Bursiek, who participated as a zombie, "Students think they have to be perfect, that they can't make mistakes. The message is just to have a healthier perspective on what's important and try to dispel some of the pressures they're feeling."