The scene begins with teenagers at play. Girls jump rope and chatter while a young man shoots a basketball.

Enter the drug dealer. The girls aren't interested and wave the dealer away. The guy does too, at first, then is coaxed into making a purchase. Seconds later, after injecting the drugs into his arm and smiling for a moment, the young man begins to shake.

As members of the audience gasp, he collapses, and, as the girls solemnly gather around him, the booming voice of a man offstage sings: "Yes, your child is playing in the ghetto . . . . Is this the way your child has to live?"

The portrayal of drugs and death by an improvisational theater troupe made up mostly of South Arlington teenagers reflects the reality faced by youths who grow up in drug-ravaged neighborhoods.

Through drama and dance, the 11 teenagers who call themselves the B&U Crew try to encourage their peers to take pride in themselves and avoid drugs. The group, formed last year under the guidance of the South Arlington YMCA as a program to promote self-esteem among its members, took its name from two of its goals: "B" is for binding; "U" for unity.

The group's message takes on a personal tone because most of the performers are from the drug-plagued South Arlington community of Nauck, and have known people victimized by drugs.

"With all that's going on around us, we have to do something," said B&U member Samarra Green, 17, who will be a senior at Wakefield High School this fall. "If we can serve as role models and pass the message on to kids about what drugs do, then maybe we can make a difference."

The group, which has performed at numerous community events in Northern Virginia and the District, is led by Keenan Zeno, 27, who oversees youth programs at the South Arlington YMCA.

Although members of B&U said they participate because of the chance to perform and send messages to their peers, Zeno said he is more concerned with teaching self-discipline to members of the group.

Zeno has each member of the group keep an appointment book to avoid missing rehearsals and performances. Although rehearsals are loosely structured, once a number begins, Zeno expects total concentration.

He stresses unity among the group members, often taking them out to dinner, to the mall or to see a movie. Lessons in etiquette and self-esteem are thrown in.

"It's important to give them some guidance," Zeno said. "{Dancing} is a way to draw them in, to get them working as a team. I want to show them . . . how good it can be to live a clean life."

Adrian Winslow, 16, of the District, is the group's only male dancer. He said he joined the Arlington group because its improvisational style gave him a chance to improve his ballet, and because he liked the idea of using entertainment to teach youths about the dangers of drugs.

"I'm glad I got into it," said Winslow, a student at the Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts who lives near the Shaw area. "Some {youths} who come see us think it's just dancing . . . but I think some others take a message home with them."

It is Winslow who portrays the young man who succumbs to drugs in the group's number called "White Ghost," which Zeno said is designed to show the tragedy of innocent children dying in this area's streets from drugs. Zeno sings the accompaniment offstage.

Other numbers, including one called "Dream Deferred," follow a similar theme.

"We put it out there for people to see," Zeno said. "We want people to take a look at themselves, to see what's happening around them."