We closed our production of The Bully Plays this week. The Bully Plays are a collection of 24 small plays, 8-20 minutes long, designed to bring attention to the growing epidemic of bullying and exclusionary behavior and the all-too-often tragic results of bully behavior. The collection is funny, sad, powerful and important. These plays help teenagers develop their moral compass. These plays help them change “me” to “we.”
Bullying is aggressive behavior intended to harm or show power over another person, repeated over time. Bullies have a strong need to show dominance over others or to get their own way. Victims of bullying tend to be kinds who are less popular, new, different and those who don’t conform. Victims also tend to ave few friends and have low self-esteem.
The Bully Plays was a product of our Production Class at school. In class we explored the trickle-down effect of bullying through our discussions in class. We choose The Bully Plays because they lend so nicely to classroom scene work and the exploration of theatre as a form of activism. One way to approach such a universal problem as bullying is to get it out into the open, identify it, and provide students with strategies to deal with the problem with creative and and empowering ways. The performing arts are a great tool to be used to improve, not just imitate, life.
It is not the intent of the collection to perform all 24 plays. My friend and I had the class read all 24 plays and then we discussed as a class which plays were more relevant in our school. We discussed bullying from all perspectives – the bullies, the bullied and the bystander. We discussed the issues addressed including gender, sexuality, social status and more. We discussed how technology has changed the nature and scope of bullying. We then choose as a class 6 plays we thought would sent the intended message. My friend and I choose the final two shows to complete our performance set of 8 plays.
Our first semester Production Class focuses on acting skills. The Bully Plays provided an excellent set of scripts for our actors to sharpen their skills. They also provided excellent scripts that provided our actors the opportunity to explore a prevalent and controversial topic while they delved deeper into character development. We were pleased with the results.
These students not only improved their acting skills, their understanding of the production process, and their ability to analysis a script, they learned to have empathy for others, and to assist in the ending of bullying in our school.
A few of the students in the class were assigned to work on the tech for the production. They learned more about lighting, sound, props, and publicity.
We opened our shop with Alex – a 10-minute show that focus on a teenager poignant as he relates to his dad how a bullied classmate resorted to physical violence.
In Bystander Blues a group of high-school kids discuss the heartbreaking realization that they contributed to a classmate’s death by remaining bystanders.
Glorious Gail introduced the spread of rumors and the harm that speculation brings.
Send explored the illegal nature of sending pictures of others using technology.
In Beasts, a boy confronts a beast in ancient Greece who provides him with a different perspective on who is the beast.
Clowns addressed the crowd mentality. It introduced the idea that you don’t really need to choose a side. You don’t need to decide to be the bullied, the bully or the bystander. You can choose to be your self and to be nice.
Noses was a fun mime inspired story that demonstrated that being unique is a good thing; that choosing the high road can end bullying; that one person choosing to end bullying is enough.
In Blu a mother and brother try to come to terms with the suicide of their “technicolor” son and brother.
Not only did we perform our 8 plays for 4 nights, we performed during school hours for the student body. I believe that our actors were able to get their message out to the student body and community. After one performance a student approached me with his thoughts of the production. This student struggles with school. He is in special programs. I asked him what his favorite play in the production was over all. He said he liked Blu best. I was a little surprised. Blu dealt with the sometimes tragic results of bullying, suicide. I ask him why he liked that play. He studded through his answer. “Because I see what Blu sees.” I fought back the tears as I praised him for his thoughtful answer and his willingness to attempt an assignment that could have been overwhelming for him. This boy was the perfect definition of the bullied. due to his unique challenges in life he would be considered an outsider with his difficulties socially and academically. Yet, he understood. I have to admit, I shed a tear (in front of the superintendent) as he walked away.
This is why I volunteer.
This is why I teach.
This is why I am passionate about the performing arts.
If we, if I, reach one person, it is all worth it!