Student’s play puts spotlight on bullyingThree skits broke new ground Monday at Lake Superior Elementary School. It was the first public acting experience for many of the performers, Superior High School theater students.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Three skits broke new ground Monday at Lake Superior Elementary School.
It was the first public acting experience for many of the performers, Superior High School theater students.
For Sarah King, 10, it marked the first time her play about bullying was performed.
For the youth who watched the skits, cross-legged on the floor, it was a unique start to the school’s diversity week.
“We don’t always get interaction with the public and this week is a great opportunity for us,” said Rachael Lind, Lake Superior school guidance counselor.
A teacher from Lake Superior approached SHS theater teacher, Amber Goodspeed, about getting high school students to perform Sarah’s play. The teacher and her class went to work, practicing, building set pieces and crafting two more skits on responsibility and perseverance to compliment the 10-year-old’s piece.
Sarah wrote the play in the fall after a lesson on bullying.
“It wasn’t an assignment,” Lind said. “She just thought it would be neat to do.”
Sarah has written many short stories, but this was her first play. Why did she write it about bullying?
“Because otherwise the world would just be full of bullying and it wouldn’t be a very nice place to live in,” the 10-year-old said.
Even at a rural school like Lake Superior, bullying happens. In Sarah’s play, a girl named Julia, played by junior Melissa Jorgenson, calls her classmate Zoe, played by freshman Carissa Carl, a dork, pushes her book out of her hands and steps on her foot. Other kids on the playground see and tell a teacher, who tells the principal. Julia admits to her actions, saying she “just felt like” calling Zoe a dork and thought it would be funny to knock her book out of her hands. The principal asks what they can do about it. Julia says she can apologize and not do it again, and Zoe accepts her apology.
“This is our first time performing so it’s really fun to see the reaction of the kids,” said Taylor Wahlberg, an SHS junior. “It’s kind of interesting to see what we’ve written and how it affects what they’re doing; how many have actually learned something.”
They know Sarah’s play reached her fellow students. After one performance, freshman Jacob Bartley saw an elementary student talking to a teacher about being bullied.
“That’s basically another reason why I wrote it because I think a lot of kids in my class and Ms. Gullo’s class are afraid to tell people about them being bullied,” Sarah said.
As one of the students in the audience pointed out, “If you don’t tell a teacher, the person who did it would think it’s OK.”
The high school thespians were impressed with Sarah’s play.
“There were very few things we had to change,” Wahlberg said.
“Except for the names,” Goodspeed added. “We’re kind of male challenged in this group this year so we had to make a lot of parts girls.”
The high schoolers worked to make their own plays accessible to youngsters, keying in to things elementary students do or want. In their responsibility skit, a young girl, played by Brittany MacDonell, begs her mother, Wahlberg, for a puppy. The mother says she needs to show she is responsible. The girl’s friend, played by freshman Ashley Willie, encourages her to do chores around the house instead of playing video games and pick up her room, since she “hasn’t seen her floor in weeks.”
The girl’s mother also asks her to pull up her grades. After a few weeks of walking past the puppy in the pet shop window, the girl gets him and names him Spot.
In the final play, Carl takes the role of a girl who is doing poorly in choir and spelling. Her teachers and classmates tell her she needs to use perseverance.
Confused, she asks what that means and learns perseverance is “to refuse to stop, to keep going and not give up.”
The elementary students were very attentive to the performance.
“I could tell they were listening and observing it more because it came from peers than always from adults,” Lind said.
The skits had another effect. As they have worked together, the thespians formed a family.
“We had to do a lot together,” Wahlberg said. “It really bonded us as a class and we all feel closer.”
Theater tends to bring people together, Goodspeed agreed. And it is addictive. Many of the high school students said they plan to try out for the school play and musical next year.
After the performance, the older students shared lunch and recess with Lake Superior fifth graders before returning SHS.
“So they can ask them some of those questions like ‘What was it like when you went to middle school?’” Lind said. “That’s another cool part of having the high schoolers come here.”
Other events for diversity week at Lake Superior school include a trio of speakers – a blind man who will teach students the art of origami, an Indian educator to speak about the Native American culture and a speaker from the Spanish-speaking community.
Other SHS theater students who performed in the skits included freshmen Allison Luoma and Bailey Johnson and senior Mark Jones.