Little Theatre sheds light on bullying

January 12, 2019

La PORTE – The Little Theatre presented a 10-part series play Jan. 4 through Jan. 6 on the issue of bullying.

The Bullying Collection, which was made up of five directors and 40 actors/actresses, each presented two 10-minute long plays on the various forms of bullying. These included both physical, mental and cyber bullying, which is a more recent phenomenon that takes place online.

“The weekend was overall great,” said Katy Gartland, director and president of the La Porte Little Theatre. “Of course we wish more students could have seen the show, however it did give the adults in attendance ideas of ways to open communication regarding different bullying topics they may not have they may not have been aware of.”

The directors of the plays were made up of Tony J. Thomas, who directed “Bullies Anonymous” and “I Was There,” Katy Gartland, who directed “Dolphin” and “The Uprising,” Matt Robinson, who directed “Say Nothing” and “Nerdbullies,” Joe Blanchard, who directed “Frosh in the Pit” and “Reunited,” and Doug Campbell who directed “F.A.B.U.L.O.U.S.” and “Gray Area.”

The play started off with a song, “Don’t Laugh at Me,” performed on acoustic guitar and sang by Jim Lampl. The song was inspired by a student of Lampl’s named Ryan, who he said “marched to the beat of a different drum.”

The various plays depicted a wide variety of issues, some in a light hearted tone, such as “Bullies Anonymous,” which was a mock-parody of Alcoholics Anonymous, where a group of four bullies each tell past experiences bullying, and how they resisted the urge to bully in such cases as not de-pantsing a student in gym, or shoving a victim in a locker.

During their meeting, Sam, a student adorning glasses, suspenders and holding a trapper keeper enters asking for directions to the Math Club. Unable to resist the target, the bullies surround her, all yelling and shoving. The guidance counselor snaps, shouting they are lost causes and monsters.

While the counselor is absent, the bullies decide to practice empathy, a recently learned skill, and relate to Sam’s feelings. As they go into a group hug, the counselor returns calling them “future Charles Mansons,” but sees them helping Sam. She admits she was wrong to storm off and praises them on their change of heart.

Another play took a much darker tone. In “I Was There,” a school shooter scenario was explored. Seven students recollected where they were when the massacre occurred, and their feelings both during and after the shooting. Fear, anger, regret, helplessness and even guilt were shown among the students. One of the students, a female who self described herself as a “freak” felt guilty that she thought “one of us freaks finally made them suffer.”

All the students wrestled with the emotions of what had transpired in different ways, the play culminating with Aaron, the school shooter, reading his last words apologizing to his mother for what he was about to do. The audience was left in a sort of shock, some members of the crowd in tears.

While most of the plays subject matter was based on teens and school experiences, “Reunited” depicted the long-term effects of bullying. Andrew and his wife are shown at a 10 year school reunion, and while the 80s music played in the background, Andrew wrestled with his emotions over seeing his high school bully, Alex, at the reunion. He lamented his experiences at the hands of Alex to his wife and a couple friends, when Alex appears. However, Alex stated that he felt remorse for what he did to Andrew and apologized, the two making peace at the end.

The final act, “Nerdbullies,” gave a look into bullying in not so obvious situations. One of which took place online, with the game World of Warcraft.

In the game, a player holding an axe exclaims he is a level 42 paladin dwarf. Along comes another player, who says he is a level 59 mage. He attacks the other player in a show of strength, and after besting the dwarf, the mage tells him he will let him live if he gives him all his online items. The dwarf obliges. The mage then tells him to meet here every day and bring him 2,000 gold or he will continue to find and kill his character. This demonstrates how even an online game can be grounds for bullying.

The play continued with a look into political bullying. A newly elected senator is shown being approached by a veteran senator, who first criticizes the new senators clothing. He then threatens to make his career suffer if he doesn’t vote along with the veteran senator’s bill, bullying the new senator to vote with him or risk losing his job.

The Bullying Collection gave a look into various aspects of bullying not everybody may have been aware of, and used many different scenarios to drive their point home. Parents, school staff and other adults can help prevent bullying by recognizing it in its various forms.

The Bullying Collection was cast in mid September, and according to director Tony Thomas was rehearsed only nine times. The 10 plays ran smoothly and without interruption, a tribute to all cast involved.

“One of the students grandparents told me it was good to see kids on stage, not on their phones,” Gartland said. “It gives them something different to do in town, and a place where people can appreciate the arts here in La Porte.”

Audience member Zach Polzeki said he enjoyed the play.

“The actors and actresses on stage you wouldn’t believe weren’t trained professionals,” Polzeki said. “They didn’t even use que-cards.”

“It was very informative,” added Roselyn Wright, a former actress for the Little Theatre. “They did a great job addressing a serious issue with both humor and sadness. Its amazing what could be done in just 10 minutes.”

The La Porte Little Theatre’s next play “12 Incompetent Jurors” will take place on March 1, 2, 3 and 8, 9, 10 at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets can be purchased in advance at www.laportelittletheatreclub.com Those interested in acting or helping in other ways can go to the website and click “auditions.”

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