By Samantha Hudson
Nov. 2, 2012. With the growing problem of bullying and the negative consequences it is having around the country local community members have decided to something to raise awareness. Wendy Estes, co-founder of Operation Mama Gaye, an organization started in 2006 committed to providing children with free books, contacted Ensemble Stage, a professional theater located in Blowing Rock, about putting on a production centered around the issue. Ensemble Stage felt that it was too big of an issue for them not be involved in.
“Theater is such a good type of venue to present something regarding this topic, not only is it important, but we felt like it was kind of our duty as a local professional theater,” said creative director for Ensemble Stage, Gary Smith. “Bullying is a national crisis. Just because we’re not a big town or metropolitan area doesn’t mean it’s not going on around here, obviously there are problems with it around the area or nobody would have contacted us.”
Smith says he hopes that the play will be able to send a message that bullying is a problem and that it’s not alright. He hopes the ultimate cliché stands true, that by getting one kid to stand up to a bully or one kid to speak out they’ll have made a difference.
Casting has been completed but they are still looking into scripts and even the possibility of kids creating their own scripts. Smith is also keeping the audience in mind for the creation of this production. He said he has found through working with the kids that the type of bullying that goes on is very different depending on the age group and he feels that bullying within the younger group should really be focused on.
“The type of bullying that goes on there from what I’ve discovered talking to kids during rehearsals is different than the type of bullying that goes on with the older kids; and so we’ll probably do at least two separate kinds of shows, one for the younger kids and then one that’s geared towards the older kid,” Smith said.
This will be an all student production. Smith said he has learned from experience with other productions that the benefit of having kids perform rather than adults is that it gets their peers to listen to the story and the message much better.
“Kids have enough adults going around telling them what they shouldn’t do and how they should act and how they should talk and things like that, and throwing some more adults on stage doing a play, they’re not going to connect as much as if they see kids their own age presenting a production with that kind of a message,” said Smith.
Smith and Principal of Blowing Rock School Patrick Sukow have agreed that it is more important to have a quality show rather than rushing a date to have it completed. No opening date has been chosen yet due in part to the fact that students have been cast who have never worked in theater before.
“I’ve got to get them up to speed as far as performing on stage and acting and things before we start working on rehearsing the show and if I restricted my timeline then I don’t have time to get all the kids where they should be,” Smith said.
Smith said he should know in the next few weeks when they will actually put on their first performance, but as of right now nothing is set.
The show will take place in Blowing Rock School Auditorium, where Ensemble Stage performs all of their shows, but Smith has high hopes for the performance.
“Hopefully these shows will be good enough and send a message strong enough that we’ll be able to take them to other area schools too. The more the message gets out there in this creative way the better and more effective it will be.”