Walnut Street Theatre performs, teaches lessons on bullying

This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
The Walnut Street Theatre performed “Only 13” for students at Fugett Middle School on Friday. The show focused on bullying and the harmful effects it has. (Candice Monhollan)

The Walnut Street Theatre performed “Only 13” for students at Fugett Middle School on Friday. The show focused on bullying and the harmful effects it has. (Candice Monhollan)

WEST GOSHEN — Bullying, especially cyber bullying, has come to the forefront of schools across the United States as an unsolvable problem.

Schools have taken steps and measures to try to decrease or end cyber bullying. Fugett Middle School welcomed the Walnut Street Theatre with its performance of “Only 13,” a story about a girl who is bullied, both in person and on the internet, by classmates.

“Before I was at the Walnut, I was a high school teacher,” said Thomas Quinn, director of education at the Walnut Street Theatre and author of the play. “I got to see kids and the way they treated each other. Body image is also sort of the main thing that motivated it and the way girls think about themselves.”

There are several different programs about bullying for the elementary-level students, but Quinn noticed it isn’t the same for middle school.

…[Please continue the story on the Daily Local News website by clicking here.]

“We wanted to do something that would work on the middle school level,” he said.

The play follows Phoebe, a 13 year old of a single father. She is bullied by the “cooler” kids at her school and with all the torment at school and feeling alone with her father always working, she decides she wants to take her life.

But before that happens, a guardian angel steps in and shows what life would be like if she never existed and gives her a new perspective on life.

At the end, the student body and staff are shocked to see that the characters in the play are in remembrance of four students who really did commit suicide over bullying and peer pressure.

“I started doing research about it,” Quinn said. “Megan Meier was in the news quite a bit when it happened in 2009. I started researching her and found a link to, unfortunately, a large number of kids who did something similar. I picked four people that we could base characters off of.”

Even as the author of the play and knowing where it was going to go, it was still tough on Quinn to write.

“I’m a parent myself, so the subject matter was really hard and very personal to write about,” he said. “This play went through probably about six or seven different drafts. We actually went out to middle schools kids at several different school districts and had them listen to it and give their feedback.”

This isn’t the first time Fugett students have seen the play, however.

The Walnut Street Theatre put on a performance of “Only 13” three years ago, but Friday’s performance was different since Quinn did a re-write over the summer.

Performing the play at Fugett not only is significant for spreading the message, but is special to Quinn because he is an alumni of school.

“It’s really empowering to think about,” he said. “It will probably reach somewhere of about 15,000 kids. To know what starts as an idea in our theater can reach that many kids is really gratifying.”

And Quinn and the cast know that, though they may not reach every student, just having an impact on one can make all the difference in the world.

“When we first produced this, a girl at a school not too far from here sent us a note that was very long and was talking about how she never thought she’d see herself on stage before,” Quinn said. “We were able to call the school and make a direct connection to the guidance counselor and get her some help. Being able to share that with the actors is the kind of impact this show can have.”

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Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Community, Education

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