Thursday, May 23, 2019

Dramatic Change Anti-Bullying Pre Conference: Dallas Children’s Theater and Univeristy of Texas at Austin

Youth Theater Speaks Up, Acts Out, Steps Forward

New bullying statistics for 2012 reveal that two in seven students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade have been a victim of bullying or are a bully themselves. Nine out of ten LGBT students experienced harassment at school and online.

Speak Up:

Dallas Children’s Theater and the University of Texas joined together in February of 2012 to explore the epidemic of bullying and cyber-bullying.

Act Out:

Performances of a dynamic duet of plays, The Secret Life of Girl’s and The Transition of Doodle Pequeño demonstrated that theater can be an engine of change.

Step Forward:

Compelling discussions with playwrights, actors, audience members and experts in the field provided a call to action by spotlighting the insidious danger of bullying.

Dallas Children’s Theater’s initiative to develop dramatic material addressing hard-hitting, meticulously researched issues for teens began in 2005 when resident playwright Linda Daugherty and Executive Artistic Director Robyn Flatt felt compelled to create a piece that responded to a bullying crisis in the local community.  What started as a quiet project of personal concern has grown into an international success story.  The play, “The Secret Life of Girls” is sweeping the county and has been performed as far away as Canada, Germany and Dubai. In this honest and unflinching dramatization of teen-girl angst, a window is opened into the tumultuous and destructive world of bullying.

Likewise, playwright Gabriel Jason Dean was motivated to write The Transition of Doodle Pequeño in response to the staggering number of young people who have committed suicide, or “bully-cide.”  A blend of English, Spanish and “Goat,” this award-winning comic play takes a heart-warming look at the consequences of misused language and interrogates the issue of gender bullying.

Presented as part of the AATE Pre-Conference- Dramatic Change: An Anti-Bullying Initiative, Dallas Children’s Theater and the University of Texas showed how they  presented a program that included professionally facilitated workshops and discussions that examined bullying and gender identity while offering positive solutions, and providing tools for youth, educators and parents on navigating the daily challenges of living and working with youth.  The session also explored the reactions from both audience members and healthcare and social service advocates as they learned that theater can be a profound tool in instigating change in the awareness and response to bullying.

Panelists Robyn Flatt (event producer and DCT Executive Artistic Director), UT professor and playwright Roxanne Schroeder-Arce and Director Nancy Schaeffer shared how the triumph of this collaboration can be attributed to the relevancy and timeliness of the subject matter, and in Dallas, the evolution of key relationships within the health community who recognize bullying as a universal problem.

This is a success story that is worth hearing and can provide inspiration and ideas for AATE conference attendees to develop their own collaborative connections that will make dramatic material about teen issues resonate more deeply for theater audiences and within their communities.

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