A taunt, tease, or outright insult all may be forms of bullying to some, and at least two Cupertino schools hope a theatrical performance will help students understand more about bullying and how to deal with it.
Targeted at elementary school age children, “Oskar and the Big Bully Battle”, a TheatreWorks production, makes appearances at Regnart and Eaton elementary schools this month on a quest to help children recognize common types of bullying—what bullying looks like, and how to respond to being bullied or seeing others bullied.
Amanda Todd, a bullied Canadian girl who committed suicide in September, and a 13-year-old Irish girl, Erin Gallagher, who took her life over the weekend are two examples of what the theatre production hopes to prevent.
On stage, Oskar and his friends perform different acts of bullying, which allow children to see how even a subtle act of teasing can be bullying, and what it can do to kids who are being bullied. Solutions of how to prevent bullying, what to do when witnessing someone be bullied, or how to deal with personally being bullied are also addressed.
Oskar and his battle with bullying was developed by TheatreWorks’ Education Director Mary Sutton. The script, which took about a year to develop, was written by award-winning playwright Prince Gomolvilas.
Bullying appears to be on the upswing, so Sutton approached the Palo Alto Unified School District with the idea of creating a show that would educate children ages K-6 about bullying.
Working at schools and seeing bullying take place in the halls and on the playground is what inspired Sutton to address the issue of bullying.
“I see the prevalence more and more.” She chose her passion—theater—as her tool to reach children. “They need live theater and they need live messages.”
Sutton aimed for elementary schools around the Bay Area to get to young kids before they enter what for some becomes their tumultuous middle school years. She worked with schools to find out various concepts bullying and the most effective ways to help children identify what bullying is and learn how to deal with it before those teenage hormones kick in.
Feedback from teachers and parents about the production have been “overwhelmingly positive,” Sutton says.
Some teachers report that they’ve seen children stand up and use their voice when being bullied. Parents use lines from the play, “What would Oskar do?” to help remind children to be aware of bullying behavior.
When asked what she herself would say to a child that is bullied, Sutton replied, “You’re not alone.”
Children who are bullied tend to believe that they themselves are the problem, Sutton says. Yet they can identify ways to get out of that, “helpless mindset.”
“Oskar and the Big Bully Battle” will be shown at Regnart Elementary on November 15, at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., and at Eaton Elementary on November 30, at 9:45 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.