North Marion Players presents "The Bully Plays," a play composed of many vignettes featuring a subject that's very personal to many of the high school actors.
The performance will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at North Marion High School. Tickets are $6 for adults, $4 for students and seniors.
After doing several lighthearted productions in recent years, the drama students asked Director Carol Read if they could do something more dramatic this time around.
"I brought up the idea of a show that deals with bullying or abuse," Read said. "The topic turned to how most of them have been bullied at some point."
So not only is this more serious material, but it's also more personal than anything they've performed.
"I was bullied by someone who was actually my best friend," admitted actress Sabrina Hook, a senior. "So that experience allowed me to commit more emotion to this. Physically, mentally, it's easier, it's empowering. It's something I can turn around and now give to others, helping to spread the message."
It's also forcing students to step into both shoes: those of the bully and the bullied.
"Some of the actors play a bully in one (vignette) and a 'bullied' in another," Read said. "It's a very good way to stretch their abilities. Each night they get more intense in their deliveries."
The relevance of the subject matter isn't lost on North Marion School District administrators: This is the first production in many years that the students will perform in front of their peers in a school assembly, as well as for the middle school and intermediate school students, all in addition to the two evening showtimes.
"This is super important to me because my sister is in middle school and I don't want what happened to me to happen to her," Alia Lader, a senior, said. "Middle school was really hard for me; I suffered depression and faced a hard battle to fight back. I want to show that bullying does exist and that we can actually stop it."
The play covers several forms of bullying, from a clown being teased for not fitting into any distinct social group to a class presidential candidate who bullies her friends into supporting her. One vignette even points at how teachers set an example by the way they treat each other.
"A couple of them are geared toward younger kids just to give it some levity," Read noted.
"One called 'Bystander Blues' is really powerful because I don't think people realize that you might not be involved in the active bullying, but you can still step in," Lader said. "I've been there, I could have stopped it. Now, next time I know I can. It makes me want to be a nicer person, to consider that I could be doing that and have no idea."
The students hope this is a wakeup call for all ages.
"These things do exist," junior Travis Coppinger said. "I hope parents understand this does happen. They don't want to believe it of their kids, but it does. I really hope we can influence advocacy against bullying and get the word out to stop it."