Teen Uses Theater to Deliver Bullying Prevention Message
Ben Powell has been performing for others since the age of 3. Now at 19 years old, he enjoys acting, singing, and playing the guitar and trombone. As a high school student, Ben used his talents to impact his community. Specifically, Ben and his peers created a theatrical production to spread awareness about the potential consequences of bullying. With the support of his high school drama teacher, he and other students developed the project:
“Our drama teacher approached us and presented the idea that a message to students may be more effective if their peers delivered it. So, our drama class wrote the script. We also helped design the sets, and were the main actors in the production.”
The group called the project Teen Reality. Similar to a haunted house attraction, audience members walked through the sets to view the different scenes. The plot centered on several youth. These youth included those who bullied, a young person who was the target of bullying, and youth who witnessed the behavior. The characters in the play experienced negative outcomes that can be linked to bullying. For example, they dealt with mental health issues, substance abuse, and suicide.
“We chose to focus on bullying so we could show people that their words and actions can have a huge impact on someone’s life. We also wanted to show the psychological scarring that being bullied or bullying others can cause. It does not always happen, but bullying someone can lead to very serious consequences. That was the overarching message for the play.”
The drama teacher and students gained the support of the school district and broader community. They received support from the school board, city council, law enforcement, hospitals, and other local groups and businesses.
The primary audience for the play was middle and high school students in Ben’s school district in Southeastern Georgia. At the end of each performance, the group organized school assemblies to further discuss bullying and its effects. Students were able to speak about their experiences with bullying. The reach of the production went beyond the student body. Ben and his drama team peers performed for other community members. A local television station also aired the play.
“I thought the message would fall on deaf ears, but I realized it was impactful. People were emotional and their reactions made me realize its impact. I felt fortunate to be a part of people’s experiences and to have possibly influenced their behaviors.”
Ben graduated from high school last May. He is now a freshman in college at Georgia Southern University. He is pursuing a degree in multimedia communications. His goal is to have a career in the entertainment industry. Ben would like to continue using his skills and talents to promote efforts to prevent bullying:
“I plan to live my life by example. My goal is to show people that there is no good excuse for bullying, no matter what the reason is. In the future, I want to join more organizations and find more opportunities to help spread this message. I want to set an example with my lifestyle choices and find anyway to help spread the news the best way that I can.”
Are you a teen interested in developing bullying prevention activities in your area? Visit our Teens page for tips on how to get started.