Play embodies suicide, bullying prevention efforts

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Holly Allen, a junior theatre arts major holds Imani McDaniel, a senior theatre arts major on Wednesday during their rehearsal in the Doudna Fine Arts Center for “Gidion’s Knot” by Johnna Adams. “Gidion’s Knot” wil be peformed Oct.1-4 in the Black Box Theatre in the Doudna Fine Arts Center.

Kalyn Hayslett, Verge Editor

A tragic suicide of a fifth grader sparks a parent-teacher conference with emotionally compromised women determining why this death took place in the performance “Gidion’s Knot” by Johnna Adams.

The heart of the performance centers around the issue of bullying and how the educational system, family unit and society’s norms are equally to blame for the young boy’s death on Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in the Doudna Fine Arts Center Black Box.

Nestled in the middle of September, suicide prevention month and October bullying prevention month focus on prevailing issues for all potential audiences: students, community members, parents and professional staffs.

Unfortunately 10 to 15 percent of students deal with frequent bullying incidents daily, while 70 to 80 percent experience a form of harassment at least once during the school year, said Dr. Lindsey Jenkins, psychology professor.

“My heart aches for all of the young people we have lost because the bully was intolerable,” said J. Kevin Doolen, director.

Doudna Fine Arts Center partnered up with Registered Student Organization Bridging Voices in our Community for the fifth annual bullying prevention conference on Oct. 2, by performing a matinee show at 2 p.m. with a talkback session after the performance.

“As an artist it is an opportunity or a responsibility to such subjects to bring to light in the theatre, which becomes a wonderful arena for the community to consider those topics,” Doolen, said. 

Although the play is not based on a true event, it is inspired by actual incidents, and lasts the length of a realistic parent-teacher meeting with two strong and contemporary characters.

With only a two-person cast and an intimate setting, preparation became very intense, with the actresses focusing on the details and learning as much as possible on their roles.

“When you do a small cast play each of the roles are sociologically appealing and emotionally all over the place,” Doolen said. “So digging into that kind of depth is why it is appealing to me.”

The director partnered with principal of the Deerpath Middle School in Lake Forest, Ill. and set up a meeting explaining to cast members the actual bullying policies of the school. The actresses also visited  an actual fifth grade classroom in Tuscola.

Focusing on paralleling real educational procedures, classroom expectations and conferences for character development not only perfects the performance’s relevance as well as, but also makes it easier for the audience to relate to the performance.

“Its been fun for me to not just see them grow artistically as actors. It’s better than fun; its rewarding for me to see them learn about aspects of life just by working on this play,” Doolen said.

Both the theatrical performance and the bullying conference addresses multi-level issues that target a variety of audiences who experience bullying in different ways. 

BVC’s bullying  prevention conference offers sessions on social, emotional learning, bystander intervention, teacher victimization, racial bullying, and bullying state and federal laws across the spectrum so that participants can gain a variety of information.

“If it’s interesting at all to you, go, because you never know if you could enjoy it,” Jenkins said. “There is something out there for everybody.”

The bully prevention conference is held in the Union, with free registration for students and $50 fees for professionals.

Tickets for “Gidion’s Knot” can be purchased in the box office. Students pay $5, Eastern employees and seniors pay $10, and general admittance is $12.

Kalyn Hayslett can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]