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Sticks and Stones

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    Students in Kathleen Juhl’s spring 2014 Theatre and Social Change class are collaborating with students in Sarah Beauchamp’s Honors Theater class at Tippit Middle School on a play designed to raise awareness about bullying. Norma Bowles (left), whose Los-Angeles-based educational theatre company Fringe Benefits specializes in uniting children’s theater with social justice, is co-directing the play. (Photos by Elizabeth Stewart)
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Theatre project unites students from Southwestern and local middle school in fight against bullying

From kindergarten to college, kids struggle with bullying, either as victims, bystanders or the bullies themselves. This semester, Southwestern students in Kathleen Juhl’s Theatre and Social Change class are collaborating with 6th, 7th and 8th graders at Tippit Middle School to raise awareness about bullying and urge those confronted with bullying to take action.

The collaboration takes the shape of an original play written and performed by Juhl’s students and by students in Sarah Beauchamp’s Honors Theater class at Tippit. The show, titled “Sticks and Stones,” is based on story-telling circles and email correspondence through which Tippit students related their real-world experiences with bullying.

Juhl and Beauchamp are co-directing the play with guest artist Norma Bowles, whose Los-Angeles-based educational theatre company Fringe Benefits specializes in uniting children’s theater with social justice. This is Bowles’ second collaboration with Southwestern and its wider community. The first was with the play “As Seen on TV,” which brought together members of the Southwestern community and students at McNeil High School in Round Rock.

One of the benefits of reaching out to students still in middle school and high school is what Juhl calls “mutual learning” − the idea that middle schoolers have as much to teach Southwestern students as Southwestern students have to teach them.

“I think that being involved with Southwestern students who respect and listen to them has really enhanced the lives of the Tippit students and, frankly, my students have been blown away by the insights, smarts and talent that the Tippit students are bringing to our project,” Juhl said.

At a recent rehearsal in Beauchamp’s classroom, Southwestern students and Tippit students alike offered suggestions for staging and line delivery, while Juhl, Beauchamp and Bowles worked to incorporate the suggestions. One scene features a dynamic tableau in which each student actor tells a brief story about an experience with bullying. Afterwards, they identify themselves as a bully, victim or bystander. The scene demonstrates how even those who merely witness bullying are implicated in its persistence.

“The goal of the project is to convince students at Tippit to stop bullying one another and to become allies for eliminating bullying at the school,” Juhl said. “This means intervening when they see bullying behavior instead of standing by and watching it happen. The problem is horrendously prevalent and results in the deaths of way too many young people.”

The show will be performed at Tippit March 24, and will have a second showing at the Research and Creative Works Symposium April 8. That performance will begin at 10 a.m. in the Caldwell-Carvey Foyer, which is located in the Fine Arts Building.

For Juhl, “Sticks and Stones” is just one example of what Southwestern students and the Georgetown community can do when they work together. She said she is planning more collaborations with her Theatre and Social Change classes next year.

−       Elizabeth Stewart ’14

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