'Peanuts' parody tackles bullying

Although the set included the familiar bucolic trees, a blue sky sparsely spotted with clouds and a barn-red doghouse, the "Peanuts" gang was almost unrecognizable.

The Corona del Mar High School's play "Dog Sees God" depictsCharles M. Schulz' beloved characters as expletive-spouting high school students dealing with issues often untalked about: drugs, suicide, sex and sexual exploration, bullying, depression and abortion.

The play follows the high school students as they learn the serious, and potentially fatal, consequences of bullying.

The play's opening night Thursday was met with a standing ovation.

"I felt that if we did a play that was them acting as they really do when adults aren't around, it would have a bigger impact," said director Ron Martin, who put on the controversial "Rent" at CdM four years ago.

Martin chose "Rent" to address homophobia on campus, and though he believes "Dog Sees God" has an important message as well, he said he doesn't see bullying as much of an issue at CdM.

Still, he wanted to be proactive in addressing bullying, which is reaching an apex in national news coverage with the recent release of the documentary film"Bully."

Despite the play's positive message, the adult content and graphic language brought concerns for not only Martin, but the school administrators.

Martin said he tried toning it down, but both he and the cast didn't feel that the censored work was as powerful or as honest.

Instead, the play's audience has been restricted to juniors and seniors who have signed parental consent forms.

Younger students can view the play if they are accompanied by their parents, Principal Tim Bryan said.

Parent Jill Yank, whose son Kobe Yank-Jacobs played the lead, said she had concerns about the play's content, but saw how important it was to her son to spread the message.

"I thought it was a wonderful message to get across to high school students," Yank said.

Senior Oren Shaolian, CdM Human Relations Council's president, said the explicit language, which was used heavily, detracted somewhat from the emotion. Still, he said, the performance would leave him, and his peers, thinking about it.

"I thought it was very honest and moving," Oren said.

For the cast, it was important to get that message out there — even if it meant putting themselves in vulnerable positions.

Kobe and Josh Lee Aikin, who plays Beethoven (modeled after "Schroeder" from "Peanuts"), pretended to kiss many times on the stage as Kobe's character explored his sexual orientation as the school's perceived gay student.

"I think in order to prove a point you might sometimes have to do something provocative," Kobe said.

Being a part of the play also made the student actors think about their own behavior, said Jenna Funsten, who plays Marcy, after the performance that brought her to tears.

"Our whole point in this show was to give people a message, but it really reflected for ourselves," she said. "We're taking more away from it."


Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

If You Go

What: "Dog Sees God"

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Saturday and May 12

Where: Corona del Mar High School, Little Theatre, 2101 Eastbluff Drive

Cost: Free

Information: Junior and seniors must have signed permission slip

What: "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," a family-friendly alternative

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and May 11

Where: Corona del Mar High School, Little Theatre, 2101 Eastbluff Drive

Cost: Free

Information: Open to all ages

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