Bullying takes center stage

Bullying can take on many forms: a boy from the high school football team humiliating an unpopular girl or an over-controlling student government hopeful bossing around her best friend.

The two examples are scenarios from the book "The Bully Plays," an anthology of short performances from various writers.

The Huntington Beach High School Academy for the Performing Arts performed 14 of the 24 plays from the book at the Black Box Theater on campus last week.

The first play that APA's Actor's Repertory actors performed was "The Final Testimony of Henry Samson," by Y. York. The scene takes place in a purgatory of sorts, where a teen named Henry is being questioned because of his acts on one July 4th night.

Henry, played by junior Christian Hutcherson, 17, was a bully to an unpopular girl named Alice. He kissed her and left her in a mudflat that evening, and told the high school football team the next day that he had to "throw a dog a bone."

Christian's character discovers that Alice committed suicide after she found out through friends what Henry had said.

The APA student said he had been a victim of bullying in middle school because of his tall height and his choice to be a child actor.

"I've been acting professionally for 12 years and they said it was a waste of a job, that I'd never go anywhere, that I'd never do anything," Christian said. "But yet I've been on 'How I Met Your Mother.' I'm actually a recurring [character] on 'See Dad Run.'

"It goes to show that sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

APA theater Chairman Robert Rotenberry came across the book while looking for a play that his Company Class — the highest tier of the program's Actor's Repertory — could do for the year. With the plays' strong messages about bullying, he thought it would be fun for his students to act out while at the same time educational for their peers.

Rotenberry's students had the demanding task of putting on three 10-minute plays for three consecutive classroom periods at a time. On Dec. 4, his group performed three plays for six periods in a row.

He said he hopes the plays will encourage students to approach teachers and other faculty members if they're being bullied.

"A lot of the [bullying] cycles have to be stopped, and no one's willing to be the first one to make the step," Rotenberry said. "A lot of the impact of [these plays] has been people realize the whole sides of it…. Some of these plays are told from the bully's perspective, some the bystanders or the victim."

Senior Kayla Foley, 18, portrayed a victim in the play "The Bully Pulpit" by Dwayne Hartford. Her character realizes that her best friend, who's trying to be on the student council, is manipulative and not as good a person as once thought.

Foley said she's learned a lot about bullying from acting out these plays. She said it gives her perspective on how it feels to be bullied and to bully others.

"I would say to the people that are watching or witnessing these acts of bullying to step up and say something," she said. "It takes a lot of courage and it's worth it. You may save somebody's life."

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