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Kids Relate to Play about Bullying

The Bedford Acting Group, Bedford Middle School's drama club, stepped out of its comfort zone for its final performance of the year.  This past Thursday and Friday, May 27 and 28, the group staged "Higher Ground," a play about bullying in middle school.  Sydney Robinson, an actor in the play, says her classmates thought the play was very realistic. "They all said they could really relate.  They thought it was funny and harsh."

The play is made up of a series of vignettes about the different ways kids get bullied.  The scenes deal with issues like sexual orientation, weight, and learning disabilites.  The play's opening scene shows a group of boys harassing one of their classmates, who they taunt as "gay."  Another scene involves an overweight girl who is called "a cow".  "This is definitely different than anything else I've ever done," says Sydney, who usually performs in musicals or comedies.  "You are playing someone your own age, just like yourself and that makes it a lot harder."

In the play, Sydney, whose character's name is Jess, plays the best friend of a kid who gets bullied.  "At first, I'm a bystander.  I never say anything.  But by the end, I get courage to speak up for my friend."

“Higher Ground,” was written by Jennie Brown, a middle school teacher from Portland, Oregeon. Bedford's drama teacher, Karen McCormick, found Brown's play online.  "I thought it was edgy, but real," says McCormick.  Brown originally wrote the play for her students at Sherwood Middle School, in a suburb of Portland, but parents thought the material was too controversial.  School adminstrators decided to cancel the play just days before it was scheduled to open there. The play was later staged in a community theater and became the subject of media attention.

Bedford parents, unlike the Sherwood parents, embraced the play.  They are so excited about it that they chipped in to have Brown fly to Westport for the performance.

"I could see Ms. Brown in the audiece reading the playbill and dabbing her eyes," says Sydney.  "I think she was very touched."  Sydney's mother, Tracy Robinson, agrees.  "It was a very emotional evening especially because Jennie Brown was in the audience."

The play will be performed for all Bedford Middle School students in mid-June. Because Robinson thinks the play's message is "just so important," she is reaching out to other local middle schools to invite their students to attend Bedford's performances and to encourage other schools to stage it. Anyone interested in learning more can contact Tracy at trayrobin@aol.com.

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