by Kevin Opsahl, Staff Reporter
April 2, 2009
Central Washington University is working in collaboration with the Ellensburg School District to help young students with the prevention of bullying.
Taproot Theatre’s dramatic productions, in conjunction with the Central Family Resource Center, the Diversity Education Center and the Center for Student Empowerment, will bring the Taproot Road Company from Seattle to perform its new educational production, “New Girl,” that directly addresses cyber-bullying.
The play’s first performance will be held in the SURC Theater April 3, for 230 ninth graders from Ellensburg High School.
“Since the Resource Center deals with families and children, it just seemed very appropriate to bring this to the university,” said Nan Doolittle, Family Resource Center program coordinator. “I hope we have a big turnout so that people can learn about bullying and prevention. I [also] hope others learn about why bullying occurs in the first place. I really think these plays will help address that.”
The plays are less than one hour in length, and following the performance, actors and actresses will hold a discussion with the teen audience on bullying prevention.
Although the performances are geared towards teenagers, Doolittle said anybody can learn from these performances.
“Bullying is sort of universal,” Doolittle said. “Not everyone is going to come forward out of shame.”
According to the National Youth Violence Prevention Center web site, approximately 30 percent of youth in the United States (more than 5.7 million), are estimated to be involved in bullying as either a bully, a target of bullying, or both. In a recent national survey of students in grades six through 10, 13 percent reported bullying others, 11 percent reported being the target of bullies, and another six percent said that they bullied others and were bullied themselves.
The idea for the performances came about during meetings Doolittle had with the Ellensburg School District interagency taskforce, an organization that deals with issues concerning students, teachers and parents. Scott Botten, student assistant counselor at Ellensburg High School, said the issue of bullying needed to be addressed, and pushed the idea for Taproot to come perform at Central after he heard about their new educational performance.
“Everyone agreed it sounded like a neat idea,” Botten said. “It’ll be a different way to teach kids about bullying, a different way to present the material. This play speaks directly to kids who use text messaging and [online] chat rooms [to bully classmates].”
The play, written by Josh Hornbeck, was conceived from feedback given by faculty from various public schools across Washington State. Alicia Anderson, education and outreach associate at Taproot, said that more teachers were becoming concerned with cyber bullying, and within the last year, the road company has taken the performance to various schools throughout the state.
“When we do [performances at] schools, we focus on social issues,” Anderson said. “The last couple of years, [cyber bullying] has been a big problem in Washington state.”
According to their Web site, six college graduates from Seattle Pacific University founded the Taproot Theatre Company in 1976. The company that began as a touring group has now become one of Seattle’s largest mid-size theatre companies. Today, Taproot Theatre serves more than 150,000 people annually throughout the Pacific Northwest with a full main stage season, touring programs and acting studio.
Taproot performs at Christmas shows, churches, and school assemblies; have toured the Pacific Northwest and plan to perform in Portland later this spring, according to the company’s web site.
The first performance begins at 1:15 p.m. and the second performance starts at 3 p.m. for Central faculty, students, staff and community members.