Its not unusual for high school students to become involved in theater but it is significant when high school students produce a play about exclusion and take it on the road to end bullying.
For her senior project at Forest Grove High School, Lex Benefiel will co-direct a play that communicates the pain of being excluded, and the powerful results of inclusion. The project brings together 40 student actors, with and without disabilities, in an ongoing project that highlights issues such as discrimination, bullying, and exclusion of people with special needs.
In its first year, the program focused on discrimination against students with special needs. Last year, the play addressed bullying. Titled “Army of One,” this year’s play focuses on stories of exclusion and the transformation to inclusion. The play is also part of Special Olympics Oregon’s program.
Co-directed by staff member John Anderberg and Benefiel, the play features five different scenarios where teenagers felt left out or misunderstood. At the end, they all come together.
In one, a P.E. teacher at first won’t allow a transgender student to play on the girls’ team during class. In another, the dance team changes the time of practice and doesn’t tell a teammate. For one scene, a student who likes theater is faced with his family’s disapproval.
Forest Grove’s Project UNIFY to put on play “Army of One” Forest Grove’s Project UNIFY Productions program will give a voice to those who have been excluded as they tell the story of several high school students who feel they have been excluded. The show, entitled “Army of One”, works to empower people to advocate for themselves and work together to create unity. The cast includes students with and without disabilities.
Anderberg, an educational assistant and tech director for the theater department, wrote the play based on students’ stories. He went to two English classes in each grade at Forest Grove High School, and asked students to tell him about times they felt included or excluded.
“I just kind of crafted it from there,” he said.
Exclusion and cliques are an inherent part of high school, said junior Mireya Rosas. Through the production, the goal is to make the community aware of that truth, she said.
“We want people to realize just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there,” Rosas said.
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