Standing Up: Playback Theatre and School Bullying by Jo Salas

This month it’s my turn to contribute a post. With kind permission from the editors, this article is excerpted and adapted from my chapter “Stories in the Moment: Playback Theatre for Building Community and Justice,” published in Acting Together: Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict, Vol 2, eds. Cohen, Varea and Walker, published by New Village Press in 2011. (I encourage readers to explore this remarkable anthology of writings on theatre that addresses conflict in many parts of the world.)

“Standing Up: Playback Theatre and School Bullying” describes and evaluates the approach pioneered by Hudson River Playback Theatre in upstate New York, now used by other PT companies as well.

Standing Up: Playback Theatre and School Bullying

by Jo Salas

Emma—not her real name–is a seventh grader, about 12 years old. She’s small for her age, slender, very smart, very artistic. She’s not part of the “popular” crowd in her class. Emma’s interests are different, she doesn’t make friends easily, she can be a bit sarcastic and prickly. For a long time, she’s been the target of daily, relentless, cruel bullying. She comes to school every day knowing that other kids are going to make fun of her, isolate her, and humiliate her. She feels powerless to stop it. She’s talked to her teachers and her parents. Her parents have talked to the principal. The principal has scolded the bullies. Nothing seems to help. Telling her story in a Playback Theatre performance, she says: “It feels like they’re tearing my heart out.” All she wants is for the other kids to leave her alone. She would also like it if a couple of the other girls would ask her about her artwork.

Emma has five more years of school. She doesn’t know how she’s going to survive.

What can we, both adults and young people, do to stop this kind of suffering? Continue reading “Standing Up: Playback Theatre and School Bullying by Jo Salas”