Bully. Target. Bystander. Hero.
The vocabulary words took on greater meaning for elementary school students at the Edgartown School on Thursday morning as they watched eight junior high students in the IMP theater program present Assertions, a series of monologues on the topic of bullying.
On Tuesday morning, a group of high school IMP players performed a similar piece for a middle school audience.
Assertions is a collaborative effort between IMP performers, Edgartown School guidance counselors, teachers and administrators, and most important, Edgartown School students themselves. Last spring, students in Sue Costello’s health classes anonymously answered writing prompts about bullying. Mrs. Swift took those answers and created the Assertions monologues. “I wanted everybody’s voice to be heard,” Mrs. Swift said. “Some talk[ed] about it not even existing . . . I didn’t judge the monologues, I just chose them.”
The IMP troupe presented examples of physical and emotional bullying, differences between bullying by girls and by boys, and steps for dealing with bullies. The body language of the young actors said just as much as their respective lines.
Mrs. Swift remembered a particularly poignant moment from the Tuesday run. One actress stood at center stage, proudly declaring she loved singing. The actors surrounding her laughed, and the audience laughed with them. The actress’s voice grew softer and less proud as she whispered “I love to sing,” and walked offstage.
“The audience started to laugh, realized what they were doing, and stopped,” Mrs. Swift said. “The actors all talked about it afterwards.”
“My hope is that this affects change,” Mrs. Swift said. “I don’t know what that change will be, but we can get people talking about it.”
— Ivy Ashe