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Ed Tech players scorn bullies

Beaufort County Ed Tech Center’s theater classes performed “Sticks and Stones,” a play about bullying, for parents and friends at the school’s Spring Gala. (Contributed Photo)

One fell from grace with a teen pregnancy. Another suffered for having a different attitude towards life. One was ridiculed for a physical disability; another’s was mental. All of them were bullied — by classmates, teachers, parents; by kids who thought they were being funny.

Bullying was the theme of a play performed May 17 by Beaufort County Ed Tech Center’s theater students for the school’s annual Spring Gala. Written by the theater teacher Margie Holder, edited, performed and staged by the theater students, “Sticks and Stones” was a play about cruelty, both intentional and unintentional, and how to rise above it.

In a staged classroom, the actors portrayed typical students and class behavior, which Holder said boosted their performances because they “got to be their real selves.”

Behind the scenes, Melissa Gammon, Mr. Timothy Leach, Jeff Campbell handled all the technical details of lighting and sound, while Janesha Peels, in the role of Ms. Peele, played a teacher who bullied her students without realizing it. In her classroom were Brittany (Brittany Rinker), whose peace and love attitude was ridiculed by her peers; Renita (Renita Chase), teased because of her physical disability, scoliosis. There’s Bubba (John Robbins), a boy who suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and was angry most of the time because his treatment by his teacher and classmates, and Swyanna (Swyanna Stevenson), scorned by her popular friends when she became pregnant.

All these characters revolved around a bully, J.C. (Cameron Woolard), abused and now the abuser, another boy being bullied, Jordan (A.J. Scott), an angel named Tess, in search of her wings (Kiara Collins) and two funny ladies (Jal’Kira Flowers and Jikema Lucas) in heaven’s waiting room who provide some comic relief for a play that delved into the serious topic of bullying.

The play takes on an issue — teen suicides caused by bullying — that’s been in national headlines in the past several years. In one scene the actors quote real statistics about bullies and where they ultimately end up in life: in prison, without jobs because they can’t get along with others.

Holder said the actors to related to their roles, which is what she’d intended when she wrote “Sticks and Stones.”

“When I’m writing the play, I’ll use parts of (my students) in the roles,” said Holder. “When we hash out the characters, they see themselves in them. They end up choosing to be those characters — ‘I want to do this person because I know that (situation).’”

A National Board Certified teacher, Holder has been teaching at Ed Tech since 2004, but it was only last year she took the director’s chair at the school. Her previous theater experience included high school and college roles, but with the help of Patch Clark, theater education coordinator at East Carolina University, Holder has developed a program where kids work 90 minutes a day, actively participating in all phases of the production, start to finish. According to Holder, it’s a commitment that goes beyond the normal classroom expectations.

“The week of the performance they’re with me the entire day and they’re responsible for making up work in other classes,” said Holder, who said that no matter how nervous she is up until curtain time, her students pull the production off without fail.

“It’s a fluid process until about five minutes before it happens because I do give them permission to ad lib if they feel like it will work well with the audience,” said Holder. “Some of these kids have never had the opportunity to perform…for them to stand up and say ‘yeah, I’ll do it’ is outstanding.”