Dallas Children’s Theater Calls Out Teen Bullying in The Secret Lives of Girls
Teen bullying is more prevalent than
you might think
by Mina Frannea
According to familyfirstaid.org, almost 30 percent of teenagers in the United States are involved in school bullying. Thirty percent represents about 5.7 million kids who are either victims, bullies or both. Bullying can take the form of physical harm or a threat to do physical harm, emotional abuse (teasing, taunting, name calling) or more indirect attacks such as being deliberately excluded from an activity. Cyberbullying, the act of harassing someone online, has become more prevalent in today’s technological age and can leave its victim feeling helpless and isolated. In whatever form it takes place, bullying hurts and can leave a child feeling depressed, overwhelmed and powerless. Bullying can even lead some kids to suicide.
In The Secret Lives of Girls, by award-winning playwright Linda Daugherty, the Dallas Children’s Theater brings attention to this important and very real issue facing our children. Directed by Nancy Schaeffer, The Secret Lives of Girls tells a compelling story about a group of early adolescent, middle school girls who engage in destructive behavior towards each other. We see the girls gossiping, name calling, spreading disparaging rumors and spitefully excluding each other from activities.
Stephanie, the volleyball team captain and the most popular girl in school, instigates most of the negative behavior, using emotional manipulation to get the other team members to do what she wants. Played convincingly in this performance by Reanna Bell, Stephanie entices the team to first turn against the newest team member, Abby (Colleen Breen), and then against each other. The show candidly illustrates how such negative behaviors can spiral out of control and become a prelude to other serious behaviors such as depression, cutting, eating disorders and premature sexuality. It also shows how easy it is for parents to miss what is happening with their children until it’s too late. Abby’s mom, played by Lisa Schreiner, chalks up Abby’s behavior at home to that of a normal teenager until Abby falls into a deep depression. She then struggles to help her daughter, but doesn’t know how to reach her or how Abby has gotten to this point. Ms. Schreiner’s performance demonstrates how most parents may react to a situation like this.
The Secret Lives of Girls introduces cyberbullying through interactions and communications on a popular social media site, illustrating how quickly unflattering photos of one of the girls were shared online. The target of the photos, Rebecca, is also the victim of name calling, being addressed by the other girls as a “sausage” and other such weight related terms. We learn towards the end of the show that Rebecca may have the eating disorder bulimia. I felt disappointed that we didn’t get to see Rebecca’s reaction to the posting of her photos online, but I think that the show provides parents with a believable introduction to the concept of cyberbullying.
The Secret Lives of Girls is a show that will leave you with a heightened sense of empathy and awareness for bullying victims and their perpetrators. Because of how the subject matter may affect the audience emotionally, and also to allow a forum for genuine discussion about this difficult subject, DCT has an interactive Question and Answer session immediately following the performance that is facilitated by therapeutic professionals. For this performance, the facilitated dialogue included a panel of four teens who answered audience questions and discussed how bullying may have impacted their lives or the lives of someone they know. Kudos to DCT for their forethought in providing this helpful session.
Bullying can be very devastating to those involved. Dallas Children’s Theater has done a tremendous job bringing attention to and portraying this difficult subject in a realistic light with The Secret Lives of Girls. Parents, while difficult to watch at times, this show will likely be an eye opener for you and your teenager. The Secret Lives of Girls is playing through February 26th, which is this Sunday. To purchase tickets, visit the DCT website at www.dct.org.
Note that this show is recommended for ages 12 and up as the subject matter and some of the dialogue are not suitable for younger children.
Mina Frannea is a freelance writer and a social media consultant. A Mom to eight-year-old twins, Mina enjoys writing about life in general, family friendly activities around town, favorite recipes and crafts that keep her children busy and happy. For more posts by Mina, visit her blog at www.themomsjournal.com.
Disclosure: Dallas Children’s Theater invited me to this performance of The Secret Lives of Girls. The above represents my personal opinion of this production.
Images Courtesy of Karen Almond Photography