Bullycide Aims to Prevent Bullying at Lake Fenton
Play focuses on stopping teenage suicides.
Across every high school in America, there is likely some form of bullying taking place.
Lake Fenton High School is no exception.
One group, however, is trying to put a stop to it in a unique way.
The Fenton-based Trust Theatre Ensemble has been performing The Bullycide Project, a play based on the book Bullycide in America, by Brenda High, which tells the story of 12 young adults who chose to end their lives because of bullying.
The play made a stop at Lake Fenton High School Monday in a special show for students.
"I saw the play in November in Flint and thought it was a great show," said Lake Fenton superintendent Wayne Wright. "We wanted to make our kids more aware of bullying and show them what to do if they are bullied."
The group describes "bullycide" as the act of committing suicide because of being bullied.
"This project and the process have been extraordinary," said Lori Thompson, play director and Fenton High School theater teacher.
She said whether it is verbal, physical or even through technology, bullying can still has the same impact on a person, no matter what form it is in.
Some Lake Fenton students, like senior Brianna Ruff-Hough, have felt that impact.
"I was bullied in elementary school because of the way I looked and how I acted. I'm over it now, but I still remember the mean things that were said about me in second grade. Hurtful words don't always leave as easily," Brianna said.
Wright said it is difficult to determine how much bullying is going on in the school.
"I think bullying goes on in all schools, but the degree you really don't know," he said. "You want kids to come up and say there is a problem, but a lot of cases go undetected. We want to give them more education, so they will let us know what is going on."
As soon as Thompson received permission from author Brenda High and all of the parents involved with the book, the research began.
Thompson, along with the entire Bullycide cast, conducted extensive research to make sure they included intimate details to add to each individual story from the book.
Jeffrey Johnston, Corinne Wilson, Megan Meier, Carl Hoover, Kimberly Linczeski, Jessica Logan, Phoebe Prince, Kristina Calco, Matt Epling and Alex Harrison, were some of the victims that inspired Bullycide in America to be written, Thompson said.
"Many of the cast members and I traveled to Minneapolis, Minnesota and to Portage and Cadillac, Michigan to interview family members, teachers, and friends of the individuals portrayed in the book," Thompson said.
The actors also conducted phone interviews and online messaging with other parents to learn more about their respective children.
They were also given photos, books of poetry, and personal items that belonged to the victims. Many of the personal items, such as Meier's own perfume, Epling's bike helmet and sweatshirt, the backpack and sword of Harrison, and Logan's own cell phone, were used in the scenes.
"The parents allowed us to take their personal journals and incorporate lines from them right into the script, and that's how most of it was written," Thompson said.
The play tells nine true stories of how bullying can destroy not just the lives of the victims, but of the parents, as well.
In one scene, called the "Rice Experiment," a victim's mother put together a science fair exhibit, to help put in perspective the effects of words on people and how they contributed to her daughter's death.
"I would have never though that a woman like me, along with 20 other individuals of all ages, would be sitting across from some incredibly brave, strong, and empowering parents who spoke to us with complete honesty and emotion." Thompson said.
After the performance of the show at Lake Fenton High School, there were several people in tears.
When asked if the audience had any questions, Eljesa Vitija, a Lake Fenton sophomore, said, "I don't have a question, but I just wanted to say thank you for this play."
She gave Thompson a hug, and they were both in tears.
"Witnessing the courage and conviction of the parents was the most awe-inspiring moment for me and the actors representing the stories in The Bullycide Project." Thompson said.