I think I may have been more excited than my daughter’s (Arionna, 8 and Gabrielle, 4) to see the stage play. My excitement stemmed from the fact that there was a theater-based event that focused on a topic relevant to the reality that my children are exposed to often in this day and age: bullying.
My eight-year-old daughter, Arionna, has come home many a time venting over the drama of school life and the subsequent variations of bullying that often comes with it. As a parent, it’s delicate territory to navigate when working to protect your child while also wanting to know and trust that school/after-school personnel are doing their best to ensure the same for them as well. I consider myself blessed [lucky–whatever you may believe] that my daughter is comfortable coming to me about subjects that can sometimes be difficult to talk to a parent about. I remember being eight…it’s not the walk in a park that we adults may sometimes like to remember it as.
So yes, I was excited because for me, my family’s attendance of Charron Monaye and D. Richardson Production‘s, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”, was an opportunity to not only spend some quality time with my daughters, but to also open the door for a refreshed discussion and perspective on the matter.
And that’s exactly what it served as.
Throughout the play, I watched as the girls soaked it all in. Their brows would furrow in frustration during those moments when the main character, Ricky (played by Chris Hopson), was bullied by his class peers, Keith (played by Trae) and Amir (played by Cameron Anderson Jr.). As we walked to the cafe area to buy food platters during the intermission [YES they had food–and you know I was too happy] they commented on how “rude those boys were”, but how it was “good that he had a friend like Yvonne (played by Monica Skinner) who was willing to stand up for him”. I smiled warmly and agreed with their developing analysis.
After getting our food, we checked out the various vendors on the scene. One vendor in particular, Diva Dollz and Co., sent Arionna into a frenzy after discovering they’re holding open auditions on Sept. 14th for kids to potentially join their music group.
At one point in the play, Ricky broke into tears when venting to his mom about the situation. He was so tired of being bullied and was reaching the end of his rope; he was ready to give in and give the bullies whatever it was that they seemed to desire out of him.
Now, I’m not going to lie–I’m a damn adult and I almost dropped a tear at his performance. I mean he really laid on the tears and he captured the essence of a youth who was truly TIRED. Have you ever seen a child who’s tired and hurting? My goodness it’s the most heart-wrenching thing you could ever witness.
I glanced over at my girls during the scene only to see their eyebrows raised high on their foreheads, knees gripping the edge of their seats, mouths slightly agape as they watched stunned by his sadness. The rest of the audience looked similar in their facial expressions–some even grabbed a tissue to dab at their watering eyes.
By the end of the play, Ricky’s bullying problem was resolved thanks to parents and faculty who took the time to step in and dig down to the core of the bully’s issues. It turned out that Keith, the main one who bullied, only did it out of protection for himself and out of loyalty to his friend [and fellow bully], Amir. After Keith’s mother put her foot down about her refusal to tolerate a bully in her household [she went old school at one point and used the scare tactic of threatening to call the cops on him] he rethought his position on the matter and severed friendship ties with Amir.
There were three things in particular that I appreciated about this play after attending it.
First, it brought out all age groups thus providing the chance to see how each of those groups reacted to the reality of bullying.
Second, it captured how deeply bullying alters the dynamics of the school and home environments, and the various relationships that exist in each of them. To speak to this truth, national anti-bullying expert, Dr. Claudio Cerullo of Teach Anti-Bullying, Inc., served as the host and moderator. He provided insight on the grim facts about bullying, how to combat them and how TAB, Inc. is here as a resource to the community.
Lastly, it was based off of a book written by the lead child-actor, Chris Hopson. After Arionna found this out–and then met Chris and some of the cast members–she was ecstatic and in awe of what someone not much older than her could accomplish. The sparkle in her eye was undeniable. That revelation, coupled with finding out that she could be a part of Diva Dollz and Co. was empowering for her. As a mother and woman who is ALL about empowerment…I couldn’t have been more happier.
Congratulations to the cast–you all did a good job! Thank you for your hard work and your message.
– Sincerely Syreeta