Play addresses bullying in sign, spoken languages
Published 5:47 pm Tuesday, April 25, 2023
Lakeland High School students are using their acting chops to take a stand against bullying.
The play, “The Bible and The Bully,” focuses on bullying as well as religion performed in both spoken word and sign language. Following the play, the American Sign Language club also plans a reunion.
American Sign Language teacher Anita Fisher and her students present the play at 6:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, May 4 and 5. Tickets are $3 for adults and $2 for students. Ages five and under attend free of charge.
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Fisher shared that she wrote the play at Christmas in 2019 after having been bullied as a teacher.
“It just came to me that I should do it. I had all the words, in three hours,” she said. “I had it all typed because God gave me all the words that I was supposed to do, and the characters and everything like that.”
Fisher said the play was to be presented early in 2020. Just three weeks before it opened, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the U.S. and the school doors were closed.
“This is my last year, so I wanted to bring the play back and to do it as my last play,” she said.
Fisher praised her students’ work and how much they have put into the play.
“It’s just so much fun. I love working with the kids,” she said. “I love (that) they get into it as much as I do.”
Because this performance is both spoken and in sign language, she said it takes hours of work,
“They not only have to learn their parts, they have to learn how to sign their parts,” Fisher said. “Plus, they have to do all the movements and everything.”
The students took time from practice to discuss the play.
Brice is played by Tyler Davis, who shared some about his character.
“It’s about bullying and a girl coming to a new place and not having any friends and trying to fit in. People help her and there’s some people that are not so nice about it,” Davis said. “I’m a boy who is friends with her, who’s nice, and kind of introduce myself to her.”
Carol, the bully in the story, is played by Liberty Dickinson. She shared some insight into the character’s motivations.
“I feel like she’s very insecure about herself,” Dickenson said. “In order to feel better, she brings down Kayla who is the main character. She has a lot of stuff going on, which definitely doesn’t justify what she does, but it definitely adds to it.”
Brenda Holloman has the challenge of tackling two roles, Ariana and Sam.
“Basically in the play, Ariana is sitting at lunch with her boyfriend when other people are around, and Kayla comes up to her and asks to sit with her and Ariana’s like ‘No, you can’t sit with us. Go sit somewhere else, there’s a lot of empty seats.’” Holloman said. “Then Sam — she’s different. She’s nice to her. Kayla asks her [if] can she sit with her and Sam says yes.
She said she is performing characters who are good and bad.
On juggling just contrasting roles, Holloman explained the challenges she faces.
“It’s kind of difficult because I feel like I’m more of a nicer person, so playing a mean character is kind of hard,” she said. “But I’ve learned to kind of juggle it and figure it out.”
Mrs. White, the principal, is played by Charlie Robertson, who notes her “assertive” personality.
“She wants to help the situation out and make sure Carol understands what she did wrong,” Robertson said.
She said it was “very fun” playing a principal.
Art teacher Mrs. Haynes is played by Emma King, who believes the teacher role is fun.
“You kind of get to mock them and copy them, but like in a respectful tone, kind of? And you basically just boss people around,” King said, drawing some laughter from Fisher.
She went on to discuss more about the character.
“She has a very uplifting personality. She wants to help everyone,” King said. “She wants to give them the best opportunity to be successful and opens everybody with open arms.”
She said the teacher is oblivious because most of the bullying does happen in her classroom.
Fisher and her students hope the play will give those attending insight into the problems that bullying creates.
“I’m just hoping that they know that they can talk to anybody, that it’s not something they got to keep undercover,” Davis said. “They can talk to guidance counselors, teachers, adults, that’s not something you have to deal with by yourself.”
Dickinson believes it offers a message that bullying can come in all forms and it may not look the same in some areas, but it’s definitely not fake.
“It’s definitely not something that you only see in movies,” she said. “It definitely happens.”
Holloman said people will learn that anybody can be bullied
“It doesn’t matter where you come from on what you believe in and just to stay positive and keep going and know that it will get better in the end,” she said. “Also I like to say that it’s really important that we’re focusing on bullying, but the play is about a Christian that gets bullied. And I like that we’re bringing religion into school because it’s been taken out of schools, and I like that people understand that it doesn’t matter. Christians do get bullied. I’ve definitely been bullied for being a Christian.”
Robertson said bullying is not going unnoticed.
“Hopefully this will help people to go to other people and ask them for help,” he said.
For King, its important that people learn they are not alone with the problem.
“You could be going through the same scenario that we’re showing or a completely different one,” she said. “There are people who will help you and there is a way to stop it. Just knowing that you’re not alone with it.”
Frisher wants people who are being bullied to know they can talk to someone — a principal, parent, guidance counselor. They should find an adult they can be comfortable talking with and who is comfortable talking with them.
“I’ve been talking in my classes. You don’t know who you might stop from being a mass murderer or from taking their own life,” she said.
By stepping up and addressing bullying, Fisher believes, “you don’t know what you can stop.”
ASL Club members need to RSVP for the reunion by May 1 at email@example.com.
Editor’s note: Updated third passage at 11:33 a.m., Thursday, April 27 to reflect accurate dates.