Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Teens relate to scenes on bullying, prejudice

Bullying. Prejudice. Discrimination.

These are difficult topics usually broached by school counselors or administrators.

Yet there's a drama troupe of 12 teens that travels to metro Atlanta schools, with the specific mission of putting faces on the troubling realities of life.

The actors are part of Project Impact Theater, an outreach program of the Jewish Theater of the South.

"The mission of the show is to raise the consciousness level of our audience [middle and high school students] with a show that makes them consider their own behaviors and the behavior of others as they relate to prejudice, discrimination, bullying, apathy and how these things are related to the Holocaust," said Mira Hirsch, artistic director of the Jewish Theater of the South.

The 45-minute presentation consists of 13 short scenes presented through a variety of styles that is sure to reach each audience member. Some scenes use comedy while others are more serious.

Hirsch describes some as more stylized, or poetry based while others use music or simply dialogue.

"Sometimes I call it 'short attention span theater,' " said Hirsch.

"It really works for this target population of kids for a number of reasons. If one scene doesn't appeal or is in a style that doesn't match with a person's learning style, then here comes another scene."

Some of the themes draw analogies with prejudicial behaviors that happen now, and the same behaviors that preceded the Holocaust, which Hirsch said makes clear "the kind of destruction that hateful behavior can lead to."

Hirsch, who's been involved with Project Impact Theater for 13 years, hosts a 15-minute question-and-answer session after each show. Each production is performed by six actors.

"It's incredibly rewarding when kids come up to us individually and give us their feedback," she said. "Kids who've been bullied and picked on sort of rush to us like we're the first persons they've told."

Teens in the audience, watching teens portray difficult situations on stage, is part of what "works" about Project Impact Theater.

"This is something I'm really proud of," said Hirsch. "It's had a huge impact on thousands of students across North Georgia."

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