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Life lessons through theater: Eighth-grade playwrights take on issue of bullying

The middle school play, “Welcome to Camp Brown Bear,” was written by members of the Eighth-Grade Playwrights Club. (Beth Leipholtz / Echo Press)1 / 2
From left, eighth-graders Anna Meehan, Marissa Hopper and Olivia Brault act out a scene in which Meehan’s character is getting bullied. The central theme of the play is bullying because students wanted to express that it is an issue in middle school. (Beth Leipholtz / Echo Press)2 / 2

The scene unfolding on stage could have been unfolding in real life — which was exactly the point.

The Discovery Middle School play, "Welcome to Camp Brown Bear," is set at a fictional summer camp and addresses the issue of bullying. It was written by members of the Eighth-Grade Playwrights Club. It follows the journey of Katherine, who attends summer camp and is bullied.

"One of her older, close friends starts to take advantage of her and bully her," said Anna Meehan, who plays the main character, Kathryn, and helped write the script. "It kind of follows the journey and you see why people choose to be bullies and what the effects of bullying are on the average teenager."

According to Meehan, most members of the playwrights club had personal experience with bullying and wanted to take express why it was such an issue.

"I was personally bullied this year and it was the first time that ever happened to me," Meehan said. "A lot of people come to our shows and we thought it would be good if we could make something more relatable, something that could resonate with the people not just in the cast, but with the people who come to see it."

Even if they were not personally victims of bullying, playwright club member Olivia Brault says everyone involved in the play had somehow been touched by bullying.

"Each of us had experienced a little bit of bullying," she said. "Not necessarily us being bullied, but our friends being bullied. We wanted to address the issue because we had noticed a lot of it in the last couple years at the middle school."

More than 70 students are involved in every aspect of the play, including the writing, set, lights, costume and acting.

The eighth-graders say they enjoyed writing the play and seeing it come together with everyone's ideas.

"It was really cool because I was assigned to write for a main character," Meehan said. "That let me put not only what the whole group wanted, but my own personal touches into the story. Then you can feel everyone's thoughts and intentions together into one big thing."

Brault says the hope is that the audience can take away real-life lessons from the performance.

"(The idea is that) even if you go through tough times there is always someone you can talk to," she said. "You don't have to take out what you are experiencing on someone else."

Welcome to Camp Brown Bear

WHEN: Friday, March 16, at 6 p.m., Saturday, March 17, at 1 and 4 p.m.

WHERE: Discovery Middle School Auditorium

COST: Tickets are free to the public and available at the door.

Cast:

Maggie Anderson

Cooper Angland

Brandon Arvidson

MaKenna Aure

Emma Blanshan

Sydney Bock

Joel Brault

Olivia Brault*

Keenan Bruso

Amiah Callaway

Heidi Carstensen

Julianna Cockrell

Jeremiah Denke

Lauren Dever

Emma Donahue

Rachel Duchene

Jonathan Elliott

Jaycee Elliott

Sarah Finazzo

Taylor Flynn

Caileigh Ford

Zachary Frederiksen

Emma Gylsen

Breck Hocum

Caroline Hoff

Marissa Hopper*

Taylor Huber

Madalyn Husfeldt

Kassidy Huwe

Max Jost

Abby Klitzke*

Coltan Koehn

Abigail Kor

Aidan Larson,

Reilly McCormick

Irene McDaniels

Oliva McTigue

Mark Meece

Anna Meehan*

Marissa Mellgren

Izzy Mohr

Aiden Nelson

Gracie Olson

Ali Pexsa*

Sarah Randall

Abigail Renney

Jackson Rehms

Olivia Reilly

Ana Risnes

Ella Risnes*

Mia Ritten

Sadie Robertson

Izzy Rodriguez

Sophia Roell

Brandon Ruffcorn

Gabriel Schneider

Hannah Skillings

Brayden Steidl

Shayna Steidl*

Mya Stender

Evan Strand

Meredith Sundby

Benjamin Swedberg

Adrienne Swenson

Brynn Swenson

Joslyn Tacker

Brett VanderTuin

Emma Walters

Matt Wieberdink

Serena Williams

David Winter

Elizabeth Winter*

Paige Wussow

Alex Zavadil

* Eighth-grade playwright

Beth Leipholtz

Beth is a reporter at the Echo Press. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in May 2015 with a degree in Communication and Hispanic Studies. Journalism has always been her passion, but she also enjoys blogging and graphic design. In her spare time, she's most likely at Crossfit or at home with her boyfriend and three dogs.

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