Martha’s Vineyard students apply dance, music, theater to bullying

IMP for Kids actors acted out scripts written by Island students, anonymously, the better to tell it like it is. Standing, from left, Amy Fligor, Carter D'Angelo, Della Burke, Clare Boland, Sydney Johnson, Ashley Girard. Kneeling, Samantha Cassidy, Liam Waite. — Photo by Yoojin Cho

How do you define a bully? What is that fine line between bullying and joking? Can’t kids simply be nice to one another?

Questions like these are thought-provoking and age-old, yet many teachers and parents continue to struggle to find a solution to the issue of bullying. So Donna Swift of IMP for Kids and Sandy Stone of the YMCA Dance Program turned to students for help.

They asked Island students to speak truthfully about bullying, and based on what they found out they created an hour-long production that combined music, dance, and theater.

The result was showcased in front of about a hundred audience members at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) Performing Arts Center.

Assertions: Kids Speak Out Through the Arts featured actors from IMP for Kids and dancers from YMCA Dance Program who twirled around the stage to live music performed by Joanne Cassidy’s vocal students.

“[Sandy and Donna] have been hearing a lot from the kids about bullying assemblies and how they weren’t really helping,” Ashley Girard, recent graduate of MVRHS, said. “They make it like a joke, so they wanted to do something to make people talk about it.”

In fact, with monologues like “How can you judge people when you don’t even know them?” and “Cyber bullying is probably worse because you can hide behind a computer screen,” the production made the audience think about emotional effects of bullying.

“This is very different than what we usually do. We are used to doing comedy,” MVRHS junior Carter D’Angelo said.

Many of the IMP for Kids actors agreed their schools either do not talk a lot about bullying or only focus on extreme consequences, instead of helping students realize how bullying affects people and how to avoid being a victim.

“I learned how it truly makes people feel, and I learned a lot from that,” Della Burke, IMP actor and MVRHS junior said. “I think I was really blessed to work on this because it’s great to be the voice for kids who couldn’t necessarily say it.”

Through music and movements the performance conveyed the message, finding out who you are and being confident are two most important factors.

For many of the actors and dancers who performed Thursday evening, theater was one way they found confidence.

MVRHS junior Clare Boland said, “No matter what you do, you’re not wrong because it’s improv.”

“It helped me to be able to let go and not worry about what’s going to happen or what others will think,” said sophomore Amy Filgor, another IMP for Kids actor.