DAVIE (CBS4) – An acting class at Nova High School is using the power of performance to take on bullying.
Thirty acting students wrote and choreographed a half hour musical, The Weight of Words. The show takes on tough topics — like sexual orientation, race and suicide.
Students crafted the dialogue, music and lyrics from their own experiences. Instructors with the Lovewell Institute for Creative Arts helped shape their thoughts into a distinctive show.
Francesca Rousseau, a junior, said she has been on both sides of bullying.
“The truth is you really do not know what people go through at home or at school so you have to be really careful in what you say and your actions to others,” Rousseau told CBS 4’s Carey Codd.
The show focuses on two main characters whose stories of being “different” define the production.
In the performance, students hung words like “Outcast” and “Stupid” on the characters, allowing the audience to see the damage to their lives through hurtful words and actions.
Richard Lyseca said the most powerful part of the show is that it’s real.
“Each one of us put something real that we’ve been through in our lives,” Lyseca said. “It relates to others in so many ways.”
Students said they built the show around their own experiences but one look at news stories from the past few months reveals the dangers of school violence and bullying. Specifically, two violent incidents in Deerfield Beach — the burning of 15-year-old Michael Brewer and the beating of 15-year-old Josie Ratley — show how prevalent these incidents can be. There have been numerous school shootings nationwide in recent years where bullying played a large role in a student acting out violently.
Carrie Gilchrist, Associate Artistic Director of the Lovewell Institute, said students worked on the production for several months and put together a final product they can be proud of.
“I hope they take away their own authentic experience,” Gilchrist said. “That they learn to use their creativity to change the world and change their own lives. This show is the perfect example of that.”
The show, which is part of an ongoing effort by Project Bridge and Broward School’s Office of Prevention Programs to educate the public, was funded through a state grant and Theatre Director Nina Zakrzewski said students plan to tour the production through middle and high schools in Broward County.
During the performance, the actors asked their audience if they knew the “weight of their words.” One student, Alexandra Pola, believes the show will make other students think twice before bullying someone.
“It does show the viewpoint of the students and that’s why it will be effective because we can directly relate to it,” she said.