Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

April 9, 2014

Overcoming bullying through the arts

Dawson-Bryant High School students granted magical opportunity

COAL GROVE — By drawing upon some of the darkest moments in their lives, some Dawson-Bryant High School student actors have the opportunity to travel to the happiest place on Earth.

The acting group performed a play written by junior Samantha Robinson that focused on overcoming bullying in school, a problem Robinson said is prevalent in many local schools today.

A parent of the group contacted Disney Youth to land the Coal Grove cast a chance for an authentic theater experience in the DY program Acting 101.

Acting 101 takes students behind the scenes of a Broadway play and allows them to observe professional acting, from setup to break down.

In a letter of appeal sent out to community members, Robinson said she received a discounted rate for the cast to take the educational trip to Orlando because of the context of the situation.

The referred “situation” is the incredible journey behind the cast and the emotional dynamics students took control of while preparing for the opening performance.

Aside from the fact that the subject of bullying is naturally sensitive, it is something that hits close to home for Robinson and her younger sister, Jenna Robinson, who was an actor in the play.

In the letter cited earlier, Samantha Robinson briefly told readers about her history in foster care and the bullying she endured growing up.

She told The Independent that bullying because of her curly, auburn hair became so intense as a child that she and her sister were forced to move to a private school.

There, they were distanced from the taunting and developed into confident, intelligent teenagers.

After attendting Sugar Creek Christian Academy, the girls returned to public school and enrolled at Dawson-Bryant. Samantha Robinson said she has always fostered a passion for writing and participated in playwright activities at Sugar Creek.

When she came to Dawson-Bryant, she said she had more freedom as a playwright because subjects were not limited to Christian topics.

Thus, her “Glee”-inspired play against bullying was created.

Having personal experience in overcoming bullying gave her the tools to help her peers in the play to overcome their own struggles.

“Just about every one of the actors have been through an incident in which they were singled out by other students,” she said. “But you could tell by the end of our first performance of the play, the cast has been able to grow as individuals and become stronger.”

In the cast of 30 students, only three male members initially joined. Samantha Robinson said shortly before the first performance, two of the boys dropped out because of bullying.

“People were saying they were gay for being in theater,” she said. “It was really hard on them and us, considering they were in major roles.”

After bullying comments continued to plague the cast, Samantha Robinson said she began having the cast gather at the end of their rehearsals to participate in exercises that centered on self-love and acceptance of each other.

“There was a lot of crying, a lot of tears,” she said. “But we grew stronger as friends and as people.”

To continue interest in the theater program at Dawson-Bryant, Samantha Robinson said the trip to Disney is important.

She said it not only educates the cast about how to perform professionally, but is also a reward for hard work on the play.

The group is self-funded with little opportunities to fundraise. Community donations are crucial to the fruition of the Orland trip. The group is tasked with raising $11,000 by June.

To help the acting group, donations can be made via PayPal to gleefundkids@yahoo.com or by check to the Coal Grove Glee Fund.

For more information, call Samantha Robinson at (740) 302-7190 or write to gleefundkids@yahoo.com.

LANA BELLAMY can be reached at lbellamy@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.

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