Playwriting

How to end my play?

I’m working on a new play for middle schools about bullying. It’s going to be mostly non-verbal (although as I continue to work on it, that actually means no dialogue as actors will make sound). The theme of the play is how overwhelming a bullying situation can be – not just having to deal with a bully, but the fact that friends may desert the bullee, that parents may push the bullee to stand up for themselves, that teachers may not believe the victim. That bullies often end up escaping appropriate punishment because the adults involved aren’t willing to step up themselves.

I’m circling around about the end of the play. It can’t be all ‘hey all I have to do is tell a teacher and all my problems will be solved! Hooray!’ Telling a teacher did didly squat when I was bullied in middle school and the research pretty much shows as such. On the opposite end, it can’t be a violent retaliation, a vomit of anger, a bloody shoot out because then schools won’t do the play. Which belies the point of writing it. Middle school is such a tightrope in that regard. At the end of the day, it’s better to have the play in the schools, being performed.

So, I thought I’d throw this out to you. Given the circumstances (it’s for Middle Schools performers/audiences, it can’t have a ‘and they all lived happily ever after ending,’ nor can it sound like a government statistics¬†pamphlet) how would you end the play? What’s the most important message when it comes to this issue? What do you want relayed to a middle school audience? What is important to get across to that one kid who feels so alone and unable to see a way out of his/her situation?

The floor is open.

About the author

Lindsay Price

7 Comments

  • Have the victim get shoved a few times near the end of the play, only to suddenly shove the bully back, even harder. At that point the bully could either walk off, or push back a few more times, weaker each time until he does walk off.

    The act is not violent per se, as there is no blood or injury, but for a silent theatrical show would stand in well to symbolize that the key to bullies is to not back down.

    It may deliver more of an an impact of the victim is surrounded by friends who just watch as the bullying goes on, but who join in the shoving back of the bully once the victim stands up. Maybe surround the bully with a circle of freshly emboldened student, and push him around the circle like a ball or something at random until he runs off. The lesson represented would be that sometimes other fundamentally good people need a bit of an example from a leader to do the right thing eventually.

  • I was a bullying recipient all through middle and high school, the kind of insidious stuff that you look like an ass complaining about, but that really creates a hostile environment. The only thing that got better was getting older and living better. And I don’t know how to show that in a play.

    You might glance through Please Stop Laughing at Me by Jodee Blanco – her book made it pretty big and I heard her on NPR the other day. Her biggest advice for parents that I found surprising and also true – “Stop telling your kid to ignore it. Kids don’t work that way, and it just eggs the bullies on. To a kid, it’s a sign that they’re getting to the victim.” Her advice to help the kid was to get them involved in activities in a different town, so that they’d have some friends OUTSIDE the existing circle. At the end of her book, Blanco goes to a reunion and the former bullies DON’T EVEN REMEMBER treating her badly. Emphasis mine.

    I don’t think bullying is solvable inside the existing social circle unless something dramatic happens, like they get hit by a car or whatever.

    For me, I changed schools naturally in the move from middle to high school. I got leftover bullying in 9th grade, then joined the “weirdo drama kids” social group. The bullying slowed down in 10th grade and was mostly gone by 11th. It was a combination of people had better things to do with their time, it started to be OK to be smart as we all focused on college, I wasn’t the only weird/literary kid in school, and I started to be respected as a school activist.

    Hmmm. Brainstorming:
    Victim reaches out to one friend, and it grows from there
    One adult backs victim and it grows from there
    Victim asks “why?’ in words
    Victim becomes active in a way not related to the bullying that earns respect
    Victim leaves and it’s just a sad play
    Victim flashes forward to starting the new day somewhere else next year and finds one friend.

    Feels like it’s gotta be subtle, flicker of hope not Hallmark special (which it sounds like you already totally know).

    I don’t know if it CAN be conveyed to a kid who’s in it right now that they will survive and it will get better. I was 25 before I “got over it”, maybe older than that. It still surprises me when people like me after meeting me. I’m apparently very “popular” as an adult – people tell me that a lot – but I still walk into most group situations assuming no-one’s going to like me or want to have anything to do with me.

    Maybe an older person who went through a similar situation is an example of having survived.

    Can’t wait to read this one, this is a hot button for me :)

    Allison

  • yeah.
    this is why there are three endings in Huge Hands.
    I like some kind of dignity as the solution.
    The bullying itself doesnt change, it cant, except on a personal level.
    It’s up to the victim to rise above victimbood.
    as Elanor Roosevelt said, “nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission.”

  • My suggestion would be to have the protagonist come to some kind of realization of why the bully is the way the bully is; that the bully has his/her own problems/insecurities and bullying is how the bully copes with his/her shortcomings. It’s not a resolution, but it provides an ending note by giving the protagonist a new perspective that he/she didn’t have before.

  • I like a lot of Allison’s ideas. I too was a frequent bullee and when I tried to get help from teachers or parents, the situations were only made worse.

    It certainly took a lot of years for me to be “ok” with what happened, and that was with switching schools and going through counselling.

    I would love to see something in the ending that has the bullee finding something they are good at or love to do and that they are able to love & respect themself despite the bullying around them. Showing the kids that being happy with who they are is important and possible even in the midst of trying times.

    Last year I shared my story as a part of BC Anti-Bullying Day. You can find it at http://hummingbird604.com/2009/02/25/a-personal-story-on-experiencing-bullying-first-hand-guest-post-by-lois/

  • Thank you for sharing your story. It’s amazing what kids will do isn’t it? I just could never figure out what I’d ever done to deserve such meanness. It takes a long time to discover yourself as a human being after being treated like so much less than one.