New student Gertie Greene is a bully. Gossip spreads like wildfire that she attacks kids in the bathroom, knocks down football players, and gets suspended all the time. Even teachers are afraid of her. Everyone’s talking about it so it must be true. But is she really a terrifying monster?
In The Redemption of Gertie Greene by Taryn Temple, the truth comes out in the most unexpected ways. Is Gertie really what everyone calls her: a freak, strange, stupid, clumsy, and mean? Or can Mrs. Fillmore’s quirky drama students see past the scuttlebutt to discover the real person behind the rumors? As they separate fact from fiction, Gertie and her fellow drama students bring to light the transforming power of kindness, and the importance of standing up for people who can’t defend themselves.
The student performers at Pioneer Trail Middle School in Olathe, Kansas had an amazing opportunity to not only perform this incredible play, but were fortunate enough to work directly with the playwright herself. Drama teacher and director, Sarah Mattie, reached out to Taryn, inviting her to the performance and to see if she would be willing to video chat with the cast. The result was an amazing experience for everyone involved!
Playwright Taryn Temple shares her thoughts on the experience:
They asked great questions about where I got the inspiration for the show, how I saw the characters when I wrote them, if I had doubts about including tough subject matter like the scene between Nicole and Pete Mackleson, and even what hobbies I had outside of theater. I also got to ask them questions like what they hoped the audience would take away from the show (the boy that played Pete Mackleson said, “I want people that watch the show to know that even though this is a play it is also real life, that things like this really happen to us.“), and what experiences they’ve had with bullies in the past.
I got to go see their show and they did a great job! They were ecstatic to see me (I felt like a pop star).
One extra fun note: the girl that originated the role of Shannon was able to come to the show, too! (I work with her mom…hee hee!) The picture of the girl with the roses on her shirt (new Shannon) and the girl in the grey jacket (original Shannon) are the two Shannons meeting each other!
On the playbill the included statistics about bullying, and what adults and kids can do to fight bullying. The kids created their own PSA at the end of the show (completely the students’ idea!). They came out for the curtain call holding posters with negative words and phrases they have witnessed or that have been said to them. One member of the cast stepped forward and read a PSA about how we can stand up to bullying and work to make the world a better and more positive place. Then all of the students flipped their posters over and on the back was written positive compliments and affirmations. It was so personal. It brought tears to my eyes.
What an amazing experience – thanks so much to Taryn Temple and Pioneer Trail Middle School for sharing it with us!
Get a copy of the play The Redemption of Gertie Greene.
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