Welcome to our Featured Play Spotlight. Funhouse by Lindsay Price is an incredibly unique and challenging vignette-style play that is an excellent catalyst for conversations around bullying.
This play looks at the bullied, the bully, and the bystander through mostly non-verbal vignettes. Life for the bullied is like a funhouse, but the funhouse is anything but fun.
How can you stand your ground when you’re on a falling floor? How can you move forward when you’re caught like a mouse in a maze? How can you win Whac-A-Mole when you’re the mole? How can you like yourself while standing in a distorted hall of mirrors?
There are no cotton candy answers here.
Why did we publish this play?
A lot of our plays come from listening to customers. A piece of feedback from middle school teachers we received is that they loved our non-verbal play Emotional Baggage but the concept was a little beyond their students. Could we provide one specifically for middle school? With a larger cast?
Funhouse looks at the bullied, the bully and the bystander through mostly non-verbal vignettes. When looking at other plays on the topic, there wasn’t a lot we liked – many end with a bully-bullied confrontation in which the bully instantly sees the error of their ways and promises to be a better person. And they all lived happily ever after. This never happens in real life. Can bullies change? Of course! But not in one moment on stage. It’s so destructive to show such a fairy tale ending because there will be students in the audience watching the show, being bullied, knowing their situation is not being represented. And therein lies a huge problem.
Issue plays are tricky because they deal with issues that are happening right then, right now to someone watching the play. It’s not therapy, it’s not an informational brochure and theatricality must always preside, but the issue play does have some responsibility to address the reality of the issue.
Having said that, just as you can’t show the sitcom “everyone loves each other” happy ending, you can’t go to the other extreme and show flat out no-win annihilation. Because then that student sitting in the audience, being bullied, has the very terrifying thought of, “Well there’s no hope, is there?” And that is something we’re not prepared to sit on the shoulders of a 10- or 11-year-old.
Funhouse has the right balance between the extremes, in a theatrical context and that’s why it’s in our catalogue. It’s unique and a great catalyst for post show discussion on the issue of bullying. It’s a challenging piece, but by no means is it beyond the middle school scope.
1. Why did you write this play?
I heard from middle school teachers that they loved the non-verbal elements in Emotional Baggage but were looking for a middle school specific play, and could it have a larger cast? Done and done! I had seen a number of plays that addressed the topic of bullying and wasn’t happy with what I saw – a lot of bullies seeing the error of their ways. I wanted to write something different.
2. Describe the theme in one or two sentences.
The funhouse aims to turn reality upside-down – it shows you a distorted version of yourself in a mirror. It tilts the floor away when you least expect it. It jumps out at you from the shadows. It distorts the truth. It’s a vivid image for what life is like for the bullied.
3. What’s the most important visual for you in this play?
Sometimes the bullies win. That’s important to show. These acts are vital to the reality of the play, for indeed they are vital to showing the reality of what a bullied student must face.
4. If you could give one piece of advice for those producing the play, what would it be?
It’s a play that relies primarily on action rather than dialogue, so that’s going to be your focus. How does action tell the story in each moment? It’s a challenging play but by no means beyond the middle school performer scope.
5. Why is this play great for student performers?
The scope of bullying is pretty far reaching these days, from physical to verbal, to the different ways boys bully than girls, to the insidiousness of cyberbullying. This play offers a opportunity for students, in the play and watching the play to engage in conversations on this, unfortunately, extremely relevant issue.