A St. Lawrence University theater professor spent part of this month in Australia using theater to address bullying in schools. SLU Associate Professor of Performance and Communication Arts Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead is the author of the one-act play, Have you Filled a Bucket Today?. She says schools and parents seem eager to use the arts and creative ways to address bullying in schools.
Based on Carol McCloud’s popular children’s book of the same name, the play also emphasizes that bullying is wrong. The organization, Peaceful Schools, will perform the play at schools in northern and central New York throughout the 2013-2014 school year.
In latest post from Australia, Ann Marie writes:
Hello from Queensland! The performance at St. Mary MacKillop School went so well. This still feels rather surreal; my play was produced in Australia today! The actors, a combination of elementary school students and adults, were wonderful. This is an exceptional school with remarkable school spirit. They went out of their way to make the performance a special community event, complete with a red carpet, “paparazzi” taking photos as people entered, and “tea” outside (in the winter!) after the performance.
During tea, I had the opportunity to speak with St. Mary’s staff members and representatives from Brisbane Catholic Education about bucket filling and arts education. It is evident that Australian educators have the same concerns that American educators do about bullying and how it affects our students. In addition, I had the honor of speaking with the entire student body following the show. I spoke about the playwriting process and then answered their questions. They were curious about bucket filling, America, the characters in the play and my plans for future plays.
Reporters from the local paper and a Catholic education publication were in attendance, and both plan to write stories about the play and the St. Mary MacKillop performance.
The students, one in particular, impressed me with their willingness to experiment, take risks, and to trust– in themselves, in each other, in me, and in a process that is new to many of them. This is one talented group of young people!
This is no surprise as the staff at St. Mary’s is a group of dedicated, creative, collaborative educators who clearly foster a safe and supportive environment for their students. I am honored to be working with them this week. They have made me feel very comfortable and included, as have the students.
The children presented me with a “bucket” of Australian gifts during our rehearsal, and two of the children brought Bucket Filling Fairy cupcakes for everyone! In addition, I had an inspiring conversation with two fellow educators about the role of the arts in character education and social change following rehearsal.
This has been a remarkable experience for me and I am grateful to everyone who has supported me and helped to spread the word about the play, especially my husband Gregg, the Performance and Communication Arts Department at St. Lawrence University, NCPR, Sue Mende, Macreena Doyle, and of course Carol McCloud, author of the book upon which the play is based.