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Cappies: Holt High School uses theater to take on bullying

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 13, 2013 - Holt High School's production of "The Long View" and "The Bully Plays" provided a night of laughter, chills and introspection as the cast forced the audience to look closer at bullying and how a moment can impact someone's life.

Five acts were chosen from "The Bully Plays" collection, to explore bullying constructively and creatively. "The Bully Pulpit" forces a girl on an anti-bullying crusade to face that she herself is a bully; "A Bully There Be" looks at an obnoxious prince tormenting a jester. "The Conundrum" follows a young man realizing the foolishness of allowing a bully's stupid comments to hurt him. "Nobody Nose" is a silent skit of a clown making fools of her bullies and "Flash Mob" the story of a girl confronting her cyber-bully.

Also performed was "The Long View," a play exploring the repercussions of a fight between a new boyfriend and an ex-boyfriend, and how it affects the lives of the witnesses.

While there were no definite leads, a few actors and actresses were especially strong. Karly Cavanaugh (Serving Wench) and Riley Grady (Prince) had great chemistry in "A Bully There Be," Cavanaugh being hilariously exasperated as she scolded the prince, and Grady being silly and appropriately obnoxious as he gave noogies and threatened to chop off heads. Wyatt Hensel, Justin Bradbury and Ellie Simms were delightful as the three clowns in "Nobody Nose," properly using exaggerated actions to tell a story. Hensel also created a memorable character as Luke, a boy absolutely spoiling for a fight, and kept the audience in stitches by reacting over-dramatically to everything. Alex Dyer (Sean) was sassy as she made quips at her friend Holly for liking a supposed "redneck." Andrew Milhous (Zachary) unnerved and moved the audience in his rendition of a suicidal boy growing up to win a Nobel Prize. Allie Sanderson (Holly) and Will Pendergast (Travis) brought tears to the audience in a beautiful scene where the two faced each other years after the fight, Pendergast having no memory of her after having suffered an accident as a soldier.

The set of the play was simple, yet effective with rectangles covered in words like "Peace," "Tease," "Guilt" and "Courage." Background music was appropriate with songs like "Fighter" and "Mean" and emphasized the message, and the transitions between scenes were smooth.

The tech crew should be applauded for the use of projector screens during a cyber bullying conversation, which greatly added to the effect. However, noises from backstage could be heard, and there were some problems with the sound.

Some cast members were nervous during the first half, with some stuttering, awkward interruptions, and robotic acting, yet greatly improved during the second half to give an inspiring and emotional performance. They showed great versatility in being able to play the different roles, in some cases going from great extremes from comedic to depressing. However, at times they had difficulty finding the light.

While the show had a few hitches, Holt High School's production of "The Long View" and "The Bully Plays" was moving, honest, hilarious, disturbing and powerful.

Ellen Wright is a student at Mary Institute St. Louis Country Day School. The Cappies program works with students who review high school theatrical productions.

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