The Bystander: A Portrait of Apathy

By Suzanne Sweeney, MA ’01

My drama class is working on a play called “The Bystander: A Portrait of Apathy.” The play deals with teen harassment and bullying. The School Climate Committee,(an organization consisting of administrators, child study team, guidance counselors, student assistance counselor and teachers) asked them to produce this production to be viewed by other sending districts. It was reviewed  by my English supervisor and accepted into the drama curriculum. This play received a grant from the Educational Committee of Rumson Fair Haven for the royalties.

Regarding student resource support – the students were initially asked to refer to the school web page on School Climate. They were introduced to a HIB form, articles and videos dealing with the bullying and harassment as well a representative from the School Climate Committee addressing them on the subject as relating to our school environment. Other resources from a dramatic perspective were:March Cassady’s An Introduction to The Art of Theatre, Jonothan Neelands and Tony Goode’s Structuring Drama Work and Drama for Learning: Dorothy Heathcote’s Mantle of the Expert.

The class is producing the play by themselves – from casting, blocking, props, etc. Every day the class begins with a production meeting on the objectives. Theses objectives were provided by a teacher generated timeline. They play has 3 student directors which had to be interviewed by the production committee( in role). They had to present their qualifications to the class. Students selected an underscore to assist them with character development. The music is associated to the issue being performed. Every student shared their music during a production meeting. Students have also added drama conventions in the blocking- chanting, freeze frame, etc. This they believed “made the dramatic work more powerful- it sends a clear message.”  They felt that the narratives could be more interesting if they were also presented in a pantomime format.

Once the students felt comfortable with the dramatic piece, it was time for the Film Club to engage in the class and make decisions regarding the filming process – lights, camera action!! They held their own meetings with their advisor making decisions. Lastly, I would like to mention that during this whole process the students were maintaining a daily journal log. This log was divided into sections: Objective, Accomplishments and Personal Reflection.