Battling Bullying

Published 6:00 pm Thursday, March 24, 2011

Students at the Mississippi School of the Arts are no strangersto having their work displayed for campus visitors or showcasingtheir talents in front of a full house at Lampton Auditorium. Butrecently the students have taken their art forms on the road topromote an anti-bullying message across Mississippi.

MSA students began performing their show “Clique” at the FearStops Here anti-bullying conference in Jackson, which was sponsoredby the attorney general’s office, in September. The students didnot leave their message in the state’s Capitol, however

They have since performed for teachers and students inBrookhaven, Natchez, Hattiesburg, McComb, Summit, Sumrall andTylertown. They will have spread anti-bullying messages in 25performances across Mississippi by April.

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“It’s definitely a topic on the forefront of everybody’s mind,”said MSA Director Suzanne Hirsch. “Many of our students have beenbullied in their past and we felt like they would have stories andthoughts to bring to the table.”

The program, which the students have named “Clique”, is a mix ofmusic, theatre, dance, writing and visual art to make awide-ranging performance for students. The show addresses many ofthe different types of bullying, including social exclusion,intimidation, cyber-bullying and physical aggression.

“It’s all the different areas of bullying,” said Hirsch. “Thebiggest reason people get bullied is because they are different insome way.”

Blending the various art forms into one display has allowed theperformance to become a school project. Students have been workingwith their teachers since the beginning of the school year todevelop the anti-bullying show.

Literary students wrote stories for the play, theatre studentscreated pieces for dances and wrote plays, choir students came upwith a peace-making song for the presentation and visual artstudents helped develop a slideshow.

“The words that are spoken were written by MSA students, notwritten by adults,” said Hirsch.

The performance has generated some feedback from the thousandsof students reached across the Magnolia State.

The visits allow for student participation and Hirsch said herstudents’ field all kinds of inquiries during their trips,including a fifth-grader’s question at Lipsey Middle School aboutwhat should someone do if they are about to become the bully. TheMSA director also mentioned she receives phone calls from previousaudiences that want to know more about the arts school.

“It’s just exciting to see how many students learn somethingafter walking away from the performance,” said Hirsch. “I thinkit’s making an impact.”

Hirsch said that when she arrived at MSA in September of 2009,she wanted to give students the opportunity to display theirtalents beyond the school’s Whitworth campus.

When Jennifer Jackson, coordinator of school advancement, saw aperformance at an anti-bullying conference in Texas, she knew itwas something the arts school could pull off. Hirsch was able tosecure a few grants in July to help pay for costumes, equipment andtravel expenses and the show went on from there.

Hirsch mentioned she would like to continue the program nextyear. The last performance of this year will be April 30 in LamptonAuditorium.