Starting the conversation about bullying
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While Iowa lawmakers work to craft bipartisan legislation addressing the growing problem of bullying, a unique collaboration involving the University of Iowa and community partners offers area residents an opportunity to approach the issue from another direction: Using art to start conversations and inspire empathy for those affected by bullying.
The campus-community partnership is built around a ground-breaking new play, Out of Bounds, created by Iowa City’s Working Group Theatre, which focuses on cyber-bullying among young teens. The collaboration also involves the University of Iowa’s Hancher, which commissioned the work, the UI College of Public Health, the UI Injury Prevention Research Center, and the Iowa City Community School District.
“Social change to reduce acceptance of bullying is critical for policies to be successful, and efforts such as Out of Bounds are important complements to policies,” says Corinne Peek-Asa, UI professor of occupational and environmental health and the College of Public Health’s associate dean for research. “Theater is a wonderful avenue to engage youth, parents, and communities to think about bullying and its harmful effects.”
On Wednesday, Feb. 19, a behind-the-scenes preview of Out of Bounds will be presented at the College of Public Health Building. The program takes place at 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Callaghan Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.
During the preview event, Working Group company members will perform scenes from the play and audience members will be invited to provide feedback to help shape its continued development ahead of the work’s May 1 Hancher premiere.
A panel of experts and community leaders also will be present to respond to the scenes. Panelists will include:
• Matt Degner, principal of South East Junior High School in Iowa City.
• Marizen Ramirez, UI associate professor of occupational and environmental health and associate director for research in the UI Injury Prevention Research Center.
• Briana Woods-Jaeger, UI assistant professor of community and behavioral health.
• Shawn Zierke, parent involved in the development of the show.
The Feb. 19 event is a continuation of the community involvement that has been central to Working Group’s creative process for Out of Bounds. With Hancher's support, the theater company has spent the past year interviewing members of the local community—young people, adults, and UI injury prevention experts—gathering stories about bullying and its impact on individual lives.
"We want the show to be entertaining, engaging, and representative of what a lot of people face with bullying. This is a unique opportunity for us to have a direct conversation with people on all sides of this issue while we are in the midst of the creation process. The conversations can, and likely will, influence the final play,” says Jennifer Fawcett, playwright of Out of Bounds and associate artistic director of Working Group Theatre.
Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, contact Amanda Jorgensen in advance at 319-384-1505.
To read a related story, see Collaborative effort takes aim at cyberbullying.