By Rob Glidden
The music club at Derynoski Elementary School tackled the subject of bullying with song and dance, as an ensemble of about 60 kids performed the musical “Bullies Anonymous.”
The club has been working on the performance for months and presented two shows last week, one in the afternoon for their fellow students and another for parents and community members in the evening.
The three advisors for the club felt that “Bullies Anonymous,” written by Ron Fink and John Heath, was ideal for educating elementary school kids about the details of bullying.
“We felt like this took a serious topic and added an element of fun and that would engage the kids,” said guidance counselor Stephanie Parsons, who served as the show’s music director and played the piano during the performance.
The half-hour musical is almost fully driven by the songs, with only brief snippets of dialogue between each number. The teachers liked this because it taught the students the value of ensemble work.
“The chorus is really the star, even if not everyone in it has a speaking part,” said Kathy Jardine, a social worker who was the show’s stage manager.
The premise of the show is an after-school program where self-admitted bullies go to get some lessons in compassion from teachers.
“There’s not one way that a bully looks or acts,” said Gianna Wadowski, playing “Mrs. Collins.”
To illustrate that point, characters in the show represented the various types of bullying – physical, verbal and social.
“I like to pick on kids cause it makes me feel tough,” said Karter Henricksen, delivering his line as the “verbal bully” with ample sarcasm.
The organizers joked that the production was “off off Broadway” and “not just low budget, but no budget,” but the performance did include some artwork and a “bullyometer” designed by David Parsons.
Following the afternoon performance, Derynoski principal Jan Verderame spoke briefly about the issues addressed in the show.
“We try to send the message early in the year that we want no bullying at Deryonski,” she said. “Remember the lessons you learned from this.”
The students had been highly attentive during the show, to the point where even the advisors were surprised.
Natalie Kalasky, a school psychologist who was the show’s production manager, said she was “amazed at how quiet the students were.”