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New West Theatre ends season with play about cyberbullying

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New West Theatre winds up their season this week with a gripping Canadian play about cyberbullying  and it‘s consequences.New West theatre presents Girls Like That, May 15-25. Photo by Richard Amery
“Girls Like That” runs in the Sterndale Bennett Theatre, May 15-25 Wednesday through Saturday. There are also special matinee performances for which several southern Alberta Schools are coming to see.
 They welcome back professional actors, New West Theatre veterans including Alexa Elser and Genevieve Paré, University of Lethbridge students and even a Shakespeare in the park veteran and U of L student  Alli Price.


The cast includes Mali King , Anastasia Siceac, Zoe Bracken, Vivian Ou, Mataya Mikuliak, Kaitlyn Olfert and Heather Gallipeau , who have been involved in an intense 13 day rehearsal process
“It’s a play about cyberbullying and it’s effects of social media on a generation of teenagers, ” said Alexa  Elser, who was part of several new West Music comedy revues including “All Spruced Up,” and ”Heatwave,” but has been working as an actor in Calgary since graduating from the University of Lethbridge in 2016 and returns to New West as a mentor to the younger actors.
“It’s about how cyberbullying has an effect on  the social community, school community and at home,” observed Zoe Bracken, who just graduated  for the University of Lethbridge with a performance degree and is returning for an education degree. She has enjoyed working with and learning from the professional actors.


“Professional actors are mentoring us, so it’s become a learning experience,” Bracken said.
“ It’s a really interesting script. Because the director breaks it up into pieces and gives  them to anywhere between five to 19 girls,” Elser said.
“ It has been split between 10 girls here,” Bracken added.


“But we could say ‘my character would never say that,’ and give it to another character,” Bracken continued.
“The dialogue is different, because it isn’t one character saying ‘hi’ and the other saying ‘hi’ back,” said director Sharon Peat.


According to the press release “Evan Placey’s Girls Like That is an urgent and explosive new play that explores the pressures on young people today in the wake of advancing technology. When a naked photograph of Scarlett goes viral, she becomes the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons. But while rumours run wild and everyone forms an opinion, Scarlett just stays silent.
 Awarded Best Play for Young Audiences at the Writers Guild Awards, Girls Like That explores gender equality and the pressures on today’s digital generation. Airing the issues of feminism, self-esteem, peer group pressure and the dangers of the social media this is a must see for teens and parents.
Recommended for ages 14 and up.”


Director Sharon Peat observed this play has a very timely, constantly relevant theme and felt it was important to bring it to the stage.
“It fits in well with our Canadian play series. The playwright is a Canadian, though it was written for a British audience so we had to change things like Level Three instead of Grade 3,” she said.


“I’m a parent and my kids are grown up and I’m thankful they never had to experience cyberbullying. But as a high school teacher. I see it,” she continued.

“ The message is relevant globally,” she continued.
“It’s an important subject to address. Because it is not only about cyberbullying, but about coping with it,” she continued.
 The play also touches on cliques in middle school and high school.

 


“It really starts in kindergarten. There’s always the one girl everybody wants to sit with and be friends with and the other girl who never gets picked,” she said.New West theatre presents Girls Like That, May 15-25. Photo by Richard Amery
“And it gets worse in middle school and high school,” she continued.
While  the girls don’t have any assigned names in the script, the actors gave them their own names, except for the victim Scarlett.


“The wanted everybody to be able to identify themselves in the characters,” said Bracken, who named her character Jessica.
“She‘s one of the three ‘J’s’ so she’s one of the more popular girls. She‘s  a little snooty and sassy. But as the process unfolds, she learns a little about her role in the cyberbullying, she reverts to  sassy,” she said.
Elser named her character Stacey.
“She’s one of the three S's. She’s into sports and used to be friends with Scarlett, but then got busy. If we were the Spice Girls, she’d be Sporty Spice.” She’s pretty and cool and maybe is in the second tier, but has no interest in being in the top tier,” Elser said, noting she  never was cyberbullied.
“It was definitely different in the late ’90s and200sI’m at the tail end of the  millennial generation, so Facebook was just starting.  And it wasn’t a problem then. We had MSNMessenger and snarky three way phone call,” she observed.


“ It’s a lot different than the musical revues, but there are a couple musical numbers,” she said.
 Bracken noted the cast worked to bring out the  more humourous moments in a play dealing with darker subject matter.


“We‘ve picked up on the more humourous moments. We have to give the audience a break and release the tension,” she said.
“ I hope it will make people think about the topic and choose kindness,” Elser said.


“It}s a great opportunity to learn about an important subject, but I like it because it isn’t harpy or lecturing,” peat said, noting, the play opens, May 15 with a sold out matinee performance. It is one  of several matinees happening throughout the run  for which schools are busing students in to see it. Schools from Picture Butte, plus Chinook high School, Winston Churchill and Kate Andrews.


“ It’s about cyberbullying, so there is a big multi-media component to it,” Peat said.


“Girls Like That” runs in the Sterndale bennett Theatre, May 15-25  Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. each night. there is also a special 1 p.m. matinee performance open to the public on May 25.

— by Richard Amery, L.a. Beat Editor
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