Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Glynn Class's Play Aims to Avert Violence; Needwood Middle School Eighth-Graders Perform Aftermath of School Shooting

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Glynn Class's Play Aims to Avert Violence; Needwood Middle School Eighth-Graders Perform Aftermath of School Shooting

Article excerpt

Byline: Teresa Stepzinski, The Times-Union

BRUNSWICK -- The grim visage of a youth huddled in a stark shadow-filled cell haunted by ghosts of his slain classmates will take center stage this week at Needwood Middle School.

The tragedy of kids killing kids is the premise of the anti-violence play Bang, Bang, You're Dead, being staged by a class of 21 eighth-grade gifted and advanced language arts students at the school.

The play focuses on the aftermath of a high school shooting. It examines the emotional catalysts triggering the shooting spree and how the student killer, Josh, confronts and copes with the consequences.

"We want [students] to know that this can happen to anyone, anywhere . . . But also to show that such violence can be prevented," said teacher Terry Johnson, whose class is putting on the play.

Principal Ricky Rentz said the play is one component of a comprehensive curriculum to help students deal with stress and depression, peer pressure, bullying, family or personal problems, and the influence of violent video games.

"The play addresses the actual concerns and problems that students have. It's reality to them," Rentz said. "After they see the play, they go back into the classroom and there is a discussion and whole lesson plan on the issues raised in the play."

Until Monday's dress rehearsal in the school gymnasium, the students had been rehearsing in class five days a week for the past five weeks, Johnson said.

After each rehearsal, the students and Johnson have been discussing issues raised by the play and related matters.

Nationally known playwright William Mastrosimone wrote the work in 1999 in response to school shootings in Jonesboro, Ark., and Springfield, Ore.

Some of the students in the Needwood production say they were concerned at first about the powerful subject matter.

"At first, I was kind of hesitant because it's about killing," said Melody Cody, 14, who portrays a longtime friend killed by Josh.

Elizabeth Webb, 13, said she and others worried that it might have a negative impact on younger students.

"We were scared that it could influence some younger kids to do something bad," said Elizabeth, who plays Josh's ex-girlfriend. …

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