As I walked through the hallways of one of the middle schools that Amanda attended, there was a sense of calmness. I wasn’t sure why or what it could be. When I later talked to one of the teachers, she said that there had been a play that morning called TAGGED as performed by the Green Thumb Theatre from Vancouver BC.
In doing a further search, I found out that that TAGGED will be performed soon in Calgary, Saskatoon and Toronto. I wish that Amanda were here to see these kind of performances now. I wish the landscape had been different when she was 13, back when we were all just learning more about the internet. I hope that with young students watching this with their teachers, the kids can go home and talk to their families about what they say and hopefully what they learned. We learned from Amanda’s mistakes. The police learned from Amanda’s mistakes. We don’t want those mistakes to happen again.
There is a complete study guide that goes with the play that is online. Even if you have not yet seen or had this performance in your schools, go take a look at the guide. It is very straight forward and gives the beginnings of opening up a class discussion.
Performing soon in – Toronto, Saskatoon and Calgary and also in BC schools –> TAGGED by the Green Thumb Theatre
BACKGROUND AND DISCUSSION
The landscape of bullying in this country has changed drastically with the advent and popularity of social media. Gone are the days of being bullied on the schoolyard but being able to go home to the safety of closed doors; the internet exists beyond doors, beyond walls beyond structures of any kind.
Green Thumb Theatre approached me to write this play just as Amanda Todd’s horrendously sad story hit the mainstream press. Amanda (from Port Coquitlam, BC) was by no means the first young person to take her life as a result of the toxicity of social media, and she has by no means been the last. Rehtaeh Parsons in Dartmouth, NS, Todd Loik in North Battleford, SK and countless others have received massive media attention leading to a major shift on how we, as a nation, approach cyberbullying and online accountability. Many provinces have stepped up to the plate and brought in massive legal changes.
So how to discuss that with a high school audience? As honestly and relatably as possible. The core of the piece, in its research phase and later in workshop was really about trying to honestly discuss the way young people engage online and its implications. This is a generation who grew up with the internet, it’s a fundamental part of how they communicate. Rather than focusing on the sad realities of the prominent cyberbullying cases in Canada, my task became to look at the psychology behind online behaviour: the posting and subsequent reposting of images and text, the quest to be seen, or even to find fame through online activity, and the reliance on social media as the mouthpiece of this generation.
The play is not about any of these cases, but becomes a theatrical conversation about their underlying themes. It is a play about the here and now that hopefully can introduce the possibility of honest conversation in the classroom and the hallways. I hope it does.
Dave Deveau October 2013