Friday, August 17, 2018

Be The Influence Theater Group provides peer-to-peer support and education by Matt Pascarella

Be The Influence Players, a new theater group composed of sixth, seventh and eighth grade students from RSU14 presented a play at Windham High School on Friday, August 10. This play, which was composed of three acts about the importance of kindness, may become part of the Be the Influence’s mission to educate local students and reduce youth substance use.

Briefly, Be The Influence Coalition (BTI) is a community collaboration program that provides support and resources in Windham and Raymond. Its goal is to communicate consistent drug-free messages to assure that local youth make positive choices and are aware that decisions matter. The organization works to reduce substance use in teens and pre-teens, providing this message since 2014.
Stuart Gabaree and Natalie Adams explain why kindness is significant 

The concept of BTI Players is modeled after a peer-to-peer program that originated in Missouri where it is presented to over 100 schools annually.

Having seen the success of peer to peer theatrical education in the Midwest, Laura Morris, Director of Be The Influence Coalition, used the concept to educate students in RSU14.

According to Morris, who orchestrates the theater group, studies show students learn better from older peers than adults. BTI’s peer to peer theater group is one way to communicate BTI’s message in a fun and approachable way.

The Be The Influence Coalition decided to offer a camp this summer through the Parks and Recreation program to introduce the theater concept to area students. Last Friday’s play proved to be a success.

The BTI Players will continue performances throughout the school year and will be using two scripts to present at Windham and Raymond Elementary schools this Fall. The lessons they are trying to convey with these performances are important ones. “Respect one another,” says actor William Yates and, “Don’t bully people,” stated actress Natalie Adams – both speaking about what they learned during their participation and the lessons the play portrayed.

“Through improvisational games, character development exercises and lots of practice, the campers will be producing a fairytale called ‘The Princess in Search of a Prince’ and ‘The Nancy Nice Show’”, explained Morris. “The production will be followed by a cheer on ‘Respect’. While they have worked with original scripts, they have added their own ideas and energy to each show.”
Each actor and actress added energy and pizzazz to the performance; through eye catching props, singing, dancing and audience participation.

Morris also stated, “The hope is this becomes a yearly group of sixth to eighth graders continuing to educate and present to kindergarten through fifth graders. The program is also something the students can take pride in.”

Student and actor, Stuart Gabaree, reiterates Morris’ statement, “I was really part of something.”

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