By Ashley FILIPEK
Crescenta Valley High School presented “22% Fear” over the weekend, a production that is part play, part musical. It was written by some of CVHS’ teachers, including Brent Beerman, Kathi Chaplar and Eric Messal.
The production stems from a survey CVHS did about two years ago asking students about their personal experiences with bullying. Twenty-two percent of students said that they didn’t feel safe at school. That statistic was alarming to these teachers, and they decided to give a voice to those students.
Through interviews and anonymous emails, they collected a number of stories from students who had experienced bullying – from both sides. Some of these stories dealt with verbal altercations, others with physical violence, social media attacks, body image stress, and a lack of acceptance from people with many different labels.
The play started off powerfully with all of the actors on stage, hurling insults at each other and the audience while transitioning into their first song, “We Are the 22%.” The chorus reads: “We are the creatures that you create / The 22% that you love to hate / Walking the hallways with targets on our backs / Sluts, faggots and rejects that you attack.”
The lyrics didn’t shy away from the painful attacks that students reported experiencing. By having every actor participate in the name-calling and singing, it painted a picture of how many people are experiencing the evils of bullying.
Many of the scenes in this play showcased the serious hurt that kids experience with verbal harassment, which 55% of students stated was a problem at school. The impact of these actors yelling, name-calling, chanting, and spitting disdain at the others was stunning because of how real it felt. The audience seemed to cringe, cry, and hurt right along with some of the actors.
The production was well done. Not only was it visually engaging but the music was equally appealing. Some of the standout performances included Tulasi Hilder-Manahan singing, “Fixed Within,” about being a former bully, and Rebecca Thomas singing, “I Love Being Loved,” about being in an abusive relationship.
Drama teacher and director Brent Beerman, during the after-show question and answer period, said that the “number one mission is to change the world.”
“They did an amazing job. The music added so much pizzazz and was really fitting for the theme of the show,” said CVHS history teacher Pia Hugo. The play was previously presented in a non-musical format. “I feel that this play can further our cause in our anti-bullying movement and can absolutely change the culture of our school.”
The teachers who created the musical expressed a desire to expand it to cover more topics and hear more stories. While all of the stories presented have come out of CVHS, the teachers would like to add more perspectives and have it performed at other schools in the area.
CVHS parent Julie Morgan said, “I thought that it was current, powerful, and poignant. The stories were heart wrenching, but I think it would be beneficial for students to see it, both inside and outside the Glendale school district, because they can connect and be influenced by these true stories. The play does an excellent job of getting their ‘change the world’ message across in both the words and the lyrics.”