“Bullybust partners with ‘Wicked’ to teach kids to be up-standers”
by Nancy Churnin from The Dallas Morning News
The moment in Wicked that makes Darlene Faster’s arms tingle is not “Defying Gravity,” when Elphaba, the green-faced witch, rises up in the air to fulfill her destiny. It’s an earlier, quieter one when Glinda, suddenly ashamed of ridiculing Elphaba at school, starts dancing with her, which leads everyone to quiet down and dance, too.
Faster, the chief operating officer of the National School Climate Center and the force behind its Bullybust program, says this scene shows kids how a bully can become an “upstander,” someone who stands up when people are treated badly.
“It’s powerful from a youth perspective,” Faster says. “It’s the kind of moment where anyone who has ever been bullied has said, ‘I wish I had a moment where someone had been there for me and been by my side.’ It’s the moment where everything starts to turn.”
Dallas Summer Musicals is presenting the show at Fair Park Music Hall through May 5. Many have wondered about the enduring, passionate following for this musical about the seemingly “bad” and “good” witches of Oz. To Faster, it seems clear that it’s because the questions it raises still resonate: Should we pick on those whom others mock to maintain our spot in the “cool” crowd, or should we find the courage to defend and befriend the “misfits” even at the cost of our own popularity?
With kids suffering from bullying around the country, these ideas have made Wicked a wickedly good fit for her program, which draws on the U.S. Department of Education’s guidelines for effective bully-prevention practices.
Partnering since 2009 with the show’s producers, Faster has helped develop study guides for adults to use with kids. Wicked has also sponsored essay contests with the winners posted on the bullybust.org website. There’ll be another in the fall.
Bullybust has grown rapidly across the country, supporting more than 2,400 partner schools, but only a handful — fewer than 10 — Dallas-Fort Worth schools are currently enrolled. Faster hopes the show’s presence in Dallas will encourage adults to engage kids in conversation and download her nonprofit company’s free materials to take the next step.
She hopes, ultimately, that it will inspire people to reach out to the bullies as well as the victims.
“The kids who are doing bullying behavior are not bad people, they are just doing bad, incorrect things. They need support to learn how to transform from a bully to being an upstander.”
Wicked continues through May 5 at Fair Park Music Hall, 909 First Ave., Dallas. $40-$170. 214-691-7200. dallassummermusicals.org or ticketmaster.com/wicked. Learn more about Bullybust at bullybust.org.
Follow Nancy Churnin on Twitter @nchurnin.
Originally posted in The Dallas Morning News on Friday, April 12, 2013.