Theatreworks plays helping kids cope with stress


April 1, 2012 2:41:11 PM PDT
A series of teenage suicides in Palo Alto three years ago has led an award-winning theatre group to develop plays and take them to schools. The idea is to help students cope with issues they face.

Parents and the Palo Alto School District thought original plays produced by Silicon Valley's Theatreworks might be a way to confront young people's issues. So, a touring production has been on the road. It's a play that deals with stress.

One of the characters is named Oskar and he's like many elementary school children. He's just a little bigger and his backpack is overgrown, symbolically loaded with things he has to do. The play is about over-stressed, maxed-out kids like Oskar trying to cope. "I actually can relate to it because that happens to me a lot," one student told ABC7. But, there is a solution: Serious issues cast in a humorous way. Students today could relate to Oskar and friends as they try to cope.

The Theatreworks for Schools productions offers a path when kids feel overwhelmed. Another play deals with bullying and there is one about getting out from behind the computer. "We do revisit these issues over and over again because we do see them over and over again, to keep it in their memory," Principal Patricia Girardi says.

"Oskar And The Last Straw" is playing in 66 schools in five counties. The 9-week tour continues through the end of April. It works because students remember past productions. When there is a problem they ask, "What would Oskar do?"

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