WNPR

Teen Bullying Bystander Takes Center Stage In Connecticut Performance

Jul 20, 2017

A one-woman play opening Friday in downtown Waterbury takes a unique look at the complex, often hidden world of teenage relationships.

“The Shape of a Girl” centers on a 15-year-old named Bradie who’s struggling at home and at school, wondering whether she should speak out about bullying.  

Central Connecticut State University student Kendra Garnett plays Bradie. The show is directed by Ed Wierzbicki. They both spoke with WNPR.

Garnett began by talking about what makes this play unusual.

Kendra Garnett: I think when people think of a play about bullying, they expect to see the bullying on stage a lot and you would expect to see it from the bully’s eyes or the person being bullied. But in this play, it’s actually from the perspective of just a bystander, and what she’s seeing. And it is some horrible things that this bystander is watching happening to a friend of hers.

WNPR’s Diane Orson: You play that bystander. What particular challenges do you think your character is facing?

For Bradie, her biggest difficulty is not speaking out. I think she wants to do something, she just doesn’t know how to yet. Because it’s so hard for her -- the person who’s the bully is her best friend.

A girl in the shape of a monster. A monster in the shape of a girl. That, Trevor, is poetry. It’s also a riddle. Because that’s how they treat her -- like a monster. Only they’re the monsters, get it? Because they phoned her up. “Guess what we’re doing? Wanna come?” It’s like wolves, pretending to be some animal that’s hurt, maybe a little calf or a goat. This wasn’t the case of someone in the wrong place at the wrong time. This was planned, organized. And the girl, she knows they’re one scary bunch, but she goes.

How does this play speak to you?

It makes me want to take initiative, I guess, is the best way to put it. Because she is spending the whole play deciding if she’s going to take an initiative, you know, and it will speak to a lot of people who are watching this too. That you don’t have to be the bully, but if you’re watching and you know about it, you should speak out, you should say something as simple as going to a teacher or going to someone you feel very confident to talk to, or you can confide in, and just saying ‘Hey, I’m scared, I don’t know what the next step is.’

Kendra Garnett
Credit Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Talk to me a little bit about the New Zenith Theatre.

Ed Wierzbicki: The New Zenith Theatre is really committed to literature and storytelling for young people that connects them to the challenges that young people face. That’s really at the heart of it. We do want to entertain young people, but we want them to grow as people. We want them to trust that words and language and really good storytelling can do it, not just visual storytelling and filmmaking and the screens that they look at everyday. There is a power in being in the theatre.

Ed Wierzbicki
Credit Ryan Caron King / WNPR

And what are you taking away from the experience of performing this show?

Kendra Garnett: Part of Bradie, I feel like, I think there are moments in my life where I haven’t actually spoken out about how I felt, and it may not have about bullying or seeing bullying, but, you know, she makes a huge step at the end of the play. And I think the kind of courage and strength it took her to do that may eventually seep into me as I go on throughout life.

“The Shape Of A Girl” opens Friday at the New Zenith Theatre in Waterbury, directed by Ed Wierzbicki, and starring Kendra Garnett.