The members of Kismet Theatre Academy’s teen company class say young people need to feel safe to openly discuss, without being judged, the difficulties they experience, and they’re bringing that message to the Malaspina Theatre stage.
“It’s really important for other people and parents to understand what their children are going through because we don’t normally tell them about what’s going on at school and how we really feel,” said Kismet student Nevaeh MacDougall, 13.
Kismet instructor Tarah Sullivan said she and her students agree that it can be harmful for youths to keep their grievances bottled up and have conceived and written a production tackling that subject, Secrets and Other Things we Don’t Talk About, which comes to Malaspina Theatre on Dec. 14 and 15. All proceeds from the performance will support the Haven Society’s PEACE program, which supports children who have experienced domestic violence.
“I knew that I wanted it to be about secrets,” Sullivan said of the project. “I think that secrecy is a huge thing in adolescents … and they really liked the idea of secrets.”
Sullivan led her students through eights weeks of writing exercises until they came up with topics that were personal to each individual. From there the children wrote monologues that touched on defining moments in their lives.
In another exercise, Sullivan gave her students five minutes to write anonymous reposes to writing prompts like “My body is…” and “When I’m alone I…” Those “five-minute confessionals” formed the basis of the dialogue that joins the monologues together.
“I was just amazed at how brave they were with the things that they came out with that they were totally honest about it,” Sullivan said. “The other thing that’s been amazing to watch is how supportive the group is of each other, that they’re so understanding of the experiences that they’ve had or they can connect with each other over shared experiences. I think just really the whole process was beautiful.”
Sullivan said mental health and bullying were common themes.
“At first I felt like opening up was really tough, but I’m really close with everyone here so after a while it got pretty easy. And from there, it was just fun because we were all sharing and it brought us closer together,” said Kismet student Nikole Binning, 14.
She said by sharing their stories, the actors can help other teenagers who may be struggling in isolation.
“A lot of things we talk about, especially anxiety, a lot of kids go through it and I feel like us openly talking about it makes other people feel like they’re not alone and maybe it’ll help them reach out,” Binning said.
Kismet student Taylor Hughes, 14, said people claim to understand the issues that affect youths, but they often hear it from adults rather than from the teenagers who are going through it.
“I hope what comes out of [the production] is people understand that they’re not alone,” Hughes said. “And you can say that they’re not alone all they want but until you hear it from someone or you see other people having the same experiences as you, I don’t think you really feel like you’re not alone until then.”
WHAT’S ON … Secrets and Other Things we Don’t Talk About comes to Malaspina Theatre on Dec. 14 and 15 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for students and seniors, available at the door or in advance from Kismet Theatre Academy, Haven Society or by e-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org.