"I'm going to tell you a secret - and I don't want you to tell. The secret is about me - about my life - how it will never be the same again."
- Abby, from "The Secret Life of Girls"
When we hear the word "bully," most of us picture a playground ruffian who beats up kids and takes their lunch money. MAPA's upcoming production, "The Secret Life of Girls," challenges the stereotype and focuses on a much more subtle (and perhaps more prevalent) form of bullying - the mind games and power plays orchestrated and perpetuated by girls.
Casey Heart isn’t in on the secret Kirsten Gilchrist tells Ruby Riker in this production that strikes close to home.
Linda Daugherty wrote the play, which opens next Friday at Queen Ka'ahumanu Center's Steppingstone Playhouse, after interviewing young girls who had been on both the giving and receiving end of bullying. Director Sally Sefton Johnston believes its message is especially important now - when there are so many vehicles for bullying at young people's disposal 24/7.
"The play touches upon all forms of bullying between girls-e-mailing, instant messaging, texting, exclusion, rumors. Everyone in the audience -young girls, mothers, even males -will be able to completely identify with at least one of the characters," she said.
The plot centers on a group of teenage friends who jockey for position within their microcosmic social order. The dialogue - unflinching, authentic and sometimes funny - is perfect for the play's target audience. The young actors selected all the music for the play from their own collections, creating an uber-cool, up-to-the-minute soundtrack. The live action is further enhanced by a multimedia backdrop, which displays the girls' texts, e-mails, cyber-chats, tweets and instant messages - the media that make it possible for a bully to silently invade a victim's home, the very territory which should mean safety and retreat.
"It's very real," Sefton said. "We want to say, 'This is what it looks like. This is what it feels like.' "
Through the course of the play, we see bullying in all its insidious guises, witness its devastating fallout. The cruel manipulation and dehumanization lying at the heart of girl bullying can leave a permanent scar on the mind and soul of its victims; it can lead to depression, bulimia, self-mutilation and, in some cases, suicide.
School counselors and therapists will be on hand after each performance to answer questions and lead discussion. Undoubtedly, there will be many stories to share.
"Like Shakespeare said, we're just holding a mirror up to what's really happening every single day," she said.
After last Sunday's rehearsal, I hung back and chatted with the cast. The girls were eager to share their own experiences. When I asked them if they felt the scenarios presented in the play were realistic, they all responded with an emphatic "yes!" Each young actor had a personal experience with bullying to draw upon during her performance.
"I remember sitting at a table at lunch and every single person getting up and leaving."
"When I first moved here, no one knew anything about me. A few girls started spreading rumors about me and, when I found out, I couldn't believe what they were saying. It was all completely untrue."
"One day I sat down and this girl - who was my best friend - just suddenly said, 'I'm not your friend anymore. Go away.' "
"It can happen so suddenly. One day you're in; the next you're out. It's all about rejection and exclusion."
It was hard for the girls to enact some of the play's heart-wrenching scenarios because they knew how it felt to be on the receiving end.
I asked the girls what parents can do to help their daughters if and when they find themselves entangled in a bullying relationship. Their responses were as touching, honest and raw as the play itself.
"Just listen to them," Kathryn Adler, the 8th-grader who plays Abby, said. "Remind them how special they are every day. And tell them how much you love them."
* "The Secret Life of Girls" plays at Steppingstone Playhouse in Queen Ka'ahumanu Center at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 19; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 20; 2 p.m. Sunday, March 21; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 27; and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 28. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for seniors and students, available through the MAPA box office at 244-8760, ext. 228, and at the customer service kiosk in Queen Ka'ahumanu Center's center court. For group tickets call Carolyn Wright at 244-8760, ext. 221, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Baldwin High School presents beloved American musical "Bye Bye Birdie," the story of one special girl selected to issue heartthrob Conrad Birdie his last kiss before he's inducted into the Army. With a superb cast and showstoppers like "Kids," "A lot of Livin' " and "Put on a Happy Face," this show will delight the whole family.
* "Bye Bye Birdie" plays at 7 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in the Baldwin High School Auditorium. Tickets are $12 for adults, $9 for seniors, $7 for ages 17 and younger, available at the box office 45 minutes before showtime. Call 984-5656, ext. 315 for more information.
Maui OnStage brings Harper Lee's classic "To Kill a Mockingbird" to life at the Historic Iao Theater at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Lee's 1960 semiautobiographical novel stirred up controversy for its unflinching portrayal of racial inequality in the small Southern town of Maycomb. Alexis Descoulias directs Marley and Zeb Mehring in the roles of Scout and Jem Finch. Don Carlson stars as their father, Atticus.
* Tickets, $16 and $18, are available at If the Shoe Fits in Wailuku, Lava Java in Kihei or online at: www.mauionstage.com
The Maui Choral Arts Association presents its fifth annual Lei of Stars Maui Choral Festival at 7 p.m. Saturday, at Kihei Baptist Chapel, 1655 S. Kihei Road. The Olinda Chorale and UH-Maui College Chorus join in concert with MCAA's own Maui Concert Chorus. The 40-member concert chorus will perform popular selections from its fall concerts as well as two selections from the upcoming "Some Enchanted Evening" concert.
* Tickets: $10 in advance until Friday or $15 at the door. Call 870-5560 or log onto: www.MauiMusicArts. org for more information.
The Maui Celebrity Series brings original Latin King of Comedy Paul Rodriguez to the Maui Theater in Lahaina at 9 p.m. Sunday, March 21. Tickets start at $22; call 856-7973 or log onto www.groovetickets.com. This one is sure to sell out, so make plans early.