When people make efforts to combat bullying in schools, who is the target audience? The bullies? The victims? The bystanders? The parents, often bullies (or victims) themselves?
Lee Kaplan's original one-man play, Bully, is a self-contained anti-bullying campaign. Through the use of a childhood journal, Kaplan walks through the pain of years of abuse at the hands of his peers. The show is brutally honest. Kaplan portrays his young self as earnest and awkward, recalling how he shushed the other kids who were goofing around during play practice, which he took very seriously. It was like a light went off, he says, and thereafter, he had a target on his back.
Nowadays, Kaplan is buff and poised, handsome and talented. Watch out, bullies. He's coming for you. One by one, he "fights" his adversaries in imaginary boxing matches, and each opponent helps him glean lessons on how to beat a bully.
So who is this show for? Because it's a true story, and because it is so honestly executed, the audience is all-inclusive: bullies and those who have been bullied, take a seat and learn something. Kaplan's intensity and talent draws you in, and spits you out, feeling unsure of where you fall. Are you the good guy in all of this, or would you have jeered him, too? He even recalls a time when he was a bystander to someone else's abuse. Haven't we all been there?
The play has a definite didactic quality, and it's no surprise that Kaplan has already performed it in front of school audiences. I saw the play with two other mothers, and all three of us walked out of the show thinking about our own children. One said that she worried that her son, only age five, has already been the victim of bullying. My concern is that my daughters recognize bullying for what it is, and stand up for themselves and others when they see it happening. To that end, I would love for my kids to see Kaplan's show.
It takes cojones to take on the bullies, and to be as honest as Kaplan is in this show. He's for real.