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Andy's final performances tackles cyberbullying

  • —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Riley Dunham, center, plays Rusty, the Hollywood-obsessed younger sister of the protagonist, in Wilton’s Andy’s Summer Playhouse’s upcoming performance of “Posted!” Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Grace Keller and Henry Topping play protagonist Rebecca and her slightly dim-witted crush, Brad, in Posted!, the Andy’s Summer Playhouse musical, opening today. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Grace Keller, 12, of Wilton, front, as Rebecca Newman, tells her New Hampshire friends she is moving to California. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Grace Keller, 12, of Wilton, front, as Rebecca Newman, sings the opening number to Posted! during a dress rehearsal on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Friday, August 11, 2017

The lights are down and the faces of the performers on the Andy’s Summer Playhouse stage are alight with the glow from their phones, as the nameless crowd laughs derisively at a heart-felt but inept YouTube music video.

It sets the scene for one of the major themes in the children’s theater’s final production of the year, it’s musical, entitled Posted!: Social media and cyberbullying.

“It’s not necessarily a new issue, but it’s an enhanced issue,” said Director Jared Mezzocchi. “I think it’s really important to have those conversations about what it means to have this kind of technology in your back pocket.”

Mezzochi said he’s wanted to tackle technology for a long time – not only the big issues such as cyberbullying, but also addressing being present in the moment instead of on your phone and smaller anxieties tied to communication such as obsessing over punctuation in a text to figure out if the sender is mad at you.

“Today, we’re always communicating and available, but we’re also always distracted,” said Mezzocchi. “At Andy’s, we ask the kids to put their phones in a shoerack holder.”

The story follows Rebecca Newman, who is faced with uprooting her life from Wilton, New Hampshire, which she loves, to California, right before the start of her freshman year in high school. An already tough situation isn’t made easier by her immediately running afoul of the school mean girls, who take their bullying out of the realm of the school hallways and onto the Online realm.

Grace Keller, 12, of Wilton, who plays Rebecca, said she almost always auditions for the Playhouse’s musicals, because of her love of singing, but has long wanted to perform in a production directed by Mezzocchi, a nine-year directing veteran at the Playhouse and former Andy’s kid himself. A marriage of the two was her perfect opportunity, she said.

Tackling the issue of technology and social media is a complicated one, said Keller, because while it has its downfalls, it’s also an increasingly crucial part of our lives, both socially and professionally.

“I do think kids are too absorbed in their phones,” said Keller. “But we rely a lot on technology, too, these days. I feel like it’s something that parents should be having conversations about.”

This is the first generation that’s growing up with cell phones – and the Internet – in hand, said Mezzocchi. And they’re very aware of some of the severity of misusing it. Perhaps more aware, in some cases, than adults, he said. Andy’s kids have always taken ownership of the works produced at the theater, and that was the case in Posted! where the ramifications of some of the cyber bullying that takes place, don’t necessarily end neatly resolved. 

In the first draft, writer Owen O’ Reilly had two characters in conflict essentially “make up” – but upon a first read through of the draft, the actors told Mezzocchi that didn’t feel right to them. 

“This was a really big thing that happened,” commented Keller. “If someone did that to me, I don’t think I could be friends with them.”

And the re-write of the scene, where the two have a conversation, but forgiveness isn’t freely handed out, is one of the most emotional and her favorite in the play, said Keller. 

“The kids weren’t ready to forgive the situation,” said Mezzocchi. “It’s a huge deal, and it was good to realize that they saw that severity in the situation and that there are lasting effects to those actions.”

Posted! premieres on Thursday at the Andy’s Summer Playhouse theater at 7:30 p.m., with nightly showings through Aug. 18, and 2 p.m. matinees on Aug. 13 and Aug. 16. The closing show will be Aug. 19 at 5 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at www.andyssummerplayhouse.org.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.