An inside view

Grade 7 students in Red Deer public schools will learn more about having a healthy body image thanks to a play set to explore the topic with them from May 17 to 20 at the Nickle Theatre, upstairs from the Memorial Centre in Red Deer.

Starlise Washchuk

Starlise Washchuk

Grade 7 students in Red Deer public schools will learn more about having a healthy body image thanks to a play set to explore the topic with them from May 17 to 20 at the Nickle Theatre, upstairs from the Memorial Centre in Red Deer.

Inside Out Body Image Theatre Education will present Under My Skin, which is a social action play promoting healthy living for students at a time in their lives when they may be struggling with their self esteem.

The play sets up a series of scenes that look at the way students use self talk or talk inside their own heads. One scene has students getting ready for school talking about what they think about themselves as they look in the mirror and another brings a Barbie and GI Joe doll to life to explore the unreal body images they present. Another portion looks at how the media presents unreal images for students to live up to.

The play was written by Alexandra Mihill, Starlise Waschuck, Matt Dale and Kate Adams, who is also directing the play, which includes Mihill, Waschuck and Nathaniel Martin as actors.

Adams said they have been working on the play as a collective since February, doing research, talking to Grade 7 students and writing. The writers also consulted with a resource panel who talked to them about the play’s content.

Adams has plenty of experience doing social action theatre, having worked with Butt Ugly — a play to inform students of the dangers of smoking — for the past seven years. She said body image is a huge topic so they tried to focus on how students can keep themselves healthy. She said she hopes students leave the play more informed and more comfortable in their own skin.

“I hope that they walk away a little bit more sensitive about the topic and have the tools to get through their day,” Adams said.

The Foundation for Red Deer Public Schools has put $10,000 into the production, which will be performed for all of the Grade 7 students in the district — close to 700 in all.

Tanya Ryga, artistic director of the production, said she started working on the idea of exploring body image in a play for young people with a member of Alberta Health Services and then the foundation picked up the idea.

“Theatre is really effective for presenting important information that is not just informational, but is geared towards behavioural change in the audience,” Ryga said. “So a pamphlet, a video, a lecture can inform, but theatre can engage.”

She said many memories from school involve social interaction and it’s when we learn to become who we are.

“Theatre deals with that really well by creating characters who can be put into situations so that the audience can live virtually through the characters in front of them. They see the characters making good choices and bad choices and naive choices and they see the consequences of those,” Ryga said. “They can do all of that and experience it, but they don’t have to live with those consequences.”

Bruce Buruma, director of community relations with the Red Deer Public School District, said the play is a pilot project, but subject to favourable review and proper evaluation and it could be something that is performed in schools in coming years.

Anyone wanting to know more about the play can contact Ryga at tanya.ryga@rdc.ab.ca

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