Upcoming BYU theater production addresses bullying

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Hanging in the B.F. Larsen gallery of the Harris Fine Arts Center are dozens of donated, slightly worn dresses. Acting both as art and advertising, they are creating interest in “The Hundred Dresses,” a play that will run in the HFAC for a few weeks this month during its tour of elementary schools all over Utah.

The 50-minute play, based on a 1944 Newbery Award winning children’s book, will be presented by BYU’s Department of Theatre and Media Arts, according to byu.news.edu. The multifaceted focuses of the play examine what it means to be a true friend and the  negative and lasting effects of bullying. When a young girl from Poland moves to a small town in Connecticut with her family she is picked on by the other children at school for claiming she owns 100 dresses.

[media-credit name=”Mark A. Philbrick / BYU Photo” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]
BYU is presenting "The Hundred Dresses," a show to teach grade schoolers about bullying.

Katherine Williams Olsen is the dramaturg, a researcher/historian for the production. She was tasked to research the original book, the time period of the production and the dialects the characters would have used.  In addition to those responsibilities, Olsen was put in charge of organizing the community outreach for the production, ultimately bringing the play to more than 20 elementary schools in Salt Lake and Utah Valley over the course of 12 weeks to share the important lessons of the production with a young audience.

“It is a show that is filled with values of charity and redemption,” Olsen said. “It is a play that is very honest. It shows in life that sometimes we make the wrong choices and we don’t have the opportunity to fix those choices. So we have to move on and try and do the right thing next time. It really has a lesson and will warm your heart.”

The cast has already performed in several schools, finding the young audiences inspired and moved. After watching the production, the children get to participate in a workshop with the actors. Leah Hodson, a junior from Marion County, Ind., plays the lead role of Maddie and has found motivation and helpful insights during her interactions with the children.

Julia Ashworth, the director, decided to help facilitate clothing donation drives as the production tours the state and during its run at BYU. By helping with the clothing drives and conducting workshops, the production is going to great lengths to communicate the message of tolerance and helping the less fortunate in any way it can.

“I think it talks to our social responsibilities as members of the Church — but more importantly as members of the community,” Ashworth said.

The play can be seen in the NELKE theatre in the HFAC starting Saturday through Oct. 22. Tickets for the production can be purchased at the Fine Arts Ticket Office or at byuarts.com/tickets.

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