A Lesson In Improv: Actors Teach Students How To Deal With Harassment And Bullying

Feb 8, 2018

Margaret Hunsicker and two other actors stand in front of a classroom at IDEA Rundberg, performing a scene for a group of seventh-graders. Hunsicker plays the role of a student named Jessica. Another actor slaps her butt while taking a selfie, so he can post it to social media. 

After the actors finish the scene, they ask the students to make suggestions for what a bystander could do to support Jessica. They also ask how Jessica could react to make sure the boy knows what he did was unwanted. One student suggests getting a teacher, so the actors redo the scene to incorporate that. 

Actor Sean Moran reminds the students to talk about consent in these situations.

“Jack is the one who's choosing to harass Jessica; it’s not her fault one little bit," he says. "What can she do to let Jack know that that’s not OK?”

The scene was written to mirror one that middle-school students deal with regularly. Hunsicker says the performances are aimed at teaching students what to do if they are in similar situations. 

“So, we’re here to teach them what consent is and when to recognize harassment as it’s happening, and what to do if you see it happening," says Hunsicker, who works with Creative Action. The nonprofit uses art and drama to teach kids about harassment and hosts in-school and after-school programs at dozens of schools around the city.   

This performance focuses on helping students express themselves if they see or experience harassment. But the lessons are also a good tool for dealing with the harassers, says IDEA Rundberg counselor Stacia Comer. She says she’ll remind students of a specific performance and have them compare it to their own actions.

“I’m like – 'Well, do you see that as similar or different to what you just saw in the scenario?'" Comer says. "And a lot of times kids will connect – 'Oh, that was similar to what happened' – because a lot of times there’s just a disassociation.”