TheatreWorks brings a pair of plays – both told from the point of view of a 10-year-old named Oskar – to elementary schools in Mountain View and other Bay Area cities through April 5.
“Oskar and the Big Bully Battle” addresses bullying and the importance of choice, while “Oskar and the Last Straw” details Oskar’s experiences with a heavy workload and resulting stress.
Both productions are intended to educate and aid young students at a crucial point in their development, noted director Lisa Edsall Giglio.
“Habits grow,” she said. “If we can talk about this in elementary school, we can grow the muscles to cope as we get to middle school and we get to high school.”
“Big Bully Battle” has been touring the Bay Area since 2006; “Last Straw” was developed with the Palo Alto Unified School District in 2012 in response to the stress felt by high school students in the area.
Both plays appear to be making an impact on their audiences. Giglio said the Oskar team has received letters from several students reflecting on their own behavior after watching the plays at school assemblies.
“‘I know I have to be nice,’ ‘I know I’ve been mean,’ ‘I’ve been helping someone who is getting bullied.’ They report back on themselves and their community in relation to the question, which is deeply heartwarming,” Giglio said.
Both plays are told with humor and directly address the audience, according to Filip Hofman, who stars as Oskar.
“They present a solution to that problem in such a way that acknowledges that there are gray areas and fuzziness and lets the children mold that answer to fit their own personal lives,” the 25-year-old Hofman said. “I myself went through the solutions and thought, ‘Yeah, I can apply this to my own life.’”
A discussion with the cast follows each performance, Giglio noted.