Wanting to give back to the community, and also having suffered childhood bullying herself, local performing arts teacher Stacey Lee has created the Centre Stage Anti-Bullying Project, which is designed to educate and encourage self-confidence in its school-aged participants. Stacey took some time out from her exceedingly busy schedule to fill us in on the project.
What led you to start the project in the first place?
Performing arts has been a big part of my life since the age of six, and over the years I personally faced a lot of bullying just for doing something that I loved. I vowed that when I grew up, I would do anything to ensure no one else would ever feel the same way.
I now own a performing arts studio, “Stacey Lee’s Centre Stage”, where we teach singing, drama and dance classes with the groundwork being focused on building inner confidence and a humble belief of self. We also run holiday workshops, where we assist the students in creating their own scripts and writing an original song within this workshop.
After watching their performances and the difference in just one day, it became really obvious to me that there was a great opportunity to increase children’s self esteem on a much larger scale.
That was the catalyst that inspired me to start the Centre Stage Anti-Bullying Project.
What do you hope to achieve?
Through our school based workshops, I hope to see children find their creative side and develop an increase in their self belief and confidence, allowing for higher resilience to negative situations.
With high school aged workshops, I would like to also raise awareness of the effects that social media can have on their lives, and in turn see a decrease in bullying, self harm and violence and an overall reduction in school absences.
What does the project look like?
I wanted each workshop group to have an idea on what they were working towards, so I spoke to our junior class’ parents, who were 100% on board with having the kids co-write scripts about how bullying can manifest and resolution techniques in real situations.
Both classes workshopped their ideas, as it was far better for the dialogue to come straight from their mouths and minds (not an adult’s) in order to be relevant for the participants watching.
We are currently in the production stages with Jake Davey Studios. Once completed, we will be hitting the ground running, with several local schools ready to book workshops in early 2019.
I am so proud of each and every one of our juniors. They have worked so hard in class and extra rehearsals to get their lines memorised and characters just right, as they really understood the importance of the message they were creating.
I anticipate the workshops will run for three hours, with a maximum of 50 per group.
We intend to split the groups into 10 per group, and each would come up with their own scripts based around situations in which bullying occurs and how to resolve each one. They will then act them out or have them videoed, depending on age groups, with prizes available for the winning team.
What have been the outcomes so far?
It is such a beautiful thing to see students that may suffer from social anxieties, or are used to sitting on their own, blossom as they are finally allowed the freedom to be themselves in a non-judgmental and safe environment.
Their eyes light up and voices gain a strength they didn’t seem to have before. The statistics on teen suicide and self harm are devastating, with some Australian schools at crisis point. My goal is to help change these statistics.
From what I have witnessed, I really believe this project can do just that. It will help students to build their self esteem and inner confidence and learn to have compassion through stepping into others’ shoes via creating and performing scripts around this devastating epidemic.
What have been the challenges so far?
Only time getting the project off the ground, really! Running two growing businesses, performing in the local production of Les Misérables, being a mum and running a household is pretty intense, but I wouldn’t have it any other way! I am so grateful to have my amazing husband, Shane, my beautiful children, family and friends, who are always there with a hug and supportive words. They know how passionate I am about this issue.
We recently lost someone close to us to suicide, and this has made me even more driven to stop the stigma of mental health and to not think twice about talking to someone about your feelings.
Taree High School have also been a tremendous help, offering advice and information along the way. I have been running a lunchtime Drama group there and have had loads of students taking part in what is a safe, accepting, non judgmental environment. This definitely helped me get a feel for what would or wouldn’t work within high school groups.
What does the future look like in terms of the program?
Totally awesome, creative and full of positive vibes! The workshops will be facilitated by myself and Tim Gibbs (our Creative Director at Stacey Lee’s Centre Stage) with the help of local legends Kyle Shilling and Jake Davey. We will start locally then with schools around NSW, then on to other states and territories.
Ironically, we are all entertainers, actors, business owners, but growing up, we each faced substantial bullying, torment and even racism, but dealt with it in our own different ways.
We all agree on the fact that the creative arts saved us, brought us out of the dark, and now we want to give back and help others find their own positive outlets. I have so much respect for each of these guys and know their passion for this project is on par with mine. We can’t wait for the roll out of this much needed project into our local schools.
As we say at Centre Stage – Be Bold, Be Brave, Be YOU!
Interview: Ingrid Bayer.