Under My Skin wields a powerful message for today’s youth

More than 1,200 Grade 7 students throughout the City have had the opportunity to view Under My Skin over the month of November and the beginning of December. The play focuses on the many issues affecting the lives of Grade 7 age students as they transition into their teenage years.

The brilliant and witty script, combined with the young energetic performances by the actors truly captivated the young audience’s attention, as well as my own. I couldn’t help but think back to when I was their age. I thought about the issues I dealt with and what I may have thought of the play as well as the impact it may have had on my life.

Grade 7 was a scary time. For me it was the beginning of middle school, the beginning of puberty and the beginning of seven years of awkward body and mind changes.

It is a time in your life when you start to worry about how you look, how other people look and what you might want your future to look like. When I look back on those days I wish someone had said to me the wise words given during this play.

Just as the actors in the play portrayed, I too would get stressed out about performing my best in school and the different sports I played, struggling to be the best I could be and just as portrayed in the play I would often look at myself in the mirror and wonder why the image staring back at me wasn’t different.

Co-written by Kate Harris alongside the actors of the play and directed by Justin Bronson – Under My Skin delves deep into the issues facing youth of today. With a primary focus on body image, the play also touches on stress, anxiety, depression, suicide, role models, pop culture, relationships and bullying.

I will never forget the first time I showed my mom first hand what cyber bullying looks like. She was appalled and gasped, later stating, “I don’t even know how to handle this. There was nothing like this in my time.”

I do not envy parents of today as their children are living in a world in which they’ve never themselves lived. While issues of body image – i.e. weight, acne, etc. – have been around for decades, the way mass media bombards young spongy minds these days is far beyond the comprehension of what most parents dealt with, making these issues much worse than when our parents were that age. The Internet makes all of these issues worse and parents often have no idea what their teens are dealing with within their individual cyber realms.

Harris and her team emphasized to the students a number of ways to handle the upcoming stress they will face in the tough years to come, including positive thinking and the importance of being yourself in a world that is begging you to be someone else. The play reminds students that they are not the only ones going through these issues, and that if they don’t feel like they can talk to any one about it, there are always counselors to help.

I can only imagine what the world might be like if every student of this age were to see this play and it have the impact on them that it had on me as an adult. Although I am now aware of most of the solutions they presented to the students, I certainly look back at myself at that age and remember the confusion and feelings of being alone in the world, and alone in the issues I was facing. It would have been nice for someone to tell me I wasn’t.

Parents should applaud the Red Deer Public School District for taking the initiative to commission the insightful play by Harris and her team and I personally hope to see the play continue in future years.

jswan@reddeerexpress

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