LCPS Says No to ‘Normal’

LCPS Says No to ‘Normal’

Group Finds New Ways to Promote Play

Friday night’s performance of "Normal," a student-written play about bullying and other teen issues, went off without a hitch over the weekend.

Earlier in the week, Creative Theater Group and Loudoun Youth Initiative received news that Loudoun County Public Schools would not advertise the play in their halls.

Wayde Byard, spokesperson for Loudoun County Public Schools, said School Board policy does not allow outside groups to advertise in schools.

"We feel that once you allow one group to use students to carry information home many more will want to do this," Byard said. "We get literally hundreds of requests to take information home."

THE LOUDOUN YOUTH INITIATIVE, an advocacy group for young people, commissioned the Creative Youth Theatre Foundation of Middleburg to perform a play that tackles real-life issues that affect teens.

Co-producers Tom Sweitzer and Kim Tapper cast a diverse group of students for the play. The cast represents 10 different Loudoun public middle schools and high schools.

"The stories are real. It comes from them," Tapper said.

Loudoun County Public Schools has allowed LYI to advertise for events, like Battle of the Bands, in years past.

"We told LYI we would work with them if we knew what the play was about," Byard said. "This is an outside theater group working with many students who are not [Loudoun County Public Schools] students."

Loudoun County Public Schools asked the Creative Theatre Group to see a completed script or sit in a dress rehearsal before they made their decision whether or not to promote the play.

Sweitzer and Tapper couldn’t produce a script on time.

The script came from student journals. They are original pieces, Tapper said, and the story lines were changing up until production time.

Each cast member was given a journal to write painful and personal moments when they have felt attacked, uncomfortable or just plain weird, at the first rehearsal in September.

In order for the cast to feel comfortable with one another, Sweitzer and Tapper used the journal entries to start up conversations and shape the play.

"These are their voices, their creations," Tapper said.

"Simply put, we couldn’t promote work we hadn’t seen," Byard said.

TIM CHESTNUT, director of the Loudoun Youth Initiative, feared the School’s decision would affect the size of the audience at the six venues. So he and the cast came up with other ways to get their word out there.

"We just need to be more creative about how we get the word out there," he said.

Advocates for the play have been posting fliers around Loudoun County, in Starbucks, Papa Johns and "other places teens frequent," Chestnut said. He has also been sending e-mails to school PTA and PTO presidents.

"It’s no fault of anyone’s," he said. "We weren’t able to provide schools the information they needed."

THE CREATIVE YOUTH Theatre Group will perform at Heritage High School in Leesburg, Saturday, Feb. 17, at 7:30 p.m., at Franklin Park Performing and Visual Arts Center’s temporary location at Round Hill Center in Round Hill and Sunday, Feb. 18, at 3 p.m., at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn. The play is geared for audiences 12 and up. There will be a half-hour discussion session with cast members after each performance, and admission is free.

"Our goal is to be universal," said co-director Kimberly Tapper. "No matter what age, we want people to see themselves represented in at least one of the teenagers."