Bedford Actors Take “Higher Ground”

On May 11 and 12, Bedford Acting Group will present a controversial play about bullying in middle school. It’s a hot topic now, all over the country.

Co-directors Karen McCormick and Ryan Smith have planned “Higher Ground” for a while.

It’s not the first time they’ve addressed the issue.

In 2010, then-8th grader Will Haskell played the lead. He’s now running for a state senate seat — and will speak to the cast during rehearsals.

Will Haskell, in Bedford Middle School’s 2010 production of “Higher Ground.”

The play deals frankly with important issues like body image, race and sexuality. Characters are taunted for various reasons, before banding together and standing up in the end.

One boy is teased, harassed and assaulted after he shrugs off a misunderstanding about whether he is gay or straight. Other students are bullied for their weight, ethnicity, dress, interest in academics and being in special education.

“Higher Ground” was written in 2008 by Sherwood, Oregon middle school teacher Jennie Brown. Her principal called it “too mature,” and ordered it rewritten. Students countered that it depicted middle school life accurately, and refused to perform if it was censored.

The show was canceled. But the community rose in support, and “Higher Ground” enjoyed 3 sold-out performances at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts.

Eight years ago McCormick found the script online. With the full support of BMS administration, the play was presented. It earned raves.

Brown has updated the play to reflect today’s technological and social media environment. But the message remains the same.

And it’s one every Westporter should see.

(“Higher Ground” will be presented on Friday and Saturday, May 11 and 12, at 7 p.m. in the Bedford Middle School auditorium. Click here for tickets.) 

Top row (from left): Ryan Porio, Alex Waterworth. Bottom row: Sydney Gusick, Quinn Mulvey, Isabella Roberts.

5 responses to “Bedford Actors Take “Higher Ground”

  1. Cornelia Fortier

    But what follow-up was there with the 6th graders who heckled?

  2. Susana Weyer

    Hope they show it during the day to the student body like they do for concerts. Because otherwise they would miss the children who should really see it. Would be great to incorporate it into the health class curriculum.

  3. Eleanor Sasso

    Great concept… but does this play include a spotlight on bullying re political persuasion… a biggy in today’s schools..?

  4. The theater performances by the Westport middle school acting groups are well done and are a treat to see. At Bedford, Karen McCormick, Ryan Smith, Brett Boles and the numerous parents volunteers do a terrific job supporting performers and Tech crews. The town is so fortunate to have such dedicated and talented support.

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