School play presents anti-bullying message with comedic twist

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EXETER – The issue of school bullying is tackled in a comedic way in an upcoming production at South Huron District high school.

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Torment Her is written by Grade 12 student Celia Ciufo, who has also taken on direction duties for the play that will hit the stage in January. Ciufo stage managed the school’s production of neeT Teen last year and, at the end of the school year, decided to take a stab at writing this year’s production.

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Ciufo originally came up with the idea with their father, Paul, also a local writer, and then made it their own. The story tells the tale of a spirit that haunts a high school and makes a bargain with students to bully another student in exchange for popularity.

The play was originally written in August as a drama with some comedic elements, but drama teacher Cam Oates suggested the play should either be darker or a farce.

Ciufo didn’t think making the play darker would work, so they instead went full comedy and turned Torment Her into a farce, rewriting it over a weekend.

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Rehearsals for Torment Her started in mid-September on Wednesdays in the small gym after school.

“I think the production’s going to end up really well,” Ciufo said.

In Torment Her, a female character named Quinn is able to defeat her bullies in a comedic way.

“She’s really artistic,” Ciufo said. “She’s really strong and determined to fight back against the bullies.”

Teacher Oates, who is working as stage manager on Torment Her, said he encourages student-written plays, explaining the purpose of the drama program is to give students the opportunity to grow and show their skills.

He said this is the first production for some of the participants.

“Their work is a home run” said Oates, adding they’re having a lot of fun with it.

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He said Torment Her has an anti-bullying message and shows the absurdity of it.

In addition to a cast of six, Oates said there has been great support from others in the school who are helping with lighting, costumes, sound and other tasks.

Ciufo, 17, has been writing as a hobby since they were 10, usually focusing on short stories, and intends to pursue creative writing as a minor in university. Ciufo will also be printing copies of a short story collection they wrote for one of their classes.

“The theme of that short story collection,” Ciufo said, “is the future, but what will happen if we, as humanity, don’t get on a better course.”

“Usually the goal of my writing is to get people to think about things, usually issues in the world. Just about life, and why we do what we do and why others do what they do.”

In Torment Her, Ciufo said the aim was to get people to reflect on why there is bullying.

“Why do people bully? There’s no reason for it.”

Torment Her will be performed in the small gym at South Huron District high school Jan. 17 and 18 at 6 p.m., with a snow date of Jan. 19. Admission is by donation at the main entrance of the school. Torment Her will also be the school’s entry into the Drama Festival in the spring.

SHDHS play Torment Her

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Sherri Crump

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