PITTSBURG, Kan. — The great playwright William Inge said that “no theater could sanely flourish until there was an umbilical connection between what was happening on the stage and what was happening in the world.”

The Pittsburg High School Drama Club and theater department have taken that to heart. The stage is used as a vehicle to not just reflect what is happening in the world, but to give audience members a chance to consider it with the deeper, more emotional reaction theater provides compared with two-dimensional media.

Under the direction of theater teacher Greg Shaw, the students haven’t shied away from bringing social issues to the stage with recent productions such as “The Diary of Anne Frank” and “Bang, Bang You’re Dead.”

Shaw says that while theater primarily is thought of as entertainment, it also can be a tool for education, for raising questions and opening lines of communication.

A social issue will once again come to the stage on Tuesday morning at Memorial Auditorium when PHS performers tackle eating disorders, body image and healthy choices in “Phat Girls.”

It is a play that PHS counselor Rhonda White calls “socially relevant, thought-provoking, edgy and sensitive.”

During the fast-paced account of the struggle many women experience dealing with weight and body image, the audience is transported from childhood to adulthood, witnessing the development and many facets of an eating disorder.

Students in the Drama Club were one of four groups at PHS to receive a grant to emphasize health and wellness in the school district.

Statistics from some groups show that in the United States, about 80 percent of women are dissatisfied with their appearance, and 10 percent of girls and women (about 10 million) suffer from diagnosed eating disorders.

White believes that by seeing the play, students will benefit greatly by learning not just about themselves but also about one another, and about the importance of making good choices when it comes to eating, fitness and their health.

And, as sometimes only theater can do, this learning experience about a heavy topic uses humor, poignancy and honesty to bring the theme to life while still driving an important message home.

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