For the fifth year, Pittsburg High School theater teacher Greg Shaw’s repertory class has taken on a heavy topic that could strike a nerve with audience members.
His students this week will perform an original play, “You Belong to Me,” which addresses the issue of dating violence and destructive relationships. Past plays by his classes have focused on such topics as bullying, prescription drug use and eating disorders.
“Each year we work with a California playwright,” Shaw said. “We talk about the issue, we do research, she writes it and we perform it.”
This year’s topic is particularly timely, Shaw said. President Barack Obama declared February 2013 as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently reported on the U.S. Department of Education’s efforts to support school communities in preventing teen dating violence and other forms of gender-based violence across the country.
The issue is a tough one, Shaw said, because “it’s likely to be happening in our hallways." It also could be happening, he noted, between adults in students’ homes in the form of physical or verbal domestic abuse, or both.
“The statistics we see are alarming,” Shaw said. “One in three adolescents is a victim of an abusive relationship; one in five will be raped. And here in the Four States, domestic violence is the highest in the country. There are a lot of risk factors and learned behaviors.”
Agencies throughout Crawford County that address dating abuse, such as the Children’s Advocacy Center, the Safehouse Crisis Center, PSU Students Against Violence and local law enforcement, have endorsed the play. Representatives will be in attendance to help with a question-and-answer session after the performances.
Shaw said the goal of the play, which has “some heavy scenes,” is to help those who perform it and those who see it better understand how to spot warning signs of an abusive relationship, what to do when one is in an abusive relationship and what services are available in the community.
“YOU BELONG TO ME” will be performed at 7 p.m. today for the public at Memorial Auditorium, 503 N. Pine St., and at 9:30 a.m. Thursday and Friday at the auditorium for area high schools. All performances are free.