Knightdale High School theater students have to work hard to put on their annual productions.
Over the past month, they’ve worked even harder offstage to promote suicide awareness and prevention as part of their work on their fall production of “The Girl in the Mirror.”
KHS theater has wrapped up performances of the play, but performed a student-only matinee last week. Earlier in the same week, over 300 students signed a pledge to seek or give help if they or someone they know feels suicidal.
The cast and crew of “The Girl in the Mirror” also led a march through the school to raise awareness.
“We focus on social awareness as a big part of our theater program,” said Nichole Gibbs, Knightdale’s theater arts director.
She chooses an issue every year for her students to tackle through activism and onstage. She said she normally finds ideas by observing what students are talking about.
The play this year, “The Girl in the Mirror” details the thoughts of a comatose girl after she attempts suicide.
The whole play – including technical staff – included 35 students, who went through exhaustive preparations to handle the sensitive topic.
“We do a lot based on fact, there’s a lot of study that goes into the role in addition to learning your lines and blocking,” Gibbs said. “You have to study the thought process the character goes through and if you haven’t gone through it, it can be difficult.”
Senior Lindsey Boyette played Susan, the main character. She said she spent time researching suicide online but also relied on friends who had family members who struggled with suicide.
“I’ve been in a couple theater productions but this is my biggest role and it’s been the hardest role I’ve had to take on,” she said. “Something you don’t want to do is make a mockery of it.”
The students also spearheaded the service component, Gibbs said. That required them to use their research to craft informational posters for the hallways and quick facts to be presented on the morning announcements.
The added responsibility was obvious, but Boyette said it helped the cast bond.
“It really brought us together as a cast,” she said. “It was a serious play and we all took it extremely seriously.”