Pioneer on CBS News: High school production targets bullying in schools

This is a production that has been in the works for a few years and is finally making its debut. Here is a news story that CBS affiliate – KUTV news aired featuring the production and the impact PHS hopes to make in the community through the performing arts.

(KUTV) He danced his way to some of the top musicals across the country and directed sold-out shows here in Utah.

Now Derryl Yeager is behind a new production that targets school bullying, called “Wide Awake.”

The show was put on by students at Pioneer High School for the Performing Arts in American Fork.

“It’s powerful. It’s really powerful,” said Yeager.

Yeager spent 25 years in the professional dance and Broadway show arena before he started the Odyssey Dance Theater in 1994.

It has produced hit shows like “Thriller,” “Redux Nutcracker,” and “Shut Up and Dance.”

Four years ago, Yeager helped open up a performing arts high school and has wanted to do a show about bullying.

“I titled the show ‘Wide Awake’ because that was my intent — was just, open your eyes. Open your eyes to what’s around you,” said Yeager.

But the word bully is never mentioned once during the 40-minute musical production.

“As soon as you say the word ‘bully,’ they are going to tune out,” said Yeager.

“I think it makes it more personal instead of just, bullying is bad,” said Jessie Martindale, one of the student actors in the show.

The stories told in “Wide Awake” are real, many of them coming from the actors’ own experiences.

“We’ve written our own monologues. We’ve given a lot of input on how we want to portray this — how we want to stage it,” Martindale said.

“Going about it this way is, in my opinion, more impactful,” said student actor Tal Stengel.

But the show isn’t all doom and gloom. Its final message is about believing in yourself.

“In a very imperfect world, whoever you are is perfect,” said Stengel.

“I think that is the overall message of the entire piece is, it’s survivable. And you shouldn’t even consider suicide or any of those things,” Yeager said.

Yeager is now in the process of working with schools and districts, hoping to take this production across the state.

For more about Derryl Yeager and Odyssey Dance Theater, visit its website.

Get ready! Jeff Whiting is coming to PHS to workshop with us and the opportunity to audition for his summer intensives at the Open Jar Institute. Who is Jeff? Recently acclaimed as a ‘director with a joyous touch’ by the New York Times, Jeff Whiting is a director and choreographer for theater, opera, television, special events and concerts around the world. Broadway Credits include: Bullets Over Broadway, Big Fish, The Scottsboro Boys, Hair, Young Frankenstein, and Wicked. Jeff is the owner and Artistic Director of The Open Jar Institute, a music theatre training program founded in 2003 for the development of music theatre artists of all ages. Stage Write Software, designed and developed by Jeff, marks the worlds first digital method for documenting staging and choreography and is already in use for over 40 Broadway shows and tours, including Newsies, Book of Mormon, Matilda, The Producers, amongst other esteemed productions.

For more information about the auditions and masterclass with Jeff click here.

Morgen Call, Student of the Month

Congratulations to Dance Academy member – Morgen Call – our student of the month. Morgen is both a talented performer and exceptional student. Learn a little more about Morgen below.

Morgen’s Interest:
Dancing, discovering new talents about myself and traveling.

Morgen’s Hobbies:
Dancing, making new friends, and cooking.

Morgen’s favorite aspect(s) about PHS?
“I get to do what I love everyday and constantly pushed to improve in my craft.”

Ruby’s Aspirations:
To become a professional dancer and travel the world – be part of a professional company.

Congratulations to Morgen for being our student of the month.

Mike Mitchell, PHS Teacher of the Month

Mr. Mike Mitchell has been nominated as our teacher of the month. Mr. Mitchell teaches Honors Language Arts, Philosophy, and Literature. Learn more about Mr. Mitchell below.

Mr. Mitchell enjoys philosophy, the mountains, baseball, and anything written by C.S. Lewis or G.K. Chesterton.

In his spare time Mr. Mitchell enjoys hiking, running, and anything that involves a mountain.

Favorite aspect(s) about PHS?
I love the focus on the arts and the way the small class sizes allow everyone to know each other.

To continue teaching and learning.

Congratulations to Mr. Mitchell for being our teacher of the month and for all of his hard work to inspire the students at PHS.