The Issue: Suicide Claims Numerous Young Lives
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4,400 youths aged 10–24 die by suicide every year. Youth suicides have rocked Palo Alto in recent years, including five lives lost at Gunn High School in 2009. In response to these tragedies, the Palo Alto Unified School District and TheatreWorks have commissioned performances of Oskar and the Last Straw to help teach young students how to cope with stress and make healthy choices.
The Campaign: Play Teaches Students Coping Strategies
If this Grassroots campaign raises $150, with matched donations TheatreWorks can perform Oskar and the Last Straw for students in grades K–5 at one local school. Each additional $300 raised will sponsor a performance at another school. Donations will be matched up to $4,500 from several members of the TheaterWorks Inner Circle, including Mary and Guy Cummins, Woof Kurtzman and Liz Hertz, and Ken and Clare Livak.
During the play, the character of Oskar faces an overwhelming amount of schoolwork, extracurricular and social events, and pressure from friends and family. Over time these pressures cause extreme stress. The play demonstrates how students can make healthy choices to deal with stress and maintain a positive outlook on the future. Before the show, TheatreWorks will provide a study guide with pre- and post-show activities to spur discussion and teach coping strategies. This spring, TheatreWorks has performed Oskar and the Last Straw for 66 schools in five counties across the region, including San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, and San Rafael.
You can follow the progress of this and other Grassroots campaigns at the Groupon Grassroots website.
TheatreWorks has grown during the past four decades from a workshop for students to perform in parking garages and outdoor parks, to a preeminent professional theater that brings regional premiers and original plays to stages in the Bay Area. TheatreWorks produces and performs eight plays during its mainstage season. Its New Works Initiative promotes the creation of new plays and musicals, and hosts an annual theater festival and writers retreat to develop and showcase these works. The organization also stewards a number of educational programs wherein artists train students at local schools to foster a love of theater.