Hancher, Working Group Theatre go ‘Out of Bounds’ to combat bullying in Iowa

Working Group Theatre will be presenting Out of Bounds on Saturday, November 14th at the Coralville Center for Performing Arts in Coralville, Iowa, before the play embarks on a national tour. View event details.

Play will be performed in Iowa communities also engaged in Hancher art project

By Rob Cline

Students in seven Iowa communities will confront cyberbullying through art as the University of Iowa’s Hancher and Iowa City’s Working Group Theatre collaborate to present Out of Bounds to middle and elementary schoolers in November. Pre-show and post-show activities have been developed with faculty from the College of Public Health to integrate the show into ongoing bullying curriculum.

The play, which Hancher commissioned and which was first presented in 2013, was written by Jennifer Fawcett of Working Group. The story follows 14-year-old Amy, who has posted a picture of herself online that she shouldn’t have. She hopes to make a new start at a new school, but when a rival uncovers the whole embarrassing story, Amy’s life begins to fall apart.

Out of Bounds was extremely well received by students, teachers, and administrators for its realistic and current portrayal of bullying. The new tour of the play will visit the Pearson Lakes Arts Center in Okoboji on Nov. 2, Algona Middle School on Nov. 3, Spencer Middle School on Nov. 4, Storm Lake Middle School on Nov. 5, Lewis Central Middle School in Council Bluffs on Nov. 6, West Middle School in Muscatine on Nov. 9, and Maquoketa Middle School on Nov. 10.

While the Pearson Lakes Arts Center visit is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Okoboji presenter and Hancher, the other schools and communities were chosen for the tour because they are involved in another Hancher-related project. Students in these communities have been collaborating with University of Iowa professor and artist Anita Jung to create a work of art that will hang in the new Hancher Auditorium when it opens in the fall of 2016.

Students took selfies and then transformed them into art pieces featuring their ideas about the nature of performance. Jung is crafting a final work drawing from the students’ efforts.

“The art piece Anita and the students are creating is about respect and identity,” said Chuck Swanson, Hancher’s executive director, “and that’s a real connection to Out of Bounds. The selfies the students took and worked with help them define themselves instead of letting others define them, and that’s a major theme of the play, as well. We’re delighted to continue working with students in these communities.”

Swanson and Jung laid the groundwork for these ongoing relationships last year when they went to each community to introduce the art project to teachers and students.

“Our work across the state is an essential part of what we do,” Swanson said. “These projects are the latest examples of outreach work we’ve been proud to do for years and years. And there’s more to come in these communities and elsewhere in Iowa.”

Hancher’s collaboration with the Pearson Lake Arts Center to present Out of Bounds is funded by an endowment which makes it possible for a Hancher-presented artist to appear at the Okoboji center each year.

The tour to the other communities is funded by an endowment created to sustain the work of Hancher’s Spot: The Hancher Family Arts Adventure project. That endowment was established with funds from the Wallace Foundation and from Hancher donors to sustain Hancher’s engagement activities throughout the state.

Watch a preview of Out of Bounds.

Read about Swanson and Jung’s tour to introduce the art project.