Native playwright brings 'Bully' play to town | Schools

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Native playwright brings 'Bully' play to town
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- From the time he was a little kid, Lee Kaplan wanted to be an actor. But when the Jacksonville native returns to town this week, it's to bring his own story center stage.

Kaplan, now a professional actor in New York, wrote the autobiographical play, "Bully" about his experiences at A local middle school.

"The play is about my life," Kaplan told First Coast News. "I wrote this show after I found a journal that I kept in sixth grade; I was 12 years old."

Kaplan's parents rediscovered the plain composition notebook in their Jacksonville house. Keeping a journal was a classroom assignment, and it documented the bullying he suffered at hands of his classmates.

"I recognized there was a lot of stuff that I had ether forgotten or blocked out," Kaplan said of re-reading the journal. "The abuse did come from multiple people. ... [Bullying] is
very effective. It's very subtle. It's behind teacher's backs. It's when
they're not looking. It's when they're not watching."
 
If Kaplan's teacher read what was in Lee's journal, she gave no indication. "I received it back with a check mark," he said, "-- and that was about it."

Kaplan is careful not to blame his teachers, however, or even identify his former school.

"I just don't feel like I need to call attention to where it took place," he said, "because I think this as specific as I am in this show with the things that happened to me, there is universality to this... This can happen anywhere, anyplace at anytime, in school or out of school."

Kaplan's one man show has helped him cope with some of what he endured. But it also speaks to people on both sides of the bullying equation.

"I've been approached by people after the show some of whom have said very confidentially to me, 'Hey I was bullied too,' or 'I'm being bullied right now.' Other people have come up and said: 'I was a bully. I just want you to know -- that sounded familiar to me. Not from your side, but from theirs.'"

Theatre Jacksonville hosts four performances of Bully this weekend, including a free matinee on Saturday.

On October 5, First Coast News will host a free Anti-Bullying Boot Camp, which includes everything from interactive performances to legal resources for parents. 

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