Local student turns experience with cyberbullying, anxiety into class play

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WEST GREENWICH, R.I. (WPRI) — Everybody has their own story. That’s the message behind a student play written and directed by an Exeter-West Greenwich High School senior.

Michelina Smith said she decided to turn negative experiences with cyber-bullying and anxiety into an eye-opening experience for everyone. She wrote “Sonder” over the summer about “teenage experiences, bullying, anxiety, and finding yourself,” she said.

The word ‘sonder’ means, “the realization that each passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.”

Smith wanted to convey that every person that you see, meet, or interact with has his or her own story and to encourage acceptance and understanding.

“So many people deal with so many different issues. Mental health, substance abuse or problems at home. And at high school we judge each other so much,” added Smith.

Courtesy: EWG Drama

While admitting she was hesitant, Smith presented the play to her drama school teacher Zach Searle in September.

Parent Guide: Bullying Signs & Prevention »

“I thought he would be nice and just say ‘this is okay,’ but he was totally on board. He said it was very poignant and relevant and was super supportive and said ‘let’s do this,'” Smith said.

“I expected a good product, but I think I got more of a great product that I had expected. What she handed me was really the frame-work, a 90-page framework for what could easily become an original musical,” said Searle.

“As I started thinking I realized I had a story to share, things I have learned in my high school experiences,” said Smith.

The high school senior says in addition to her school work, she is involved in every aspect of the play including rehearsals that started the second week of school and casting the 15 student actors. The cast also includes 10 tech members who built the sets.

“It started to feel real the first day we sat down with the cast and went through the whole show. They are adding their own bits to it, own life experiences and I think every cast member as we have gone through it, has shared they have felt a lot of the same things in it,” added Searle.

If you are interested in checking it out, “Sonder” opens next weekend.

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