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Pelham's 'HONK! Jr.' Sends Anti-Bullying Message

PELHAM, N.Y. – The Pelham Middle School Drama Club performed “HONK! Jr.” in front of family and friends in the packed Pelham Memorial auditorium Thursday night. Afterwards, members of the audience talked about the colorful costumes, “amazing” set and “strong” acting. However, it was the central message of the play – bullying – that rang true to director Thomas Beck.

“I think it’s a beautiful image to show how someone can be different in life and still be part of the world and be accepted,” Beck said. “That’s what we talked about. The idea that bullying today, whether it’s cyber-bullying or bullying in class, how these kids really have to learn tolerance and acceptance to be a citizen of the world today.”

The play, adapted from Hans Christian Andersen’s “ The Ugly Duckling is about a duckling named Ugly, played by student Andrew O’Brien, who gets bullied by those around him, except for his mother, because of his features. He eventually strays off with a dangerous cat, but through the help of various other animals, he is reunited with his mother as a beautiful swan and is accepted by everyone.

Sarah Liddy, who played Ugly’s mother, Ida, said she enjoyed taking part in “HONK! Jr.” because of its anti-bullying message.

“This show sends a really strong message that bullying isn’t nice,” said the eighth grader. “Bullying can do so much to a person that it gets really bad and they get really sad.” She added, “If you stand up, people will be nice.”

The mother of Joseph Catalano, who played Ugly’s father, Drake, said she thinks the cast of 60 kids – made up of sixth, seventh and eighth graders – sends the right message both on and off the stage.

“I think that this group in particular is probably a very accepting crowd of each other anyway,” Josephine Catalano said. “So it’s a nice thing to put out there for their peers as well. It’s a great message. I think the best part of theater at this place, all of the plays, is the camaraderie of the kids.”

“They did a great job,” Beck said. “I think everyone stepped up and they worked very hard and that was rewarding. To see from the day of auditions to tonight, opening night, how a wonderful graph could be shown on how these kids have grown so much.”

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