By John Loftus
Times Staff Writer
Alexandra Henry writes because she has something to say.
Henry, a 14-year-old student at the Arts Academy of Benjamin Rush High School on Knights Road, also got to see her writing performed by a professional actor.
The Morrell Park resident wrote a monologue recently chosen for a performance at the Adrienne Theater in Center City as part of the 2011 Young Voices High School Monologue Festival. Henry was inspired by her own experiences to write about bullying in schools, a subject that increasingly has been in the news.
Her monologue, You Wouldn't Understand, "is about a girl struggling with bullying at her school and she's just sick and tired of people not listening to her," Henry explained.
The girl, Sara, talks to a counselor after being jumped in a school hallway. Sara has been led to believe that she, not the bully, is the problem.
"She has been told that this is her fault," Henry said.
The topical nature of her project gained emphasis last week when the city's Human Relations Commission issued a report that the School District of Philadelphia must do more to address bullying and violence.
Henry knows all about bullying firsthand, she said during an interview on the day before she was to see her monologue performed at the Adrienne Theater. She endured so much bullying in her non-public elementary school that she left while in fifth grade, she explained.
What she wrote for the Young Voices program "doesn't include events from my life," Henry said.
But there are similarities. "It's very raw," she said of her work. "Emotions come out . . . every word has some kind of emotion."
Henry's monologue and those of 15 other students in city schools were performed two weeks ago by professional actors with the local InterAct Theatre Company, which stages new and contemporary plays. The students' creative entries were chosen for performance from almost 300 submissions to the Young Voices festival.
In Henry's case, she chose her topic, though she can recall when doing any writing at all "was kind of forced upon me."
Her monologue on bullying evolved from a theater-class assignment to submit a short piece for the Young Voices program, which is presented yearly by the Philadelphia Young Playwrights, an arts-education group that has existed for more than 20 years, and the InterAct Theatre Company.
"Actually, it was very simple," Henry said, explaining that there were no boundaries to restrict what she could write, and bullying was the first thing that came to mind.
That choice, however, forced Henry to do some reflection, which wasn't easy.
"I had to go back through all those memories," she said.
While trying to put those feelings into words, she realized that "some things just didn't sound right," Henry said. Once the draft was complete, she had to get comments from classmates, along with her teacher. She took those suggestions and made revisions to the draft.
"It was easy to put something in or take something out," she said.
When her monologue was chosen for performance, additional revisions were easy, Henry added, and help also came from the Young Playwrights staff.
The festival submissions were broad — students created stories about relationships, fear, race, family, abuse, divorce, injustice and culture.
As she looks down the road, Henry, a ninth-grade theater major at Rush, wants to publish a book and write a play. She enjoyed the Young Voices experience.
"I was amazed at how awesome everything turned out," Henry said of the stage performance. "It was such an inspiring show that made me just want to write so much more."
Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org