Vermont Arts Council

Art in the Time of Covid: Bully No More!

Students across Vermont are returning to school in varying ways—from fully remote to fully in-person, and many variations between—but how are the arts returning with them? That question has been top of mind to the creators of Bully No More!, a musical that empowers young people to stand up to bullying.

Since premiering in 2011 to sold out audiences at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center, the musical has been available to schools and community theaters for live performance. Like all things in the time of Covid, Bully No More! has had to change, to adapt for production according to the needs of socially distanced and remote classrooms. And because increased internet use during the pandemic has seen a rise in cyberbullying, it’s all the more important that young people hear Bully No More!’s message of mutual respect and empowerment.

As part of our series featuring creative professionals’ responses to the virus, Elaine Davida Sklar, one of the creators of Bully No More!, shared her thoughts with the Council.

What is the most difficult impact you’ve felt from the coronavirus pandemic?

We (Elaine Davida Sklar and Jon Gailmor with Danielle Davis) took ten years to write, produce, and publish the musical, Bully No More! (Tams-Witmark/Concord Theatricals). The story and songs inspire children to look out for one another, treat each other with kindness and respect, and hold onto hope in an imperfect and pandemic world. The musical was ready to be presented by different classes at weekly meetings in elementary schools, and full middle school and community theatre productions, when COVID-19 closed schools and theaters. A large portion of profits were to go to Prevent Child Abuse Vermont to help abused and bullied children.

How have you gained hope or solace from your arts community since the crisis began?

The Off Broadway Alliance and The American Association of Community Theaters has suggested that shows can be presented in the classrooms, or online, once schools are in session, which has been encouraging. Bully No More! is an ideal selection, as it was written to be performed in scenes by different elementary classes over time and can easily transfer to Covid-19 classrooms. There is a piano book and recorded tracks. There are digital resources for production through our publisher, Concord Theatricals. The entire show can be produced remotely, if necessary. There is no need for any characters to ever touch each other. Sets are minimal, and costumes can be created from the students’ imaginations. The style of presentation is totally up to each school.

Bully No More! is an important piece of theater to help children change their behavior and create a healthy and safe environment where all voices are valued in this pandemic world, so we are hopeful that it can continue to reach young people.

How can people support your organization and the artists you work with through this difficult period?

Please share this link with everyone you know on social media, and ask them to do the same. The song, from Bully No More! is I FEEL STRONG!

The Cast of Bully No More! at Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center. Photo courtesy of Elaine Davida Sklar.

Learn more about Bully No More! and how to access the production materials at the publishers website, Concord Theatricals.

Watch the director of The Children’s Acting Company and Theater discuss producing the musical.

Watch this promo for the musical featuring its creators and Daniel French, Secretary of VT Education, as well as Linda Johnson, Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse Vermont.

Bully No More! explores the repercussions of bullying and celebrates the power of individuals to band together and stand up for what is right. With compelling characters and lively songs, the show empowers and inspires its audience to look out for one another, treat each other with kindness and respect, and “Hold Onto Hope” in an imperfect world.

The musical’s creator, Elaine Davida Sklar, served as the Director of The Greenwich Repertory Theatre and Connecticut Playmakers, the Drama Chairman for The Masters School, co-founded The Children’s Theatre Workshop, and is a founder of the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center.