LEWISTON — Lewiston Middle School students will take to the stage next week to perform original plays sharing their perspectives on conflict, self expression and trust in school.

Since March, 26 seventh graders have worked with Maine Inside Out staff to create two unique performances. It’s the start of a two-year partnership between the middle school and the Lewiston-based nonprofit.

Maine Inside Out aims to encourage meaningful community dialogue on oppression, transformative justice and more through theater. They often collaborate with incarcerated or at-risk youth, however this is the organization’s first time working with middle school students.

Several students who spoke with the Sun Journal said they see the performances as an opportunity to speak up and share their experiences with teachers, administrators and parents.

They see a lot of bullying and fighting in school. Sometimes, the people responsible get away with it, they said. Other times, those with little connection to the conflict are punished.

Mostly, the students said they don’t feel heard.


“It’s a good experience because you can tell the teachers or the people that have been watching, you can speak up about things that have been happening and how you can try to change it,” said seventh-grader Zudays Sugal. “Like bullying and how teachers should, instead of just assuming things, maybe listen to both sides.”

Seventh grader Kaleigh Maloon and three other girls asked for permission to create an additional last-minute scene on dating Friday. It’s yet another thing that many middle school students find difficult to navigate.

Maloon said it was important to share student’s experiences with teachers and administrators. “We want them to actually understand the details of what’s happening,” she said.

From the start of the school year, Lewiston Middle School science teacher Micaela Tepler recognized students were going to need extra support.

“We needed to do something educationwise that would either help them regulate their emotions or have some sort of anti-violence education,” she said.

With the permission of school administrators, she reached out to Maine Inside Out.


“So many people dismiss the Lewiston public school system, so it’s really good to have people who are willing to come in,” Tepler said. “So many people see it as unfixable, when we do have the (resources) in our community.”

After Maine Inside Out brought a play to the middle school, 72 students expressed interest in creating their own. But the number was too large, and teachers and Maine Inside Out staff had to pick out a smaller group of students.

It’s been a difficult, but a rewarding experience for students and staff alike. At times, outbursts and distractions have made it challenging to create the student-driven plays.

“If you can’t capture their energy, it just blows out of proportion,” Maine Inside Out project facilitator Tyler Jackson said. “It is difficult, but we’ve done something that in the beginning, I didn’t think was going to be able to be done.”

Expeditionary Learning Facilitator Alicia Ricker said it has been incredible to see the diverse group of students with many strong personalities working together to create the plays, pointing out several examples of individual growth.

Rehearsals on Thursday were still rough, with forgotten lines and ample distractions from the students in the crowd. But things were coming together.


“Our motto is build a world where everybody matters and belongs,” Maine Inside Out project facilitator Darryl Shepard Jr. said. “And don’t we want a world like that? Don’t we want a world where we can all bring our voice and we can all bring who we are full out front and make a better world that way? … I’m proud of the people I do it with, and I’m proud that other people are joining us to do it.”

As one group’s rehearsal came to a close, a dozen students stood on stage, stepping forward one by one.

“I feel trusted when I’m with my family,” one said. “I feel trusted when teachers hear both sides of a story,” said another. A third: “I feel trusted when a teacher believes me.”

Next week, the students will perform the plays for Lewiston Middle School students and staff, as well as their families.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.