A desperately unhappy teen wants her life to end, but she also wants those who made her miserable to know just how they helped push her toward suicide.
So she makes a series of audiotapes outlining just how her classmates and a clueless school counselor contributed to her death. The story is told in "Thirteen Reasons Why," a play adapted from a popular young adult novel by Jay Asher. Public performances will be at 7 p.m. today, Thursday and Saturday at Pittsburg High School. There will also be some daytime performances for students.
The author will be at PHS Thursday to speak with students as well as present a free public reading from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Pittsburg Public Library.
"Jay Asher told us that this will only be the second school production of the play that he’s attended," said Greg Shaw, PHS theater instructor. "A school in Illinois adapted his novel into a play, and he helped."
He said that Cheryl Larson, PHS librarian, had been the main contact between the school and the author and his publishers.
"We got a grant through Character Education that helped pay the expenses of bringing the author here, and he did not charge for the rights to do the play," Shaw said.
Bailey Bennett portrays Hannah, the suicidal girl, who links all the people and happenings that poisoned her life, starting with Justin, played by Jack Patterson.
"I was a freshman girl who hadn’t been kissed," she says, so she engineered a meeting with Justin at a local part.
She gets her kiss, and nothing more. But Justin can’t leave it at that, and tells his buddies that much more happened. This starts the rumors that plague Hannah for the rest of her life. Then Alex, played by Will Schindler, makes up a list of who’s hot and who’s not in the freshman class, and writes that Hannah has the best a-- in the freshman class.
More incidents follow. Hannah is accosted in a store, and Tyler, a teen peeping tom played by Andrew Ortolani, spies on her. She goes to a disastrous party where a drunken girl passes out and is raped. When Hannah confides her despondency to a school counselor, Mrs. Porter, played by Betty Noonoo, the woman is completely incompetent.
Hannah and Clay, played by Jack Warring, had spoken very little to each other but felt an attraction. They finally do get a few brief moments of talk at a party, and feel a deep emotional connection, but it’s just too late and Hannah is afraid to trust in him or in herself.
And Clay feels his own guilt, realizing that there were many earlier times when he could have talked to Hannah and perhaps changed the course of her story.
"That’s one of the main things with Clay," Warring said. "He never reaches out."
Others in the cast include Abbi Epperson as Clay’s mother, Mark Weaver as Tony, Makayla Bockover, Kagan White as Bryce, Morgan Burns as a barista, Erin Simons as Courtney, Cole Hamblin as Marcus, Olivia Joy as Jenny, Coral VanBecelaere, Lydia Winters and Morgan Grotheer as cheerleaders, Ashley Hall as Mrs. Benson, Sarah Colyer as Mrs. Bradley, Cooper Wade as Zach, Clara Wehrman, Maddie Weidert and Lexi Popejoy as poet ladies, Hannah Wade as Skye and Andrew Studyvin as another student.
The young actors said that they believe the play is quite true to life, and feel that it can make a difference.
"Doing this show makes us realize that little things do matter," said Erin Simmons.
Noonoo noted that she plays the only character that Hannah confides in.
"It’s hard for me to understand where she’s coming from," she said. "Why doesn’t she have Hannah get the help she needs?"
But there’s enough blame to cover everybody, including Hannah.
"This play changes your perspective," said Ashley Hall. " Life is really difficult, but Hannah doesn’t try to make it better. She only sees the worse."
Bennett agrees with that.
"In the end, we don’t want Hannah to seem like a hero," she said.
There are no heroes in the play, but Clay does learn and grown. At the end, he sits down and starts talking with Skye, a very quiet and shy student who just might have become the next school suicide.
Hannah Wade, who portrays Skye, feels that this small gesture might make a big difference.
"No one knows for certain how much impact they’ll have on the lives of other people," she said.