UW-Whitewater produces play based on boy’s bullying book

Group will perform 11 times throughout southern Wisconsin
UW-Whitewater produces play based on boy’s bullying book
Alex Urner

Characters that were once seen on pages of a short story are now being brought to life on the stage.

“This was totally new, and to take this play and make it come to life has been the most fun,” said Charles Grover, director of Nate the Dragon.

It’s an original play two years in the making, designed from a book written by then-8-year-old Alex Urner from his own experiences. His words are now put into songs with help from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater children’s theater.

It’s a story about overcoming bullying. Nate the dragon and his friends travel through the land of Treegrass, but when Nate does not fit in he’s excluded from the group. A story that is not too far from reality.

“I talk to the kids beforehand and tell them (bullying is) the main theme of the play and what a terrible thing bullying is. They all know what it is. I ask them if they can define it and tell me what it means and they have a pretty good idea,” Grover said.

Nate goes through a journey of discovery and song that leads to the road of acceptance by his peers. A lesson taught through laughter with a serious message.

“It’s a really good message about bullying and that it’s a real problem throughout elementary schools and middle schools. It’s good to catch them at an early age so we can hopefully stop bullying where it starts,” said Leslie LaMuro, UW-Whitewater associate director of public events.

Its Nate’s bravery, imagined by a boy not much older than the target audience, that is teaching students to be comfortable in their own skin. A message that will live on beyond the final curtain call.

“It was this little idea by this 8-year-old boy Alex who came to his aunt who had written some children’s stories and said, ‘Can you help me write this book?’ And it really changed his life. I think it changed the life of some of the kids in his schools and now it’s gone on to hopefully change other people’s lives,” LaMuro said.

The group will perform 11 times throughout the remainder of this week around southern Wisconsin. There’s a possibility that the play could be seen outside the state. The co-author of the book is currently in talks with other children’s theaters who have expressed interest in producing the show as well.