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

Nate the Dragon's story focuses on being kind, helping other people
UW-Whitewater produces play based on Wisconsin boy’s bullying book
Alex Urner

Alex Urner saw it, even experienced it in his school in Plymouth classrooms.

“Just pushing and punching and kicking, and hurting people,” Alex said.

The bullying and his story were very real, but the way he chose to tell it is far from reality.

“No one ever barely writes about a dragon,” Alex said.

Now 11 years old, Alex was only 9 when he asked his aunt Kim Groshek to help him write a book. Groshek had published her own children’s books in the past and offered her nephew writing tips.

That’s when Alex breathed life into his fire-breathing friend, Nate the dragon.

The paperback of “Nate The Dragon Stops Bullying” was published within six months of the idea. Alex shared the book with his classmates, and they caught on to the message Nate had to share.

“It was a big difference,” Alex said.

The story is based in the fantasy land of Treegrass, where Nate the Dragon and his duck buddies go to play a game of dodge ball. There’s an issue, though, with the mean goose King Collin, who throws the ball too hard at his feathered friends. Even though he is bigger, stronger and more intimidating than the ducks and goose, Nate finds a peaceful way to mitigate the situation.

“I think it’s pretty nice because then people notice, that taught me something,” Alex said. “I should be kind to other people and help other people.”

Shortly after the book came out, a Madison-based folk singer produced a CD of songs inspired by Alex’s story. Groshek then pitched an idea to her alma mater, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

“I’m like, ‘It’s going to be a play?’ And she’s like ‘Yeah, I could take you to see it.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, that’s so cool,'” Alex said.

“I just almost started crying because I just couldn’t believe that something, just an idea, is now coming to life in this way,” Groshek said.

A playwright turned the book into a script. Now a group of UW-W producers are planning how to bring Alex’s story to the stage.

“I think everyone’s life, at some point or another, has been touched by bullying,” UW-W College of Arts and Communication spokesperson Leslie LaMuro said.

Nate the Dragon, the ducks, King Collin and all of the animal characters will become puppets. The crew is starting to explore a score and songs for the play, which will tour schools across southern Wisconsin in October.

“I just think this has probably changed his life so much for the better,” LaMuro said. “And he just has to be so proud and thrilled when he sees it come to life out of his own imagination.”

LaMuro looks forward to the day when Alex can see his imagination and message come to life.