As many of us have learned from recent news reports about teen suicides, bullying can result in tragedy.
In her new play, "Bullied," Michelle Guerrero Tolley demonstrates the pain felt by some who have been victimized by such acts. It opens Friday at The Empty Space.
Its theme exposes the falseness of the saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me."
Alas, words can, and do hurt. Said in a certain way, they can slice like a sharp knife.
"The Bullied" opens with a scene in which three high school-age girls are taunting another girl- -- calling her names and making her feel worthless.
"Honestly, it is one of the hardest scenes for me to watch," said Tolley. "Victoria Lusk, who portrays the bullied girl, doesn't say one word, but she is able to convey her heartbreak and pain at what the girls are saying to her so well that words are not needed."
Tolley's inspiration for writing the play was the suicide of Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old Tehachapi boy who hanged himself in 2010 after being tormented by bullies for being gay.
As she searched for more information on the subject, Tolley soon learned the problem is not limited to Kern County.
"When I researched teen suicides caused by bullying I was astounded to learn that there were so many," she said.
"I hope that by bringing the stories of the 36 (American teens) lost in 2010 into the light people will be made aware of what bullying does to kids and they will make an effort to try and bring an end to it."
As the first act progresses, an ensemble cast of 20 actors introduces the 36 teens who took their own lives. Using first names only, they briefly describe what the victims went through before their death.
A major part of the material for the script came from interviews Tolley did with people who have experienced this kind of aggressive behavior firsthand.
"It consists of their responses during the interviews, their views on the current bullying problems," she said, "And many of them include messages of hope to current victims of bullying."
Performances of "The Bullied" continue through Sept. 8.
Labor Day ghost tour
A host of events are going on this Labor Day weekend in the Kern River Valley -- everything from antique shows, bake sales and to a farmers market offering locally grown fruit and produce.
One rather unusual event is ghost hunt and lamplight tour of the Silver City Ghost Town in Bodfish. It's led by J. Paul Corlew, who assured me, during a phone conversation, the lanterns are the real thing.
"The town itself is lit by electricity," Corlew said, "but we lead the tour with kerosene lanterns just like they used a hundred years ago. We've got the lanterns -- people don't need to bring them."
To help ferret out the ghosts, Danny Flores and his sister, Kim Flores, members of the Lake Isabella Paranormal Society, will join Corlew as co-hosts.
Arts and crafts fair
A daytime event during the weekend that promises to attract a lot of browsing is the Sierra Arts and Crafts Festival. Held in Kernville's Circle Park, it's sponsored by members of the Kern River Valley Artists Association, and its layout mimics the shape of the park.
"We rent the whole park from the county," said Judy Deems, spokeswoman for the group. "The booths are set up in a circle within a circle -- kind of like the old wagon trains."
About 40 vendors are expected, some of them from out of town, she said. For instance, an individual from New Mexico who specializes in American Indian handcrafts will be there as well as a marionette maker from Los Angeles and a wildlife photographer from Long Beach who's just returned from a trip to Africa.
Many of the association's members will display their handiwork, including a woman who makes fancy slips and camisoles.
"They're so pretty you could wear them on the outside instead of underneath," Deems said. "She makes them really fancy with antique doilies and rhinestones."
Other items include earrings made from fishing lures, and mobile sculptures made from auto parts and pipes. Deems' specialty involves beautifying something that normally is used as a tool.
"I have painted saws," she said, explaining that people buy them for home dÃ©cor. Using acrylics, she paints images of wildlife or farm scenes on the blade.
This year's event is the 50th anniversary of the festival and of the association. Deems has been a member since 1985.
Art for Healing
Sister Sherry Dolan has announced the fall schedule for the Art for Healing workshops at Mercy Hospital. You don't have to be an accomplished artist to attend.
Dolan, who is a visual artist, initiated the program about three years ago and it has continued to grow.
It's based on the idea that making art is a positive way of becoming "practiced in the skills of letting go, living in the moment, artful reflection and relaxation."
Among those scheduled for the coming week are painting and sketching in an open studio format, 1:30 to 4 p.m. on Sept. 6; and a Wire Sculpture workshop led by Anna Murillo and Kay Wilson, 9:30 a.m. to noon Sept. 8.
All sessions are held in a small rust-colored building at Truxtun Avenue and A Street that's part of the hospital's campus.
Registration is required for some workshops.
To see the complete schedule go to 632-5747 or go to mercybakersfield.org/art.
The sessions are free. However, a few suggest, but not require, a small materials fee. To help maintain the program, a fundraiser called Autumn Art Fest is being planned for 1 to 4 p.m. on Oct. 7. It will feature artwork by local professionals and emerging artists, as well as samples of work done by participants in the program.
Celia Kelly update
In an email message, Cal State Bakersfield graduate Celia Kelly, who I wrote about in last week's column, asked for a clarification about her role in the 2012 Super Bowl. She attended as a spectator, not as a member of the broadcast crew. Also, the correct spelling of the name of a professor she had at CSUB is Elizabeth Jackson.