Middle School Play Focuses on Identity and Inclusivity


Exploring gender identity is part of the work of young adolescents, but unfortunately most middle schools don’t usually take this on. Not so at Gateway School where middle school students will be performing Melissa, So Far, the stage adaptation of the novel George by author and new playwright, Alex Gino.  Middle School students will perform the play on December 1st at the Broadway Playhouse in Santa Cruz for their friends and families.  This is only the second time that this story will be performed on stage.  The author only recently wrote the screenplay and will attend the performance as well as meet with the middle school actors and families afterwards to see the book brought to life on stage.

Melissa, So Far is the story of a transgender 4th-grade girl who feels out of sync with the body she was born with, gets teased at school, and worries her mother won’t accept her if she learns her big secret. Alex Gino’s simply and tenderly written screenplay helps kids — and parents — understand what it feels like to struggle with gender identity.  Audience members should quickly understand that George is really a girl and cheer her growing ability to live as herself. The play also explores how Melissa deals with bullying and finds support from her best friend and family.  “As new as it was to play a transgender kid in the play, it was interesting to see how someone who is transgender might feel and what that experience is like.” says eighth grader Olivia Burkhalter, who is playing the lead role of George in the play.

Gateway School decided to include the book, George as one of the books for the All School Read this year.  Last year the whole staff, and some parents underwent training from Gender Spectrum, an organization in Oakland CA whose mission is to help create gender sensitive and inclusive environments for all children and teens, as part of the school’s focus on social justice practices both inside and outside of the school community.  “Raising awareness of educators and parents about gender identity is helping us to build a more inclusive, accepting environment for all of our students where they feel safe to be themselves.” says Sherri Helvie, Assistant Head of School.  

Performing at the Broadway Playhouse Friday December 1 at 1:00pm and 7:00pm. There will also be a scene performed at our First Friday Assembly this Friday December 1 at 8:45am.

The performance is free but there is very limited seating. To confirm your seat please contact tickets@WESTperformingarts.com