This week marks the start of this year’s season of Oskar in schools, community centers and hospitals around the Bay Area. TheatreWorks Silicon Valley tours with a short list of plays especially focused on the challenges of being a kid today.
Oskar and the Last Straw, for instance, is about a 10 year-old lugging around what appears to be the biggest backpack known to humankind. He’s got too much to do this week: school, soccer practice, ukulele lessons, buy a present for his friend Molly's birthday, memorize songs for Mikey's rock concert, and deal with the pressures of mass media. "Whatever that means!" his friends on stage yell periodically.
When a proverbial last straw is added to his pack, Oskar falls over and can’t get up. It may sound a little silly, but the idea behind “drama therapy” — as plays like this one are called — is to introduce coping skills to elementary school kids before they’re really overwhelmed in high school.
The Oskar plays — there are now five in all — were originally commissioned from playwright Prince Gomolvilas by the Palo Alto Unified School District about a decade ago, around the time it began to struggle with teen suicide spikes.
"This was a response to community concerns," said TheatreWorks' Director of Education Lisa Giglio, who added the play topics come from suggestions forwarded by the schools, including embracing diversity, gender stereotypes and bullying.