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Play offers support for young people in abusive relationships

Jess, played by Kerron Stark, comforts Chelsea, portrayed by Christina Spillman. Photo by Shelby Berglund / Antelope Staff

Omaha-based nonprofit organization, “Respect”, came to UNK last week to promote healthy dating relationships. “Respect” is formed of professional actor-educators who use theater performances to inform all ages on various mental health topics. 

“Cracked But Not Broken,” a performance about a violent romantic relationship, was brought to the stage of the Fine Arts Recital Hall on Wednesday.

“The reason we started this program is because theater is a great way to get people’s attention and keep their attention,” said Patricia Newman, founder and executive director of “Respect.” “These tough conversations become more manageable when seen on stage and allows people to observe that they aren’t alone.”

The production told the story of Chelsea, a college student who finds herself in an abusive relationship, dealing with both emotional and physical harm from her boyfriend. At the same time, she pushes away her friend who is trying to help her escape.

“It shows the typical progression of how you can get into a relationship that seems like it’s fine,” Newman said. “Then over time, you start to see all of the red flags and how it can turn into something that’s not good for your mental health.”

Christina Spillman, actor-educator who plays Chelsea, said that “Respect” performances offer audience members a unique way to process these unhealthy situations; distinguishing themselves from programs focused on prevention or providing post-incident resources.

“Whether anybody knows or not, when they come see a show like this they’re going to reflect on their own experiences,” Spillman said. “They get the opportunity to think through these things and process which is important.”

“Respect” provides performances for all age groups, ranging from teaching preschoolers about friendship to addressing workplace bullying with adults. While their main focus is on schools in the Omaha area, they also travel across Nebraska and Iowa to cover a wide range of topics.

Hosted by the UNK Student Health and Counseling team, “Respect” will likely be seen on campus again. 

“These performances would be very beneficial around the first week of the school year and I would love to have them back on a larger scale,” said Mary Fruhling, UNK wellness promotion and prevention coordinator.

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    Cara NeufeldMar 6, 2024 at 3:51 pm

    Great article! Thank you!