Robert Post had a big brother who helped him navigate the miseries of middle school.
And now he’s acting as a kind of big brother himself.
In “How To Survive Middle School” — a relatively new venture — the veteran performer uses live comedy and video testimony to reassure adolescents that things can get better.
He holds himself out as Exhibit A.
Post, a central Ohio resident who has performed his wacky physical comedy on national television and on stages worldwide, attended a Roman Catholic middle school in Columbus before “learning disability’ was a common term.
“They called it ‘dumb,’” he said.
His poor grades and wild imagination were not a formula for middle-school success. But brother Douglas, who was three years older, patiently helped him through it.
“There’s nothing wrong with you,” Douglas told his little brother. “We just have to figure this out.”
“How To Survive Middle School” is dedicated to Douglas, an Ohio State University professor who died last year at 66.
Post said “How To Survive Middle School” originated three years ago when he was teaching theater as a visiting instructor at middle schools. Having taught it many times, he was getting bored. But then he began listening to the students talk about middle-school stresses.
“And I realized I’m not the only kid who had a nightmarish experience.”
His agent was initially doubtful about a show in which Post would talk about his adolescent trials, present videos of middle-schoolers talking about theirs and perform comedy to demonstrate how he channeled his eccentricities into a successful career.
But the reaction has been good, Post said.
“I found it effective and very engaging for students,” said William Doermann, who was principal at Starling STEM, a Columbus public school, when the show was performed in 2015-16 and 2016-17. Teachers used it as a conversation-starter for continuing discussions, he said.
The show’s videos have students nervously — and sometimes tearfully — expressing anxieties, a lot of them focused on social media and bullying. Later, it presents videos of high-schoolers, who promise that a better environment awaits.
Post lightens the mood with his comic stunts, pantomimes and character sketches, hoping insecure kids will come to realize that their own quirkiness can be a strength.
“It’s like I’m looking for those little Robert Posts out there.”
Joe Blundo is a Columbus Dispatch columnist. Reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @joeblundo.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU