The Adventure of Betakid is a musical that tells the story two brothers named Peter and Sam, who have a deep love for video games. After winning the grand prize of an arcade championship, a rare copy of “The Star Chasers,” the two race home to play it together on their gaming console; only to find themselves transported into the game itself. During the mission, Sam gets captured by the evil Dr. Lucas. Peter journeys through different lands to save him with the help of characters Nos, Libby, Ava, and Bert. Though these characters seem to be mere supporting roles on a hero’s journey, they actually embody different stages of grief. Peter’s brother wasn’t just captured and taken to a far-off galaxy, he was diagnosed with and lost the fight to cancer.
While the loss of a child is devastating to all family and friends, it is particularly difficult for siblings. According to a longitudinal study of sibling grief conducted by Maru Barrera (2013), the expression of and coping with grief varies depending on age. Older children and adolescents were observed to “dream of their sibling” and have desires to be “physically close to sibling possessions” as a means to continue the bond with the deceased. Peter’s adventure as a “star chaser” and use of their shared gaming console attends to this very observation. However, where effort is put to strengthen and maintain the sibling bond, there is a lack in communication and expression to others of the sibling loss. Regardless of whether this is due to overwhelming grief or typical adolescent rebellion, this reluctance to communicate is evident.
Though less inclined to verbal communication, many older children and adolescents are drawn to the arts, particularly music, as a form of emotional exploration and expression. With grief comes a number of emotions, and music, both creating and performing, serves as a way to work through these. In a study conducted by Thomas Dalton and Robert Krout (2006), music and lyrics aid adolescents “in identifying, expressing, and processing personal issues related to areas of understanding, feeling, remembering, integrating, and growing,” and performing provides “a safe and creative container…to experience and process grief.” The Adventure of BetaKid affords a space for this process and experience not only through its music, but its characters and storyline.
Peter’s virtual mission in “The Star Chasers” to save Sam represents Peter’s real effort to stay bonded with Sam. When Peter encounters Nos, Libby, Ava, and Bert, each of these characters are manifesting a particular emotion or behavior through their scenes; Nos as anger, Libby as bargaining, Ava as denial, and Bert as depression. Through Peter’s external interactions with them, he begins to identify and process those same facets of grief internally within himself. As the story continues, these characters weave in and out while he learns and eventually accepts that not all missions are meant to be completed.
For a surviving sibling, like Peter, engaging in an entertaining, yet honest musical, such as The Adventure of BetaKid, could serve to be a valuable resource in the experience and process of grief and loss.
Maru Barrera, Rifat Alam, Norma Mammone D’Agostino, David B. Nicholas & Gerald Schneiderman (2013) Parental Perceptions of Siblings’ Grieving After a Childhood Cancer Death: A Longitudinal Study, Death Studies, 37:1, 25-46, DOI: 10.1080/07481187.2012.678262
Thomas A. Dalton, Robert E. Krout, The Grief Song-Writing Process with Bereaved Adolescents: An Integrated Grief Model and Music Therapy Protocol, Music Therapy Perspectives, Volume 24, Issue 2, 2006, Pages 94–107, https://doi.org/10.1093/mtp/24.2.94
The Adventure of BetaKid is nominated for Best Original Script and/or Score of a New Work for the Broadway World Regional 2019 Awards!
Vote for The Adventure of BetaKid written by Gregory McKnight and Gabby Banzon!