BWW Preview: IT GETS BETTER Uses Theatre, Music, Dance to Open Dialogue About LGBTQ Youth at The Straz Center For The Performing Arts
On March 24, 2017, The Straz Center for the Performing Arts presents it gets better in Ferguson Hall at 7:30 p.m. it gets better is a timely and moving musical theatre experience by The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA), in collaboration with the It Gets Better Project™ and Speak Theater Arts.
The 2016 CDC statistics are staggering. Though suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people ages 10 to 24, it is four times greater in LGB youth. The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality states that 92% of transgendered youth have reported having a suicide attempt before the age of 25. Each episode of bullying increases this self-harming behavior up an average of 2.5 times.
In 2010 when several young people took their lives after being bullied in school, syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller created an inspirational YouTube video with the message to LGBTQ teens that 'it gets better.'
The video of those three words went viral and turned into a worldwide grassroots movement with over 50,000 user-created videos featuring both regular supporters and celebrity allies against bullying and teen violence.
The beautiful collaboration came when GMCLA, the It Gets Better Project™ and Speak Theater Arts decided to do a more hands-on approach.
"They thought rather than just doing these videos, let's get out there and let's travel the country and really reach out to these kids and have one-on-ones and answer questions. We wanted to do more, feel more and make a difference," explained Mario Mosley, it gets better company member.
Initially, the show written and directed by Liesel Reinhart, was fictional, performed by GMCLA only, but later the show was rewritten to stay with the times, to include the female perspective and to tell true stories based real experiences. Like The Vagina Monologues and The Laramie Project years before, hundreds of people were interviewed to capture their stories and intertwine with music, dance, and video imagery to create the it gets better experience.
"The monologues are from real people - people we met throughout our travels. We tell stories that represent everyone," said Mario. "It's really spectacular. There's dark and tragic moments, but there's also hysterical moments where the whole audience erupts in laughter."
He, along with other company members Jason Currie, Tyler Houston, Amber Hurst-Martin, Caitlin Leow, Nick Ley, Tod Macofsky, Gina Young and accompanist, Billy Thompson are coming to Tampa to a produce a week of educational workshops culminating in the performance of it gets better. Four local high school choruses including Tampa Prep and Seminole High School will join the performers onstage.
Alice Santana, Community Programs Manager at Patel Conservatory said, "The company members will be working on different performances at Hillsborough and Pinellas County schools. We're also going to be hosting a World Café, which is a roundtable discussion with different stakeholders in the community to help with different issues that LGBTQ youth are facing in the Tampa Bay area. We also have the community chorus. Students from the Patel Conservatory will also be participating in it."
The it gets better company members will perform at high school assemblies and later meet with the school Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) to discuss issues that they face.
"We are so excited to be able to bring this here and to offer this program to the schools and our community," said Alice. "We're trying to engage as many people as possible."
The Straz event is sponsored by USAA and they've been working with Tampa Pride to help promote the show.
"it gets better is a very positive and eye-opening experience," she said. "I would love for the audience to be moved by what they're seeing and walk away being another advocate for this cause."
From a choreographed opening power-house musical number to original monologues and dance, it get better gives you an honest look at what LGBTQ youth face on a daily basis.
"On this tour, we know every single day that we are making a difference, that someone is getting hope. To me that is the best gift you could ask for as a performer," said Mario. "If I could put it into two words, what I want (the attendees of the show to walk away with) is love and hope.... And a great amount of joy as well. I would love people to come to the show and feel renewed or changed. If we've impacted a person in a positive way, then we've done our job. They, in turn, will hopefully reach somebody else and that person will reach two more people and so on. Eventually, we might just all be okay."
Tickets for it gets better are $25-$45 and may be purchased by calling 813.229.STAR (7827) or 800.955.1045 outside Tampa Bay, in person at the Straz Center Ticket Sales Office or online at www.strazcenter.org.
Photo by The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA)