'Plaint of the Playwright

'Plaint of the Playwright

[ Thursday, June 12, 2003 ]

Yet again, it's plug time...got this in my email this week from Brian Wild:

(May 19, 2003)


Proud Theater—a voice for Madison's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), and allied teen community—will be presenting its annual performance, this year entitled "We Can See Queerly Now: An Evening With Proud Theater", on Friday and Saturday, June 13 and 14, at 7:00 p.m. at the Frederic March Play Circle at the Memorial Union on the UW campus. Produced under the sponsorship of the New Harvest Foundation, OutReach, and James Reeb Unitarian Universalist Church, the performance will include theatrical pieces, music, and dance that reflect the lives of queer teens in today's world.

Since its beginnings in January of 2000 Proud Theater has been a gathering place for LGBT teens, the children of LGBT parents, and other allied youth, a place where they can express themselves in an atmosphere of unconditional support. The youths gather every Saturday morning throughout the school year to improvise, create, and perform theatrical pieces and music that reflect the realities of their young lives. The teens create all the plays and theatrical pieces themselves, with guidance from several adult mentors.

"Proud Theater is an amazing group. It's been a lifeline for many teens, and combines art, heart, and activism. It's theater that comes out of our experiences," says 16-year old Sol Kelley-Jones, a teen activist and co-founder of the group. "I truly believe that theater of this kind can change consciousness both within the youth who are involved, and within the community."

The youth in Proud Theater range in age from 13 to 19. Proud Theater's tradition of celebrating rainbow symbols has a dual meaning for the members of the group, many of whom have multi-racial identities. "Each teen's role is important in producing a Proud Theater performance. They are idea generators, writers, directors, and actors," says artistic director, Callen Harty. Harty is one of the adult mentors and is a local playwright, actor, and director.

In addition to the opportunity to express themselves through drama, Proud Theater is also an important vehicle for peer support and adult mentoring. "For most of these youth, Proud Theater is one of the few places where they can openly explore the many parts of themselves and express their own truth," says Sunshine Jones, a psychotherapist and education director/facilitator of the group. "Our community's teens are challenged by homophobia, by limiting gender roles, and by the pressures of youth culture. As they struggle to be true to who they are inside, many of our youth feel these challenges especially strongly. And so we try to create a safe, supportive place for them here." In order to meet this need, the teens have a chance to reach out to each other and to adult mentors for support during part of their time together each week. In such a supportive environment, the youth have the opportunity to thrive and freely express their creative selves.

The result is award-winning, compelling, and honest theater that evokes poignantly and tenderly the unique challenges these teens face defining themselves and their relationships. However, there is much more to be expressed beyond the struggles represented by these emotional realities. Throughout a Proud Theater performance there is also interwoven a youthful optimism, enthusiasm, and sense of humor that is pervasive and uplifting. Through their creative expressions, these youth share their dreams for a world where things can be different, where everyone will be accepted simply for who they are. One can't help but leave a performance with a sense of greater hope for the future.

Last year's culminating performance played to a sold-out house and was received very enthusiastically, so a second performance was added this year. The group has already performed several times throughout the 2002-03 school year, at the Madison Senior Center, at the Rainbow Families Conference in Minneapolis, at Beloit College, and elsewhere. Several times during the year the group held workshops in conjunction with their performances. Audience members called the group "awesome", "incredible", "intense and moving", and wrote that Proud Theater was "honest, engaging, serious, and uplifting." Last summer the group was awarded OutReach's Organization of the Year Award.

Tickets for the June 13-14 performances of "We Can See Queerly Now: An Evening With Proud Theater," are $5 for adults and $3 for youth 19 and under and are available at A Room of One's Own Bookstore, 307 W. Johnson Street; at OutReach, 600 Williamson Street; and at the Wisconsin Union Box Office, 800 Langdon Street. For more information about the performance or Proud Theater, call (608) 276-8010, (608) 222-9086, or (608) 255-8582.

Betsy and I saw them last year--and almost didn't get in. Seriously--GET THOSE TICKETS EARLY.

Anyway, I was really moved by it--this isn't like normal theater, either. It's really hard not to get choked up when you see these kids on stage, because you can tell how much this means to them.

At the end of the show last year, as everyone took their final bows, there were tears both on stage and in the audience, and the applause went on and on, and I turned to Betsy and said, "wow--when's the last time theater made you feel this way?"

For the love of Christ, go see this.




(And Sol, if you're reading this, I'm sorry about that time I blurted out the C-word during a rehearsal for "Color Of Dust." I was on a roll and that's just the only way that particular joke can end.)

posted by Rob on 6:01 PM | link



Post a Comment