Thursday, October 20, 2011

It Gets Better, Doesn't It?

Today is Spirit Day at It Gets Better.  As a show of hope and unity, they are encouraging suppoters of LGBT youth to wear purple.

As the National discussion about bullying in general, and the bullying of gay teens continues, we continue to take steps forward and steps backwards on the quest to full acceptance of everyone's differences.  There have been several events this week related to that very subject, and not too surprisingly, the theatre community is a part of it all.

Step Forward:  Actor Zachary Quinto, star of stage (Angels in America, 8) and screen (TV: Heroes, Film: Star Trek) came out this week.  When a celebrity publicly identifies him or herself as homosexual, the hope is that by living a more honest life in the open, it will encourage others to do the same.  And in this case, good has come from bad.  Mr. Quinto explained that part the impetus for his "coming out" was the tragic suicide of gay teen Jamey Rodemeyer.  They had something in common, too; they have both created video messages for the It Gets Better Campaign.  That fact makes the young teen's death even more sad.  Quinto himself admitted that that link made it even more crucial for him to go to the press to make his lifestyle announcement.  All of us, of course, hope that by living an open and honest life, that being gay will become that much more "business as usual" and commonplace.  And by making it more "normal," the hope is that closeted gay people will come out instead of being bullied and taking their own lives.  And so, with another famous actor out, perhaps his brave admission will make it that much easier for even one more person.  Perhaps the life and death of bullied teens like Mr. Rodemeyer will have not been entirely in vain.

Zachary Quinto and Christian Borle in the recent
 off-Broadway production of Angels in America 

Another Step Forward:  Long time supporter of The Trevor Project, Daniel Radcliffe, star of Broadway's How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and the Harry Potter film franchise and producers of the revival held a benefit performance of the show on October 6th, where a portion of ticket sales, as well as the proceeds from a post-show auction of memorabilia were donated to The Trevor Project.  That organization provides a 24/7/365 crisis hot line and suicide prevention programs for LGBT youth.  Their efforts raised over $15,000, and, thanks to, you can still contribute.  A portion of each H2$ ticket purchased at that site will be donated to that very worthwhile organization.

A Step Backward: And lest we remain too pleased with ourselves, the very reason why continued awareness and programs aimed at youth - high school students particularly - need to continue, and frequently, happened at just such an event in Hartford, Connecticut.  A pair of local organizations sponsored a presentation of the role-reversal musical, Zanna, Don't!, and when a scene in the show had two male cast members kissed, a group of students protested by walking out of the presentation.  They were identified as members of the football team (they were wearing their jerseys), and it is pretty clear it was planned by at least some of them, as the school had notified all students, parents and faculty of the content in advance, and students who objected were not required to attend.  (A more detailed explanation of the entire situation can be found HERE.)  Talk about irony.

These organizations sponsored the Hartford, CT
production of Zanna, Don't!

A Possible Step Forward?: The above situation is EXACTLY why the folks over at Glee need to continue and finish the Karofsky bullying/closeted athlete storyline.  Many gay teens who are struggling look to the show for relief and acceptance.  (Jamey Rodemeyer and recent Canadian suicide victim, Jamie Hubley, both publicly said that the show offered them hope.)  And I'm willing to bet at least one of those protesting football players is struggling with it himself.  Please keep helping.  Bring back Karofsky... we could all learn a lot from him.  All of us: gay athletes, athletes and others learning to accept gays, and ultimately, all students understanding and accepting each other no matter what.  Glee can, and should, be a new step forward.

In the meantime, let's celebrate two theatre-related steps forward!

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