The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington continues its season with The Kids Are All Right, a concert that will spotlight the joys and struggles of growing up gay in today’s society through music and narration.
The performance features the staged presentation of the Tomie dePaola book Oliver Button Is A Sissy, which will be narrated in a special guest appearance by author and gay rights activist Candace Gingrich-Jones. The narration is based on the story of a little boy who is teased by his parents and teachers for his ‘sissy’ pursuits, until he enters the school talent show.
“The story of Oliver Button is one that I’m sure many in the audience (and on stage) can identify with—a boy who is different and doesn’t fit in,” Gingrich-Jones explains. “Oliver is fortunate in that he finds support from his family and eventually his peers—but it doesn’t always work out that way.”
Gingrich-Jones has served as a key advocate for the LGBT community which arose when her brother, Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., was elected House speaker. “I hope that audience members are inspired by the tale [of Oliver Button] and recognize that there are ways they can contribute to more stories turning out like Oliver’s—volunteering or mentoring.”
Gingrich-Jones currently serves as the Human Rights Campaign’s Youth & Campus Outreach associate director, and works to empower the next generation to fight for LGBT equality both in schools and beyond.
“It’s true that Generation Equality, what we call the current group of under-30s, is more supportive of LGBT equality than any other generation ever in our country, but that doesn’t automatically translate into every queer youth having or finding support,” she said.
Gingrich-Jones further explains that by providing information to the parents, educators, neighbors, and community leaders they will be better prepared to support LGBT youth in the coming-out process.
“America will be a vastly different place 25 years from now. The change we have seen over the past 40 years with regard to LGBT issues and equality will continue. I have no doubt that Generation Equality will see full LGBT equality in their lifetimes—but even once laws are passed there will still be ignorance and the work of educating about LGBT issues will go on.”
LGBT youth troupe joins the Chorus
Gingrich-Jones continued to express her excitement in the fact that, in addition to the Oliver Button story, that the Chorus will be joined by Dreams of Hope, a performing troupe of LGBT youth from Pittsburgh, Pa.
“There is nothing more powerful than hearing someone’s story,” she explains. “Dreams of Hope will also inspire and move people to act.”
In the second act, Dreams of Hope will present their newest work, “Being In, Being OUT,” which will consist of spoken word, movement, drama, percussion, and songs that explore belonging and its impact on LGBT youth. During this part of the performance, the young singers will join the Chorus to examine questions such as: ‘Where do you belong?’ and ‘What does it mean to belong?’
“Coming out is really important,” explained Susan Haugh, founder and artistic director for Dreams of Hope. “When you are living your truth, you become solid enough to realize that there is nothing wrong with you.” Haugh created her organization so kids could work creatively with professional artists in an accepting community where they could be themselves.
“There are other queer youth choirs and theater groups, but we include contemporary dance, percussion, and other ways to express yourself,” said Haugh. “As the kids like to put it, they are ‘learning through artistic shenanigans.'”
Haugh goes onto explain that Dreams of Hope provides a safe haven for audiences to discuss their own issues of gender and sexuality.
“The reality is most people [in audiences] are not LGBT. Performing arts lets them hear stories and relate to the kids.” Dreams of Hope allows kids to be creative thinkers, and prepares them to articulate their emotions as they grow as performers. “They [students] learn artistic excellence, how to make art that relates to audiences and is effective aesthetically. At the same time, they learn professionalism.”
Haugh reiterated the importance of understanding the significance of coming out. “Learning about these kids’ experiences can change people’s behavior to young people.” For example, the Dreams of Hope troupe has performed for both judges and physicians of adolescent medicine.
“They learned it’s important to have a visual sign (like a rainbow sticker) that LGBT kids can know it is a safe place. The judge learned that in order for LGBT kids to talk to them about the real reasons for skipping school (such as feeling unsafe there), the judge needs to talk to kids alone, with no parents or clerks.”
Each year the youth of Dreams of Hope brainstorm a theme for the season and explore questions about that theme; this time they are excited to be working in conjunction with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington. After the show, the youth performers will be available in the lobby of the Lisner Auditorium to speak with audience members about the performance and its creation.
The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, a group of 145 fabulous performers, will spotlight the struggle of LGBT youth in America today in song. Under the artistic direction of Jeff Buhrman, The Kids Are All Right will entertain and educate by celebrating and championing the uniqueness of every individual and their struggles
The Kids Are All Right
Saturday, February 18 • 8pm
ASL Interpreted • $25-55
Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University
730 21st St. NW • Washington, D.C.