In America, it is estimated that 1.6 million youth are homeless each year and that up to 40% of them identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Yet, LGBT youth represent an estimated 7% of the total youth population. Utilizing the arts to address this social issue materializes a new musical, The Children, courtesy of recent Yale School of Drama graduate Phillip Howze.
In a message from pop icon and Tony winner Cyndi Lauper – co-founder and board member of True Colors Fund – she states: “While great strides have been made in recent years… when young people are so bullied and tormented that they feel their only way out of that hell is to end their lives, it’s clear we still have a long, long way to go before we achieve full equality and acceptance in this country.”
The mission of the nonprofit organization is to end homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, and to create a world in which young people can be their true selves. Playwright Howze – whose work includes abominable, Tiny Boyfriend and all of what you love and none of what you hate – gives a platform for youth with a work-in-progress project, that began Nov. 2, as part of a residency at Brooklyn’s BRIC. Its BRIClab program is for emerging and established local artists to explore and expand the possibilities of their work in music, dance, theater and multi-disciplinary performance.
Directed by Saheem Ali – who most recently served as associate director on The Tempest for Shakespeare in the Park – The Children will culminate with a performance followed by a moderated artist-audience dialogue Nov. 7, at BRIC House Artist Studio. Reflecting Brooklyn’s creativity and diversity, BRIC presents contemporary art, performing arts and community media programs as well as provides resources to launch, nurture and showcase artists and media makers.
Howze, placing his protagonist in New York City, “follows the journey of a teenage boy who escapes his fraught home in search of a place to belong.” Lost and alone, he discovers a restless tribe of young people defying a world that refuses to let them be themselves. The work, set in and around a makeshift shelter, is further described as a funny contemporary musical that upends perceptions of family and celebrates community in the most unlikely of places.
Arrangement and orchestration is by Avi Amon who wrote The White City (O’Neill 2014 National Music Theatre Conference, Discovery New Musical Theater Festival at Ball State University, finalist for the 2015 Richard Rogers Award) and Step on a Crack (featured in Prospect Theater’s Seventh Annual Music Theater Lab). Choreography is designed by New York-based dance and theatre artist Jennifer Harrison Newman (Saturday Night Fever, The Lion King), who has studied at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center and performed with Michael Jackson and The Radio City Rockettes.
A 2015 Fellow of the Sundance Institute Theater Lab, Howze’s Self-Portraits will be developed and presented in conjunction with a 2015-16 fellowship at Lincoln Center Education, while all of what you love and none of what you hate will receive a micro-residency at The Bushwick Starr in February as well as be featured at Cutting Ball Theater’s Risk Is This… Festival in San Francisco during March.