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'It Gets Better' resonates at the Lied Center.

LAWRENCE - The it gets better performance at the Lied Center on Feb. 16 was the culmination of a week's worth of activities focused on the issue of bullying, and the energy of the performance perhaps had a lot to do with how entrenched the cast and its director Liesel Reinhart became in the community in just a matter of days.

The show is the creation of Reinhart of Speak Theater Arts, and is a partnership between the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA) and the it gets better project. Reinhart and the cast members spent the entire week in Lawrence - on the University of Kansas campus and throughout the community at middle schools and high schools - participating in various activities that focused on the issue of bullying in the LGBTQ community. The impact this tour has made so far can be measured by this fact: several members of the community chorus at the show's premiere stop at the University of Iowa last October made the trip to see the show at the Lied Center.

The cast, which features six members of the GMCLA (Jason Currie, Tyler Houston, Tod Macofsky, Mario Mosley, Sacha Sacket and Drew Tablak), spent the week working with choral members from Lawrence middle schools and high schools on a group performance integrated into the end of the show. Activities throughout the week included meetings with the GSA group from Lawrence High School and a panel on LGBT issues from around the world. Even 'nerd night' at Pachamama's got involved in the it gets better frenzy; both Reinhart and the show's producer Bill Bowersock presented.

Not only did the activities serve an important educational purpose, they have also spurred action beyond the event's culmination: the World Cafe Allies Group activity resulted in the creation of a Facebook page of the same name that has garnered over 1,000 likes in less than a week.

Throughout the performance, the actors took turns stepping outside of their characters to share their own personal experiences with coming out and the issue of bullying. Sacket's experience was particularly intriguing; having been born in Iran and raised in San Fernando, California, a place he said was surprisingly a lot like Iran but "with more Applebee's." He also shared an original song he wrote after he learned of a young man's suicide because he was bullied.

All the cast members' stories were heartfelt and at times, hilarious. Tablak's story was a perfect blend of both and extremely powerful; growing up, he told the audience he wished he was told that it was possible to be both Christian and gay.

The show opens in Tyler Houston's character CJ's bedroom. A victim of bullying, he goes online to find relief, and with each click of the mute button, a new character comes to life in his room. The audience was treated to a visual and musical narrative that was often times laugh-out-loud funny, but also deeply attentive to the issue of bullying and the fact that it truly does get better. The interactive structure of the show allowed each performance to be completely unique to the community. The show featured a local it gets better video of a female-to-male transgendered person, and then the cast brought him on stage for a short interview.

During the post-performance 'talk back' session with the cast, the audience had the opportunity to ask questions about the show or the issue of bullying. Questions ranged from asking Mosley how long it took him to dress in drag for the show ("It's a process," he said) to how teachers could better handle bullying situations in their schools.

Reinhart and her cast continue to spread the message of it gets better to several other campuses nationwide on their tour. If the other universities experience what the University of Kansas and the Lawrence community have throughout the week, the positive impact will be felt long after the performance itself.

By Ciara Reid, staff reporter
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Author:Reid, Ciara
Publication:Liberty Press
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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