Youth troupe creates LGBT play


Staff report

YOUNGSTOWN

The YOUnify youth-theater troupe will stage its original production, “Closet Space,” at the Oakland Center for the Arts on June 7 and 8, during the Youngstown Pride Festival.

Both performances are at 7:30. Kristopher Ray North is the director.

“Closet Space” features 10 youth actors, most of whom participated in creating the original script.

For the June 7 performance, YOUnify will share the stage with Dreams of Hope, a lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender youth theater from Pittsburgh.

YOUnify began devising its original script in January at a series of workshops. “Closet Space” tells three different coming-out stories and includes two autobiographical spoken-word pieces.

All of the work was written by the YOUnify participants and is based on themes and ideas generated from the stories they shared during the devising process.

YOUnify followed the devising process established by Los Angeles-based Theater for Social Justice.

The process began with story sharing and moved into brainstorming and developing text that captured key themes and ideas from the stories.

To protect the privacy of participants, none of the stories were taken verbatim but were instead used as jumping-off points to create new, original scenes.

Equally important was that the three stories in the script represent a range of coming-out experiences.

“Our youth participants came in speaking their truths and asking smart questions, and they have truly led this process,” said Kris Harrington, program facilitator.

“The trick, I discovered, is listen and then listen some more.” Other YOUnify teaching artists include Daniel Raymond Nadon from Kent State-Trumbull Campus, and David Palmer, a senior in Youngtown State University’s theater program.

YOUnify got its start when the Oakland Center for the Arts was invited to apply for the Mukti Fund Pride Youth Theater Alliance, which includes more than 20 theaters nationwide.

The Oakland’s program began with a $2,000 grant in the fall and will continue after recently earning a $4,500 renewal grant.

The Mukti Fund LGBT youth-theater program was founded in 2009 and annually makes grants to youth-theater organizations.

YOUnify is open to LGBT youths and allies age 12-21; no prior theater experience is necessary.

For information, contact the Oakland Center for the Arts at 330-746-0404.

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