Conor D. Mullen reports
Walking into the El Barrio Artspace’s darkened black box space I could really feel the atmosphere change. And not just because I was stepping out of the frozen rain into the warm underground theater, but because the room itself begged warmth and inclusion. Five chairs, basked in the gentle glow of lights crossing the visual spectrum (a subtle rainbow) set a tone of contemplation and reflection that would be reinforced by the performance I was about to see.
How We G.L.O.W. is a piece of Interview Theater created by Jamila Humphrie and Emily Schorr Lesnick. The text of the piece was constructed from interviews with 21 different openly LGBTQ middle and high school students. The actors on stage play multiple characters, speaking directly to the audience and in dialogue with one another, but always speaking words that were said in these interviews. The question I had nagging at me going in was this: will these verbatim interviews be able to say anything compelling or relevant about the lives of LGBTQ youth or the queer community as a whole? As it turns out, yes.
Full Disclosure: I consider myself a member of the LGBTQ community. Without wasting precious review space dwelling on the details I’ll say that much of what is said in this play about being openly LGBTQ in middle and high school certainly hit home for me. But I’ll also say that although queerness is still a big part of my life my high school days are far behind me. I bring this up because I want you to fully appreciate what I’m about to say about this play and these interviews:
These kids made me think. This play made me think. The text of How We G.L.O.W. is comprised of brilliant observations by children about their own experiences, from bisexual teens trying to find their place in the queer community to gay young men trying to explore the possibilities of being queer without being branded a “stereotype” by those around them. The text of this play alone is moving. The intelligence with which these young people express themselves is compelling. And seeing this play helped me make discoveries about my own experiences as a member of the LGBTQ community, both when I was in school and even now as an adult.
But all these endorsements of the show’s text are nothing if not backed up by a solid presentation, and you will definitely find that here. The stage is in a constant state of change, from static images and tableaus featuring multiple cast members to moments of frenzied movements and overlapping text, the next move is always a surprise. However, as with the organization of the text itself, the visual movement always guided me to the right points of interest before the next piece of text landed. It’s a play constructed of collage. It’s well acted too. The ensemble nature of the play make picking out individuals for acknowledgement unnecessary, not to mention I would have trouble picking out a weak link in the group of these five passionate performers.
I was truly moved by my experience with How We G.L.O.W. and I recommend it. It helped me connect to the modern experience of LGBTQ youth. I think if you see this show there’s something for you to gain from it too, no matter who you are.
This piece is perfect for performances at schools, LGBTQ centers, and other places seeking to open a dialogue about the experiences of queer youth. If you are interested in having How We G.L.O.W. at your school, community space, or theater, email firstname.lastname@example.org.