Students and community members who may be familiar with the “It Gets Better” YouTube phenomenon will have the chance to watch it come to life with the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles as the nationally touring production performs at 7:30 tonight at Eisenhower Auditorium.
The origins for the internet-inspired “It Gets Better” project began with tragedy, as young people coming to terms with their sexuality — whether they identify as lesbian, gay, transgender or bisexual — began to feel the pressures of society weighing on them.
“Columnist and writer Dan Savage began the ‘It Gets Better’ project in 2010 after a rash of teen suicides resulting from bullying because of these teens’ sexual orientation," Audience and Program Development Director Amy Dupain Vanshaw said. “It was a way to get the message of hope that, if the teens could just get through their awful high school years, their lives will improve immeasurably and they will go on to be happy, productive adults.”
According to a press release, the performance is a collaboration among the “It Gets Better” Project, six members of the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, six guest speakers from Penn State's LGTBA community, the University Choir, Cultural Conversations festival and Speak Theatre Arts.
However, the collaboration of all of these aspects did not happen overnight. The origins of this production came from an existing social issues-related project called Cultural Conversations.
Susan Russell, creator and artistic director of Cultural Conversations, hosted a festival called Body Language, which she said is a project “using performance to help young people talk about social issues.” Last year, she said the project combined LGTBA groups from State College High School and Penn State. From there, Russell had a desire for the groups to collaborate and do something a bit out there and different.
That was when Russell, along with a colleague, reached out to the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, and the “It Gets Better” project performance was born.
Throughout the performance, there will be six guest speakers, all Penn State students involved with the LGTBA Student Collation.
Colin Mueller, one of the speakers participating, said he has been writing monologues similar to his since he was a sophomore in high school.
“Each speaker will get to read a one-minute monologue standing in front of the University Choir along with a dancer performing along with the words of the monologue,” Mueller (freshman-information sciences and technology) said. “Mine is called ‘Four Years,’ and will be about high school, what I imagine my life to be and how good my life has been since then.”
Tickets for the Center for the Performing Arts are $15 dollars for adults, and $10 for University Park students, and can be purchased either online at www.cpa.psu.edu , or by calling 814-863-0255. Tickets can also be purchased on several on-campus locations, including Eisenhower Auditorium, Penn State Downtown Theatre and the HUB-Robeson Center.
Former Rainbow Roundtable President Jenny Shipley, another one of the six speakers in the performance, said that students should come out and attend the show to learn more about the different types of people in the world for their own knowledge as well as for the benefit of others.
“Every sort of discrimination, racism or homophobia, affects everyone whether you like it or not, and it is important to learn about the intersection of them all and to learn about people different from you,” Shipley (senior-mechanical engineering) said. “It’s always good to broaden your education more than just textbook-wise, rather world-wise. It can lead you to becoming a more opinionated, well-rounded person.”