Hancher — The University of Iowa — October 15–19, 2012
MONDAY, OCTOBER 15
Meeting with Hancher staff
The Company met with area leaders for the Hancher team to learn more about why they brought us to Iowa City and their goals for the week. The team was unbelievably helpful and eager to share their ideas and thoughts. Executive Director Charles Swanson told us he even recruited singers from his church chorus to be part of our community chorus.
Company rehearsal time to review music, script edits, and adjusted arrangements for Friday’s show.
State-wide Meeting with GSAs
We met with a very diverse audience that included GSA students, GSA advisors, high school and college faculty, graduate students, and members of the Iowa Pride Network. Tod and Liesel presented a slideshow with video to review the origins of the It Gets Better Project and GMCLA’s involvement, leading to the development of the current production. Cast members shared personal stories and performed three numbers from the show. We also had time to sit in smaller groups for table conversations in which we learned more about the participants and LGBTQ life in Iowa City and the surrounding communities. This was a rewarding way to begin our trip and we were so pleased to see many of the same faces from this session as we continued activities throughout the week.
First Rehearsal with Community Chorus
Jason, Drew and Sacha worked with our small but strong chorus of 21 singers to learn music for the production. The singers came from 7 different vocal groups and were unaccustomed to singing together, so we all enjoyed the process of making new friends.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16
Meeting with Local Video Creators
Company member Jason met with two local students who participated in the making of the University Health Services video for the It Gets Better Project. They prepared for their appearance on stage during the upcoming performance.
Promotional Video Recording for Social Media
Company members Tod and Mario created a short promo video for Friday’s performance for the Hancher Facebook page.
First-Year Seminar: College Outside the Classroom: Being a Community-Engaged Student
Liesel, Mario, Tod and Lee visited this interesting freshman seminar class and discussed social empowerment through the models of the It Gets Better Project and GMCLA. We were surprised that so few students were familiar with Kickstarter, though a large number of them had visited the It Gets Better Project site. Students participated in the discussion by contributing their analysis of the rhetorical appeals within It Gets Better (they are studying rhetoric as one of their course topics). The students and faculty seemed very pleased with the presentation and many asked about attending the performance on Friday.
Company rehearsal time focused on local show elements.
Activity with GLOW, City High’s GSA
This was an energized and fun event with a group of 25–30 students from GLOW (Gay, Lesbian or Whatever) – a GSA at City High School. The students went wild for the cast – literally in a few cases – and were excited to learn that we wanted to make a video with them for one of our project songs. Students split into five groups – each with a different focus: choreography, literal imagery, figurative imagery, lyric performance, and text. The video segments were all shot on ipads and iphones (courtesy of our Kickstarter community) and scenes were shot to accompany the song, “The Solution” by our 16 year-old song contest winner Julian Hornik. The video was later edited and is being shared on our website.
The students also made a moving presentation to the company, giving us t-shirts created to memorialize a tragic event involving one of their peers. The faculty adviser for this group, Maureen Hill, is outstanding, supportive, and inspirational. We loved our time with these students and were delighted when a group of them arrived with Maureen at the Friday performance where the company was able to reciprocate by giving our t-shirts to the students.
Second Rehearsal with Community Chorus
For tonight’s session, the group worked on the song “More Friends than you Know” by Jeff Marx and Mervyn Waren. Liesel and Tyler assisted with blocking the scene and adding theatricality. Solosists were also selected at this time. One of the two selected was a 12-year old boy who recently came out at home and school. His mother told us she was a bit lost about how to help him to do but got an email about the community chorus opportunity and decided they could participate together. She was so thrilled when he was asked to sing a solo.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 17
Introduction to Student Affairs with Professor Cassie Barnhardt
This group of bright, diverse graduate students welcomed Liesel, Lee, and Tod with open arms for a great discussion. The class topic for the day was “Pluralism, Diversity, and Inclusion” so we engaged them in a dialogue about heteronormativity and whether or not it constitutes a form of tacit bullying. Since these are educators currently working in student service positions as part of their graduate work, we focused on ways to improve climate for LGBT (and other) students by building community. The model of GMCLA as a 34-year community organization was shared and students posed excellent questions to the panel about strategies that can be effective in strengthening community both within and among LGBTQ organizations.
This rehearsal focused on music performance.
Discussion with Colors, West High School’s GSA
We were all so impressed with the West High GSA group. This very supportive club of about 25 students has clear bonds and trust with one another and, especially, with their wonderful adviser. We decided to focus on listening to students in this session and asked each student to share something as we talked (the session lasted an extra hour, and was really worth it). Student stories ranged from painful to empowering. It was especially impressive to see how the students were so encouraging toward one another.
While there are many regulars who attend their weekly meetings, students expressed that there are others who won’t attend for fear of being associated with them. There is still a stigma there. Some students have issues at home, often with just one parent. Students and cast members shared stories about people in their lives, including parents, who grew and changed – and we had a great talk about how things improve drastically after high school for many – especially in college. We asked students to think about coming back to their high schools after they graduate to let them know how life is different for them. We also made an It Gets Better video with the students and took time for one– on-one conversations at the end of the main discussion.
Community Round Table Event
On a rainy night, attendance was not very good – so we changed plans and brought in two show choirs from West High into our auditorium and sang songs for one another. The students gave Sacha an extended standing ovation for his performance of Jamey’s Song, and we spoke with them briefly about our show and about ways that they, as artists, can find ways to turn their interest in music into a tool of change and community engagement. The company also attended a bit of the students’ rehearsal to see them perform additional music. They were great!
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 18
Technical Load in and Setup
Company members prepared for the upcoming performance in Memorial Hall. The Hancher technical team did an amazing job transforming an old ballroom into a theatrical space.
College of Education’s Anti-Bullying Training: Event Kick-off
This was the opening event for a series of anti-bulling training sessions by the University for students studying elementary/secondary education as well as faculty and staff in the College of Education. The cast was joined by Chris, Lee and Jason from GMCLA and Jimmy Nguyen for a dynamic discussion that included personal stories and performances of a few songs from the show, as well.
Mini-show with Q&A for College Transitions Program
About 350 students attended our technical rehearsal for the show and stayed for a powerful Q&A with the cast immediately afterward. Despite some problems with the audio system and microphones, the students were very attentive and appreciative.
Technical Rehearsal with the Community Chorus
Our community chorus rehearsed blocking on stage and our soloists practiced with the headset microphones for the first time. The chorus members were extremely professional and easy to work with, and their emotions really started to emerge after they saw the scenes leading up to their appearance in the show for the very first time.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19
The cast participated in many media interviews leading up to this engagement. They were delighted to see so many prominent features about the show, including print and television.
Our 7:30pm show brought in a large and very appreciative audience. The age of audience members ranged from junior high to seniors and included many of the people we met with throughout the week in our outreach activities, including a group of students from City High School’s GLOW group and the entire Introduction to Student Affairs class, as well. The cast received huge laughs and big applause throughout the show – including a standing ovation from about half the audience during the show for Drew’s moving monologue and song. The performance by the community chorus generated an extended ovation, as well – easily the most moving moment of the night. A the end of the show, the crowd leapt to their feet in appreciation and support.
Post-show Talk Back
Well over a hundred people stuck around after a short break to speak with the Company and comment about the show. The discussion was co-facilitated by Liesel and Erin Donohue, Hancher’s outstanding education specialist. The cast were joined onstage by songwriter Jeff Marx (Avenue Q) as well as Anna Laris and J.P. Horn (makers of the previously noted local It Gets Better video). Many audience members cried as they shared their responses to the show, including some members of the cast.
The it gets better company members of GMCLA would like to thank the University of Iowa, especially the incredible team at Hancher.
We are also so appreciative for the warmth and kindness of the entire Iowa City community, from the great staff at the Heartland Inn to the energetic folks at Studio 13. Our community chorus members were particularly inspiring – and fun! We loved the small town feel and the progressive spirit of this community.
As we settled in on the small plane to head home and sleepily discussed our week, we realized that each of us were fundamentally changed by our experience. We will never forget our conversations with and our performances alongside the people of Iowa City The Company emerged more determined and more inspired than ever to continue our it gets better journey.
–Liesel Reinhart, Director
|Featured on Advocate.com — Sacha Sacket||Announcing our New Music Video — The Solution by Julian Hornik|
|Featured on Advocate.com — Sacha Sacket|
|Announcing our New Music Video — The Solution by Julian Hornik|