Every June, millions of people around the world don the colors of the rainbow and douse themselves in glitter to celebrate Pride. This year is no different. After last year’s virtual Pride celebrations, Denver Pride, produced by The LGBTQ Center on Colfax, is offering a hybrid celebration. For those who want to participate in person, there is a 5K race and Pride Hubs across the city at local businesses and organizations for in-person Pride festivals.
One of these Pride Hubs, located at the Staenberg-Loup Jewish Community Center, will feature an original play written and performed by local LGBTQ youth. The performance will take place on Saturday, June 26 at 2pm. Only 50 tickets are available. While walk-ins will be admitted on a space-available basis, you can reserve tickets to the performance.
The play, One Heart, United, is a musical production that tackles the social issues that gay youth face today and sheds light on how individual social justice issues all connect. The story takes place during a downtown protest, where unrelated individuals find unexpected allies in their quest for social justice. Centering on intersectional identities and their unique experiences, the play explores many concerns that sparked an unprecedented number of protests in 2020.
During the pandemic, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ (DCPA) Education and Community Engagement team partnered with Rainbow Alley at The Center on Colfax to offer a virtual program for LGBTQ youth. In previous years, Rainbow Alley’s Summer Academy included a career exploration, where LGBTQ youth visited different organizations in Denver learning about various careers held by LGBTQ adults.
This year, instead of touring the DCPA’s shops and speaking with artists in person, the program went online. Despite his own furlough, DCPA Teaching Artist Sam Wood expressed his desire to continue the partnership with Rainbow Alley. “Gay youth, they’re my youth, my community” he said. So, Wood and Rainbow Alley Youth Coordinator Syah Taylor hosted exploration classes inviting LGBTQ youth to create their own program.
After initial conversations last fall, the students decided to write a play. Because Rainbow Alley is a drop-in location, many participants were a part of the initial brainstorming sessions while four students stayed on to write the script.
The group wrote the play in one-hour increments beginning in November through Zoom calls on Wednesday evenings. “It’s taken a while,” Wood exclaimed, “but we finished it!”
One Heart, United was written by participating youth in partnership with adult leaders in the Rainbow Alley program. The scenes and characters were created from youth perspectives and lived experiences. As the project is an adult-youth partnership, Wood and Taylor facilitated the project and hosted the meetings, but the play itself is entirely youth driven and performed.
“I really believe in youth voice,” Wood mentioned, “and this is Rainbow Alley’s voice, so there are going to be uncomfortable moments, but this is a youth driven project, positive youth development in its full intention.”
The four playwrights — Danni Werhane, Sam Charney, Elliot Liu and Alexa Wilson — each created characters supporting causes the playwrights were passionate about.
“After watching the social justice movements this past year, we thought it would be interesting to have the play set during a protest,” Werhane said.
“I want this play to convey a sense of hope,” Werhane continued. “Even in a bad situation there’s always hope. One of the play’s overarching themes is community despite differing problems and perspectives. I hope this teaches people how to better interact with one another.”
Charney, another playwright, said they took inspiration from their own personal experience and the experiences they witnessed of individuals around them.
“I hope this play provides a different perspective others may not have thought about before,” Charney mentioned. “There’s not just one perspective, much less a ‘right’ perspective. If you can expand your ideas and views about a certain issue, even if you disagree, you can learn something new, grow and help others.”
Rainbow Alley is affiliated with The Center on Colfax and acts as a safe space where LGBTQ youth ages 11-21 find support and acceptance. Through youth-led events and activities, counseling, support groups and health services, Rainbow Alley provides a warm and welcoming environment where youth can be themselves.
All Rainbow Ally activities are created and facilitated by youth participants alongside trained adults who provide supervision with a focus on peer-to-peer support and education. Some annual events include queer prom, a winter holiday celebration called “Holi-Gay” with a visit from Queer Santa, and Summer Academy.
To learn more about Rainbow Alley and put their next drag show on your calendar, visit https://lgbtqcolorado.org/programs/rainbow-alley/.
One Heart, United
Staenberg-Loup Jewish Community Center
Saturday, June 26 at 2pm