‘Not Just Another Coming Out Story’ A Play by Maggie Keenan-Bolger & Green Chimneys Youth

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Green Chimneys youth perform alongside Broadway actors in a reading of “Not Just Another Coming Out Story.”

Being able to work with Green Chimneys for a second time allowed me to apply the knowledge I gained from my internship last year and use it to create a better experience for the youth. This year, I had a number of youth who not only performed, but also helped with the writing of the play “Not Another Coming Out Story.” I was able to incorporate their writings into the structure of the play much more successfully than I did with last year’s “Queering History.” Many people commented they weren’t even sure which pieces were written by the youth. I think part of that had to do with the caliber of the young people’s writing skills, but I also think I’ve gotten more comfortable and creative within this particular writing process.

 “The process of writing, producing and performing “Not Just Another Coming Out Story” began with two inter-generational workshops with the Green Chimneys career training class, and youth from the Transitional Living Program. I reached out to LGBTQ adults from various communities I’ve worked with and invited them to come to the Gramercy Residence for workshops. Working together, the inter-generational participants discussed identity, the media and coming out experiences that are not often discussed in a more traditional coming out narrative. They shared their opinions, ideas and had the chance to connect one-on-one by story sharing with an LGBTQ person from a different generation.

The events were wildly successful, with a turn out of 18 youth at each of the workshops and a total of 25 adults at both of the workshops. I was sure to reach out to LGBTQ people from all backgrounds, particularly those who represented identities the youth themselves held. The adult participants were all excited to be a part of the experience and quite surprised by the articulate and passionate nature of the youth. One adult participant said afterwards, “The youth I was lucky to meet were amazing and inspiring. I have not seen that in a long time. I see them as being the hope for the future.”

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Julia and Edgar work with Melvin, a participant in the Green Chimneys Career Training Program.

The workshops were followed by individual meetings with the five youth interested in writing and performing for the show. In those workshops, we discussed their prospective scenes, edited drafts of the script, worked on developing acting and performance skills, and got the show on its feet. I also collaborated with the career training program to develop internships for three of the youth looking for experience in a performance-based field. Those three interns assisted me with social media, marketing and development.

We also talked about the different methods you can use to write a scene or monologue. After one participant expressed frustration that she couldn’t translate what she heard in her head to writing, I worked with her to talk the scene aloud – recording her thoughts and lines so that she could transcribe them later. This improv-based technique, made her scene one of the funniest and most engaging in the show. Another participant encountered difficulty trying to express himself in a coherent, linear way. We discussed the main ideas and walked through his scene beat-by-beat identifying where he was repeating himself, where his thoughts were unclear, and how to improve upon it. After walking through a few sentences with me, he started to be able to identify many of the areas for improvement for himself, figuring out the main ideas of what he wanted to say and developing a way to express it coherently, while still in his own voice. In these sessions, we also worked on acting techniques, discussing things like projection, how to phrase a written sentence, how to connect with other people on stage, and more.

Once the show was written, we cast 12 professional Broadway actors alongside of the Green Chimney’s youth and enlisted the help of an Off-Broadway director to get a staged reading of the play produced at an Off-Broadway theater house. The performance, presented as a benefit for Green Chimneys, was performed to a sold out house, with many of the Green Chimneys youth and staff in attendance. Because of the Broadway performers, the show drew audience members who were completely unaware of Green Chimneys or the difficulties LGBTQ homeless youth faced. The Broadway performers also reported being incredibly impressed by the youth they’d met, and many encouraged me to include them in any additional fundraising opportunities.

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Professional actors Dorcas Evelene Davis, Jax Jackson, Allison Case, Jenn Colella, Tim Connell and Kevin Santos dance to a song sung by the Green Chimneys youth.

Prior to the reading, most of the youth had never been on stage before and they managed to combat stage fright, inexperience, and a sense of vulnerability to perform in front of 100+ people. Following the performance of “Not Just Another Coming Out Story,” the youth seemed incredibly proud of their work.  One Green Chimneys Youth said, “thanks to you I’m a little bit more comfortable going after my acting/singing career.”

I feel like one of the reasons my internships with Green Chimneys have been so successful is a result of the organization’s openness to innovation. They have allowed me to work with the youth in ways that are new to their programming and styles. I have earned significant credibility in the field because of the last two summers and now have evidence of a direct impact on the communities I have worked with. I can use this evidence to prove to other organizations that my work is credible, important and can make a difference in the LGBTQ community. In so many ways, this is the most difficult part of getting established as a professional, and thanks to Point Foundation, I’ve had two major opportunities to make that happen.

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Cast, Director and ASL Interpreters from “Not Just Another Coming Out Story”

Thanks to the generous support of The Palette Fund, Point Foundation is able to provide three scholars with an innovative paid internship at a nonprofit organization of their choice. 

[Photos courtesy of: Marielle Solan]

This post was written by Point Honors NY Scholar Maggie Keenan-Bolger
Maggie Keenan-Bolger is a Goddard College MFA candidate. Maggie attended Oberlin College for her undergraduate work and found a passion in combining her majors of Theatre and Gender and Women’s Studies. Learn more about Maggie.