Add Verb’s History is News, thanks to a fabulous intern

Sometimes when you ask the universe for something it was so long ago you forgot that you asked.

Out of the blue, a colleague I met at the Association of Theatre in Higher Education many moons ago sent an email asking if I took interns.

Having had Add Verb in a somewhat/nearly completely dormant state for the last two years while I took some time off for an adventure in the UK, I’ve not been seeking or taking interns for a while. But I asked Prof. Ann Elizabeth Armstrong what her student was looking for. It turns out that Kayla Loree is working on her graduate degree and has a strong interest in using theatre in mental health awareness and promotion, and is considering forming her own company in due time and wanted to see how another organization was formed. It turns out what still needed to be done for Add Verb fits right into what she is wanting to do.

Photo from Flickr user Flying DJI.

Photo from Flickr user Flying DJI.

So! The news is that Add Verb’s history–which was digitally scanned two years ago by other wonderful interns–is now going to make it’s way to this website and be available for anyone doing research on using theatre in social change, health, wellness, community building, education, difficult dialogues, and flea reduction. Well, maybe not the fleas.

I’ll ask Kayla to write a few posts on what she is finding in the Add Verb archives, advice to others wading in, and what’s of most use to her from the large pile of press clippings, program details, resources, and more.

Everybody loves a love note.

In honor of Coming Out Week

If you are someone who doesn’t have to come out, whether that is at all due to whatever privileges you were born with or acquired, whether that is due to your age or experience or network of support or lack of giving any {word that rhymes with trucks}, would you leave a love note for someone who might  need it?  it would be a kind gesture to put a copy of one of the Out & Allied books in a conspicuous place for others to find… park bench? coffee shop? doctor’s office waiting room? a neighbor’s porch? your neice or nephew’s? a library?

Order a copy today, write a few words of encouragement, and let the universe do the rest. Everybody loves a love note.

The Play’s the Thing: and there’s evidence to prove it

Why do schools continue to bring The Thin Line to their communities? Because the play makes a difference, and saves lives.

Here’s a lovely article about NYC actress Paten Hughes and her upcoming trip to perform in St. Louis, where the play has been traveling to colleges and private schools year after year:

Ryan Bass has been booking Add Verb programs since 2003, and is well loved and trusted by organizations who want to help their community tackle eating disorders.

Actor Brian Chamberlain is representing You the Man, continuing to carry the torch to engage men and bystanders in addressing dating violence, relationship bullying and sexual assault.  Contact Brian to bring You the Man to your school or community.  And if you’d like to see what  results are coming out of the play’s award-nominated adaptation of You the Man for use in Australia, see what’s come out of Deakin University’s research!

Download Deakin’s report here:  YTMupdateNovember2014

The-Thin-Line_Artwork you_the_man_in Use

Coming Out As A Mom of LGBT* Child: Courage


This blew me away. Thank you, Jeannine Owens, for not only making yourself open and vulnerable with your child and family but also putting into words what many other parents might need to hear–just as you needed it–that they are not alone.

It’s Ally Week, but, really, share this anytime you think someone might need it.

Jeannine says:

Many pieces in Out &Allied have helped me through the last few years, as part of a much needed educational journey that started when my daughter (at the time) came out as bi-sexual, then lesbian and has since begun a Female-to-Male transition. My first encounter with O&A was at a production given at the University of Southern Maine after my daughter came out as bi-sexual. When she told me, she was nervous and I reassured her that I loved her, that it didn’t matter and went back to my work. While I consider myself tolerant and open-minded, I had some (and still do) learning to do. The O&A production had many skits, all very poignant, but the one that really rang true for me at that particular time was the one where the daughter told her parents that she is gay at the dinner table. The Dad is engrossed in the newspaper, the Mom fussing with dinner details. When the daughter told her parents, the Mom overreacted while the Dad remained very calm and nonchalant, “whatever makes you happy, honey”‑‑no big deal. That particular scene resonated with me, because while I didn’t overreact to that extent and certainly not with my daughter, I did run out to tell my husband a while later and he responded, “well, it’s probably for the best” or something like that – no big deal. The skit spoke volumes for a couple of reasons: it was so obvious when seen on the stage, that the Dad had it right, the Mom, not so much; it also made me see that I wasn’t alone in this humanistic educational journey, that people are on various levels of understanding and knowledge and that my ignorance didn’t make me a bad person. The piece gave me a welcoming, non-threatening, non judgmental way to learn.

I can’t overstate how much I appreciated the warmth and inclusiveness of that evening. As a straight 50-something female in a traditional marriage, I was a bit nervous about whether or not I would be welcome. Did I have some aura that screamed “outsider, can’t understand, is clueless” as my child had made me feel in previous “discussions”? I can’t tell you how many times I had heard about “his community” and how much more accepting they were than I. While this made no logical sense, it does indicate how different people’s perspectives or emotions can be when they attend. It can be an act of courage to just get there for some. Immediately, I sensed the atmosphere was friendly, casual and inclusive, and that was definitely the case throughout the production and Q&A session afterwards. The Q&A session afterwards was invaluable as well. For me, talking and sharing stories is my preferred way to learn.

O&A has absolutely helped me to not only have deeper conversations with family and friends, but more importantly, given me a deeper knowledge in general. It’s not easy for children to “have to explain everything” to parents — it’s exhausting and deeply personal. When I read about other situations, it gives me a greater understanding without having to put my child on the spot. I learned that the hard way. My bi-racial, transgender son and I have had many arguments through the years about gender and racial identity issues. After some years of perspective, I have realized that why O&A is so incredibly important and powerful is because it gives people of all ages and walks of life a welcoming, non-threatening, non judgmental way to learn and share.

Obviously, you love your child no matter what. You love them because of their inner core and being, nothing else matters. It’s sad that some segments of society make life difficult for people, it is changing, but none too soon, and O&A is one of the reasons. O&A is a pivotal, ground-breaking program that is immensely important for all to see/read. For me, that initial performance was so powerful that even writing about it now, 4 years later, brings tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat. While we all can do better at acceptance and tolerance on many levels, I know that that performance was a watershed moment for me. As parents, we need to be a part of the change for the better, love and hug your child, and stand by them at all costs.

–Jeannine Owens, October 2014

 Do you have your own Out & Allied story to share?                                                                                  Let Cathy know! It would be lovely to hear from

O&A Excerpt: Tough Guys Wear Pink

Tough Guys Wear Pink

by Stephen M. Feest

(Published in Out & Allied: An Anthology of Performance Pieces Written by LGBTQ Youth & Allies. 2nd Edition, 2014.

If tough guys wear pink does it matter what the other guys think? Maybe it isn’t whether they wear pink but that they wear it tough. Emotions, fears, pain; a man is tough when he hides all that stuff. Walkin’ around with that gansta swagger, lookin’ at someone like me, in the eyes of traditional masculinity. Your smirk and your words don’t faze me, ’cause when it comes to your opinion, I agree. If tough guys wear pink then I wear blue. Wearing a mask that hides who I am inside isn’t something I aspire to. In your segment of the population I’m the in-your-face truth. Standing here taking your insults like bullets, I’m a queer youth.

If tough guys wear pink does that mean that they reject the cliché that guys who wear pink are usually gay? What if you’re not only gay but genderqueer, androgynous and have gender flexibility? Maybe you hold hostility out of jealousy for my ability to express versatility in liquid gender form. I have the ability to transform norms and reform conformity. But every time I learn that there are still people out there like Sally Kern, who’ve crossed the point of no return, it’s like a cigarette burn to my pride. To be spurned and cast aside, denied my humanity under so-called Christianity. And without concern they cast their eyes from my friends who continue to commit suicide. I see you gaze upon me, head-to-toe scan. A smirk on your face, somehow you find distaste in who I am.

If tough guys wear pink do they stop and think why someone like me is such a threat to their masculinity? Tough guys are usually the gay bashers, dripping our blood on the cold concrete when inside their thoughts and emotions leave them incomplete. Why must I be beaten in the back streets, where every walk home is trick or treat? What is it that makes you a man? Is it part of God’s plan? For the Bible tells me so, is that how you know? To decide who is a friend or a foe? Maybe I’m your bro or just some John Doe. But why must I be discreet and defeated, retreat and deleted from this world? To be a piece of trash for the trash can, simply for being who I am: a gay man.

It just so happens God and I have been tight since birth; he’s continued to help me through hell on earth. I’ve been on the operating table so many times, that God has had his chance but he declined. So I must be on his good side, allowed a little pride, to know inside that he’s my guide and there isn’t any man who’s gonna tell me how to live right. ’Cause God and I are tight.

If tough guys wear pink, then they should stop and think that one day they would have been brutalized, for representing something slightly feminine risking being cast aside, for breaking the limits of traditional masculinity, and being free to express themselves individually.

If tough guys wear pink then they should realize the evolution of progress and honor those who are brave enough to address the limits of sexuality and gender in the face of protest. And be impressed with the finesse that people like me possess when faced with hate for choosing to follow what happens to be innate.

(Editor’s note: See actor Nate Speckman perform for TEDxDirigo!)

O&A Excerpt: Liquid Gender Form

Liquid Gender Form

by Stephen M. Feest

(Published in Out & Allied: An Anthology of Performance Pieces Written by LGBTQ Youth & Allies. 2nd Edition, 2014.


As I move through the day my eyes catch males and females like separating nickels and dimes. My mind puts individuals into stupid little boxes, like mental toxins in a blink it happens before I think to ignore the dichotomy that claims so many casualties. You may not know it but a border war is blazin’ and the troop levels are raisin’. It’s against the suppression of androgynous gender expression. ’Cause its Barbie Abercrombie zombie wannabes, against gender benders who won’t surrender to the assembly line but rather seek to redefine personality through individuality. It’s perfection and perception against reflection and interconnection of liquid beings. See we’re after liquid gender form, fighting against the traditional masculine and feminine norms.

It makes me ecstatic to prevent the automatic internal categorizing and create an enigmatic grey universe. I have an affinity to be something more, living at the core of my being, and not wanting to be at war with my feelings; I’m leaving behind conformity, answerability, and expectation’s collapsing ceiling.

Liquid gender form: opposing folkways and mores of a culture stuck in the dark ages. We’re separated between blue and pink before we’re even able to blink. Individuals attempt to bust out of cultural restraints that push them back. The price paid is brutality, and even death. The statistics are overwhelming, suppressing androgynous gender expression, but our numbers are abounding.

The deaths of androgynous women and men probably don’t make it into the day’s headlines on CNN, though it repeatedly happens again and again. Androgynous gender expression war veterans, peaceful protesters brutalized to stop the spread. The limitations of gender expression might not be clear, but the consequences are severe. These names should be on a memorial wall rather than a body count on the headline news crawl because they, brave and tall, were in it for the long haul. Risking negative attention without apprehension.

When will we take notice of the silent killer that isn’t silent but heralds his actions, only in the end claiming a panic defense to receive an infraction? Then we’re left to make sense of an unfair justice system, judges on the bench, the overwhelming fumes of inequality’s stench.

The latest headline murder was young gay Lawrence King, feminine and picked on for not wearing masculinity like hip-hop bling. What was this boy’s crime that he died before his time? Self-actualization at the age of fifteen? His killer thought his looks, his valentine requests were too obscene. For living life in ambiguity rather than inside the boundaries of masculinity’s acceptability, Lawrence King was murdered, two lives irrevocably altered, and a country left to point their finger while ignoring the fact that they helped pull the trigger.

So we’re waiting on a catalyst that might not come but still we must persist in the fight to coexist. We speak our minds even though our voices shake because silence won’t protect us. Oppression is the double-edged sword that cuts both ways, it cuts us when we are silent and it cuts us when we speak; either way it cuts us but its better to die for a cause then to die being meek. So we’re not asking for your consideration but instead making a declaration that since the social dichotomy of our culture is killing people, now’s the time to grapple, before the death tolls triple and our window of opportunity is trampled.

I’m tired of people standing on the backs of others who have wronged no one just to feel superior, when inside they are the most inferior of beings. In public they rail against the rules that they dictated, while in quiet desperation they fold into their lover’s arms like weeping children, victims, even slaves to the world they’ve created. Empty, hollow shells of a mask that they wear, a front that conceals their true identities. But what they really hide are their inferiorities, missing complexities, and their jealousies in watching people like us live in the enigmatic grey universe of liquid gender form. Free of the complications that rigid rules present, we circumvent the boundaries living content.

O&A Family: Stephen Feest, contributor, social worker

In a quest to encouraging anyone who has been involved with the Out & Allied project to write something or let me interview them so people can begin to hear more about how performance and activism change individuals and change the world. Stephen M. Feest wrote as a younger and more recently out man the popular spoken word pieces published in Vol. 1–Tough Guys Wear Pink and Liquid Gender Form. Click through to see his powerful spoken word pieces!

Stephen M. Feest, O&A contributor

Stephen M. Feest, O&A contributor

CP: Do you have a favorite piece-or one that changed how you thought–from Out & Allied Volume 1?

STEPHEN M FEEST: My favorite piece in the first volume is actually “The Crayola Crusade“ by John Coons. Crayola Crusade so perfectly captured how I felt about how I dreamed my life to be and how other people expected those dreams and expectations to change because I had discovered that I was queer. The world was simply colored wrong, it wasn’t me. As kids we do not think we are different until people say otherwise, until they segment us into different groups like different shades of Crayola crayons. It is so wonderful when someone else can translate the language of your thoughts into a linguistically coherent perspective.

 How did it feel to be published?

I remember sitting in my oversized blue chair writing and rewriting Tough Guys Wear Pink. I am a very quiet person and I filter everything I say but in my writing I let all of my emotions run free and I am unapologetic with those emotions. Everything I write has a tinge of anger and frustration and those emotions come from growing up dealing with medical trauma, so writing is both a voice and therapeutic catharsis. It was a bit scary to be published because I had come out at age 19 and I wrote and submitted for Add Verb within 2 years of that process. I also liked the idea that my pieces were given a voice. Having been born with a cleft lip and palate, I have a very monotone nasal voice, so rarely have I performed my own pieces but rather left them to be read. I do perform more now, in part from the response after people like Nate Speckman have performed my pieces (

–>listen to an audio here (though Nate’s performance at TEDx was waaaaay more in-yo-face-intense!)


What did you think of seeing Tough Guys Wear Pink piece performed for TEDxDirigo?

It was exciting to be a part of something that reached a wide audience and that could be shared so easily without having to explain it.   I was doing Social Work Masters coursework when I discovered the video and I shared the TEDxDirigo video with my advanced policy professor who thought it would be a great example of using advocacy in a creative way. There were a lot of working professionals who loved that they could use it as a resource, the anthology and the TEDx talk. One woman at the end of the semester shared how she was using the book and video as a resource to help young people in her work with Native Americans within a reservation community setting.

The TEDx talk spoke about Adding the Verb, Adding Action. How do you translate that notion in your work?

Before the opportunity to be published, I went to a novel reading by Chris Abani who was a political activist and writer who escaped the apartheid of Nigeria. Abani said that the only good writing is risky, so I have taken that to heart in my writing style. Allen Ginsberg said to a someone asking about writing, write for your friends and yourself, “follow your inner moonlight, don’t hide the madness.” I try and speak about the struggles of life in an open and honest way. I believe that if people can connect on a more personal level that people can find their selves in the struggles of others. If people know they are not alone, more minds and hearts can be changed and lives saved. I continue writing, with an emphasis on advocacy and working with adolescents. I continue to write performance pieces and I try my hand at other performance opportunities.

I love that Add Verb does more than bring a performance to a school or community stage. Bringing along resources and direct support professionals that can be change agents and life supports for people has really helped shape the way I want to approach my writing and my advocacy work. There are youth theatre groups popping up in Wisconsin geared towards queer youth and I think about the wonderful opportunity of working or volunteering with such groups. My passion is to work with adolescents and I have facilitated groups of minority youth in schools.

Do you have any advice for writers or advocates about reaching young LGBTQ people?

I went to a slam poetry workshop led by Guante, a slam poet and hip-hop artist. We looked at the performance pieces that have touched us and have reached mainstream audiences. We then came up with reminders for writing performances that did more than speak to an audience. A call to action was the main importance that the poetry had to do more than simply tell people about a problem but give them some idea about how they can effect change. Also of importance is to make it personal to your life, as in the case of writing a piece about war. A piece about war can be more widely personified by an audience if you focus on the feelings of walking past your brother’s empty bedroom every day while he’s in Afghanistan and the world is moving on while he’s stuck in a state of limbo.

You have to talk about what you know and what you’ve experienced because that is where you are going to get the emotional intensities needed to move an audience in a way to hold attention and promote awareness and ultimately change. You have to able to put yourself out there, so that young people can find something of themselves in you or your experiences.

Any final thoughts?

It has truly been a blessing to be a part of the Out & Allied Anthology and its corresponding performances and productions. I never imagined that words I lived and breathed could continue to reach people beyond being published. I commend all of the people who were brave in standing up and performing the pieces or making them into a project that geared itself towards education and acceptance. It has had a great effect on me and how I intend to make change in the world.


Someone is Coming Out? WHAT NOT TO DO.

In honor of the US National Coming Out Day on Oct 11, which is the kick off for National Coming Out Week, Oct 13-17, it’s nice to be able to offer a bit of humor.  This is a FANTASTIC short skit (3 actors is all it takes) written by the formidable youth activist Maya Brown.  The logo this year is by Keith Haring, and I want a T-Shirt!

2014 logo by Keith Haring

2014 logo by Keith Haring


Coming Out: What Not To Do

by Maya Brown

(Published in Out & Allied Vol 2.  Copyright 2014. If you use, please give proper credit to author and publisher/source. And there’s lots more material in the books, you know!)



ANNOUNCER                       QUEER PERSON                  OTHER PERSON

NOTE: ANNOUNCER’S lines can be played by QUEER PERSON, who will then just step out and back into the scene.

ANNOUNCER: Hello everyone. Today’s topic is disastrous coming out stories. Want to know what happens when you come out? Well, there’s a range of ways it can go. So I’ve broken it up into some handy categories for you. First up, there’s the Over-Reactor…

QUEER PERSON: Hey, you know I’m gay, right?


ANNOUNCER: Then there’s the opposite. The Under-Reactor, if you will…

QUEER PERSON: I have something I want to tell you. It’s like a pretty big thing and I’ve wanted to tell you for a long time. So I’m just going to come out and say it, ok? I’m gay.

OTHER PERSON: Oh yeah, I knew that. Like, everyone did. What’s the algebra homework?

ANNOUNCER: Next up, the person who wants to become your therapist…

QUEER PERSON: So, I need to tell you something. I’m a lesbian.

OTHER PERSON: Really? Thank you so much for telling me. When did you first know? Has it been hard? Are you like, telling other people? Do your parents know? Are they ok with it? Wow, this must just be, like, so hard for you. But don’t worry. I’m totally here for you. Do you have a lot of feelings? I’m sure you have like, so many feelings. Let’s work through your feelings together. With me. Go ahead. Talk. Together. Feelings.

ANOUNCER: Or the other person may be one of those One-Uppers…

QUEER PERSON: Hey, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and I think I might be bisexual.

OTHER PERSON: Wow, that’s pretty big, but guess what? My sister is pregnant! She like just told my parents and they are freaking out. I mean she’s engaged, but still, like, she’s barely out of college! I think they’ll come around eventually but like oh my god, do you want to see her sonogram? I hope it’s a boy.

ANNOUNCER: And the One-Upper is not to be confused with the Collector…

QUEER PERSON: Just so you know, I’m gay.

OTHER PERSON: Oh, my cousin just came out too. I’m pretty sure my neighbors are gay, or maybe they just live together, and I think our elementary art school teacher is gay, did you know that? Mr. Simon, yeah. I swear that guy wasn’t just his friend; they held hands way too much for that. Hmm, I also have a friend from summer camp who’s a lesbian, if you wanted me to introduce you I totally would, but I think she might be dating someone. And also, I haven’t told anyone yet but I think my cat is bi; she like totally has a thing for my aunt’s cat, and they’re both girl cats. A lot of TV shows I watch have gay people. I love gay people! I know so many!

ANNOUNCER: Or, there’s the one who wants too much information: The TMI Guy.

QUEER PERSON: So, you know Michael/Sally, right? Well, we’ve started dating, and it’s going really well!

OTHER PERSON: Wow! Okay. (Pauses) So can I ask you a couple of questions…like some awkward question…so how do you…you know…I mean have you…and does, that like, count? I mean what do you do for…and do they…and how do you do that?

ANNOUNCER: Then there’s the Stereotypist…

FEMALE QUEER: I’m a lesbian!

OTHER PERSON: Oh. Wait. Are you going to cut off your hair? Do you play rugby? Will you stop shaving now? I’ll trade you my brother’s old plaid flannel shirts for your dresses—you guys are pretty much the same size… I don’t really want to watch the L-Word, but if you want, I’ll do that with you.

MALE QUEER: I’m gay!

OTHER PERSON: Oh—It all makes sense now! You’re so into musical theatre and you’re such a good dresser! So does this mean you can be my shopping buddy now? Puhlease be my shopping buddy. But you can’t start having better fashion sense than me, ok? Wow, this is so exciting; I have seriously always wanted a sassy gay best friend! Let’s have a Glee party, and you can do my nails!

ANNOUNCER: Okay, okay, you get the idea. It can get pretty crazy.

(QUEER PERSON steps forward.)

QUEER PERSON: Yeah, and these are the supportive ones, even if they didn’t get it quite right. For some it can get a lot worse.

ANNOUNCER: Here’s a sampling.

(QUEER PERSON steps back, OTHER PERSON turns to face audience.)

OTHER PERSON: There’s a cure. It’s a phase. I’ll pray for you. We can fix you. You’re just confused. You chose this lifestyle. I bet you have a crush on me. How could you do this to me? I can’t be your friend.

(Actors pause.)

ANNOUCER: What is the right thing to say?

(QUEER PERSON steps out.)

QUEER PERSON: Sometimes it’s nothing at all.

(QUEER PERSON steps back and faces OTHER PERSON.)

QUEER PERSON: I have to tell you something. I’m gay.

(OTHER PERSON takes it in, and gives QUEER PERSON a hug.)






O&A Family: Meghan Brodie, editor, collaborator

Dr. Meghan Brodie is unquestionably one of the most popular professors at the University of Southern, Maine. She’s just that good. I asked Meghan to give an overview of her involvement with Out & Allied because she’s been key to the development of both Vol 1 and 2.  She’s mentored students, directed performances, trained teaching artists, and whipped the editing process into shape.

Meghan Brodie, PhD,

Meghan Brodie, PhD,

“For me, Out & Allied is about hope.”

Meghan writes:

During 2009-2010, I led workshops at the University of Southern Maine (USM) for student playwrights working on LGBTQ theatre pieces for Add Verb Production’s Out & Allied Project.  At each of our meetings, we discussed LGBTQ events in the news, LGBTQ language and the reclamation of previously defamatory terms like “queer,” and strategies for building LGBTQ allies.  This ultimately culminated in Performances from the Out & Allied Project, produced by Add Verb Productions and largely composed of USM students.  The production toured four southern Maine cities and was covered on the front page of the Local and State section of The Portland Press Herald.  Several student-written pieces from this production are included in Out & Allied: An Anthology of Performance Pieces Written by LGBTQ Youth and Allies, Volume 1.  Bonny Eagle High School requested two performances of the production, enabling us to reach hundreds of ninth and tenth graders and demonstrate Add Verb Production’s and USM’s commitment to diversity in a public arena.

Directed by Meghan Brodie

Directed by Meghan Brodie

During the Spring of 2011, I collaborated with Add Verb Production and Bonny Eagle High School to bring theatre for social change into the Drama classroom at Bonny Eagle.  We used Out & Allied: An Anthology of Performance Pieces Written by LGBTQ Youth and Allies, Volume 1 as the foundation for creating new theatre for social change pieces.  I taught an independent study to two USM students during the Fall 2011 semester, introducing the students to practical and theoretical texts about theatre for social change and helping them develop lesson plans to bring theatre for social change (oriented toward bullying and LGBTQ issues) into a high school classroom.  Not only does this collaboration highlight the importance of community, it also addresses the significance of understanding diversity and combating prejudice.  Add Verb and I worked with teachers, guidance counselors, and students at Bonny Eagle to tailor this project to Bonny Eagle students in an effort to change the school’s climate.  The two USM students worked at Bonny Eagle to help students develop theatre for social change performance pieces about bullying and LGBTQ issues; this work culminated in a production called Sticks and Stones at Bonny Eagle in January 2012.

Florence Cooley, O&A actor, teaching artist

Florence Cooley, O&A actor, teaching artist

More than anything else, these and other collaborations with Add Verb Productions, including both volumes of Out & Allied, have highlighted for me young people’s desire to contribute to positive social change and stand in solidarity with their peers who often struggle to share their stories.  For me, Out & Allied is about hope.  Hope for a more compassionate future in which we stand with each other as we seek to foster equality and understanding.

Meghan Brodie

Co-Editor, Out & Allied: An Anthology of Performance Pieces Written by LGBTQ Youth and Allies, Volumes 1 & 2.  Assistant Professor of Theatre and Women & Gender Studies Faculty at University of Southern Maine


Welcome to the first of many musings on the history of the Out & Allied Youth Project. 


In the fall of 2007 I attended a State Summit on all things LGBTQ in Maine. An amazing young man who worked at the Lewiston LGBTQ outreach center said something I can only paraphrase now, but it was formative.  There were 50 or 70 (it’s been a few years…) people who had a chance to say who they were, what they were doing to support LGBTQ youth (adult advocacy was sent to another room), and what they thought the top issue was.

He said that what he’d like to see less of is THE PROBLEMS of LGBTQ youth, and more of THE STRENGTHS.

If you look at what the Search Institute has  researched and published about this very thing in their 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents, you’ll see he was on to the heart of the matter.  Intervention and support services are important for survival; having what you need to thrive is strength-based.

I sat down with Tess Van Horn,  Add Verb’s then AmeriCorps*Vista Volunteer, and we started to map a theatre project that would be about-by-and-with youth, what has become the Out & Allied Youth Project .  We put out an all-call for submissions, planned for writing and devising workshops, recruited editors for the works in progress, and aimed at producing performance that would celebrate youth strengths, resilience, and innovation.  Add Verb’s work has always centred on engaging bystanders, asking them to stand with those who are experiencing oppression so it was very important that the project not only be open to LGBTQ participants but would involve allies.  Straight allies need to be cultivated and taught how to be better allies, and become aware of how much it can mean to someone to offer a word of support, an ear or arm-in-arm solidarity.

Tess was charged with launching the project and ultimately directing the very first production which can be seen in the work captured by MTV Youth documentarian Jamie McLeod.


Jennifer Hodsdon was retained as a teaching artist to conduct workshop in several rural locations around Maine.  With an assist from Betsey Parsons, a co-director of GLSEN Southern Maine, this first production had the honor of debuting for GLSEN’s national summit of Chapter Leaders July 2008, and that fall won the Maine League of Young Voter‘s Award for Best Youth Start-Up.