Members of the School of Drama and Yale Repepertory Theatre have been collaborating on a new project as usual. But this time, it is neither a musical nor a play — it is a YouTube clip.
On Monday, 300 people from the School and the Yale Rep community participated in a video featuring testimonies from faculty and students about their experiences with bullying and gender identity. The movie, part of the national “It Gets Better” project, aims to reach out to LGBT youths across the country. Associate Artistic Director of the Yale Repertory Theatre Jennifer Kiger, who led the effort at Yale, said she anticipates the video will be posted online by the end of the week.
The “It Gets Better Project” was started in September 2010 by writer Dan Savage, who is also the sex columnist for the Seattle alternative weekly The Stranger. He started the project in response to a string of suicides committed by teens who had been bullied at school because of their sexual orientation, the website for the Project states. The effort also hopes to reassure lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual youths that love and happiness can be a reality in their future, primarily through videos in which people who have gone through these experiences share their stories, the site notes.
In recent weeks several organizations and celebrities with supportive messages for LGBT youths, including President Barack Obama, Tim Gunn and employees from Facebook and Google have uploaded videos on the theme to the project’s website.
Kiger said she and other members of the theatre’s artistic staff decided to film the video after seeing a similar video done by actors and staff members of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
“It’s important that when you see injustice happening, you stand up and you say something,” Kiger said. “Artists do that all the time in their work, and in the way they respect each other through their collaborations.”
Faculty, students, staff and guest artists from the Rep, including three members of the cast of “A Delicate Balance,” all gave testimonials for the video. The clip was filmed in the Rep Lounge by the theatre’s videographer David Kane.
Kay Perdue, an Artistic Associate for the Rep who spoke in the video alongside her husband and baby daughter, said she enjoyed seeing the School of Drama and Rep community come together in a different way for this project.
“This has been an incredible day of seeing this group of people who work together for productions all the time,” Perdue said. “The concrete thing that we usually produce is outside of ourselves and this is something that is very much of ourselves and very intimate.”
Justin Taylor DRA ’13, who spoke on camera about developing self-esteem based not on others’ opinions of him but on his own, thought the School of Drama was a particularly appropriate place to film an “It Gets Better” video. He said LGBT people have always been very visible in the theatre and it would be great for young people to see those who work at the Rep or study at the School as role models who have moved past bullying and gone on to successful careers.
“My hope is that one person who’s feeling super alone out there who needs to feel some connection to something bigger than where they are is surfing the internet and they come across this video,” Taylor said. “I hope when they see the people of Yale Rep they’ll think, ‘You know, just from watching this video, it did get better.’”
The Rep’s Director of Education and Accessibility Services Ruth Feldman emphasized the timeliness of the video, citing the negative political atmosphere associated with Tuesday’s midterm elections.
“I’ve worked at theaters where if you had said you were gay your job would be in jeopardy,” Felmand said. “So many years later, being in an artistic community and a theater where you are being encouraged and supported to say who you are and know that its okay is a very positive and strong message — especially now.”
Over 2000 videos have been uploaded to the It Gets Better Project’s website, and the project’s YouTube Channel has almost 2 million views.