Courtesy of Jason Kisare

Come Christmas, come vacations, come birthdays, all Jason Kisare ’25 wanted to do as a child was watch Broadway shows in his free time. Now in his third year at Yale, he writes shows of his own.

His first original work, “Long Way Down,” was a musical adaptation of The New York Times bestselling novel of the same name and opened last April. Nearly a year later, Kisare’s second original work, “Black Boy Therapy!” is set to run from April 4-6. While the storylines of these two shows are vastly different — “Long Way Down” is an electrifying and dark thriller on the cyclical nature of gun violence, and “Black Boy Therapy!” is a satirical piece on microaggressions and stereotypes — both of these works reflect Kisare’s desire to push the limits of Black storytelling on the stage.

“Stuff I have never seen in theater before — that’s what I want to create,” said Kisare. “I want to create theater that enriches and challenges our perceptions of the Black experience. I aim to use the universal language of music as a lens to uplift Black centered stories, helping redefine the landscape of musical theater.”

The upcoming production of “Black Boy Therapy!” invites audiences into the mind of a Black boy and introduces them to the emotions that live inside him: Sadness, Anger, Fear, Shame and Surprise. Viewers follow these five emotions on their journey, as they learn to unpack their trauma to find their missing leader, Joy — before it’s too late and everyone disappears forever. 

The show includes a broad variety of music, from genres that are seldom used in musical theater, like  R&B and bossa nova, to conventional genres, like pop. The musical landscape that Kisare creates becomes a major character in the work, working to enhance the scene at hand. 

“Juxtaposing the subject matter with the genre helps us understand, one, how this character thinks and sees the world,” said Kisare. “And it also helps the show be more entertaining for the audience and understand what I’m saying better. Because why am I presenting it in this music genre? Hopefully people wonder, like, ‘A shoplifting song as a pop song?’ It sounds ridiculous, but it’s all for a point.” 

While “Black Boy Therapy!” explores how a Black boy experiences and grapples with instances of racism, Kisare said that this show is meant to be a story that is appreciated and enjoyed beyond a Black audience. Especially as these stories are ones that “no one wants to talk about” and often get brushed under the carpet, he said. Humor becomes an effective medium for audiences to fully confront and digest conversations that they would have otherwise avoided. 

According to Kisare, the show navigates a tricky balance when it comes to satire: giving audience members the “permission to laugh,” while understanding the ultimate takeaway of the punchline.  

“The beautiful thing about theater is that they can’t talk, they can’t react, all they can do is sit and watch,” said Kisare. “And there’s a power in just knowing that we as actors in the show have control over their small amount of time to say whatever we want to say. And what I want to do is make theater that everyone can enjoy, but it doesn’t mean they have to relate to it.”

Alongside playwriting, Kisare maintains various other relationships to the stage. He has played the drums for “Long Way Down” and is on the piano for “Black Boy Therapy!” For both of these shows, he has been the musical director and music conductor.

In addition to his work off the stage, Kisare acted in the Broadway production “School of Rock” as a 12 year old. As Kisare observed the behind-the-scenes aspects of the production and spoke with professionals on set, he was inspired to create musical theater pieces of his own. 

“It opened up my eyes to the possibilities,” said Kisare. “I wanted to write because I’ve always loved musicals, but it wasn’t until then that I was like, ‘Okay, I can tangibly see a world in which maybe I could do this, and I would want to do it.’” 

Eventually, Kisare said, he hopes to act in one of his original works. 

William Romain ’26, who plays the role of Sadness in “Black Boy Therapy!” described Kisare as a confident individual with a direct sense of humor. These traits lend themselves to Kisare’s work ethic —  “he’s not here to play,” said Romain. 

According to Maxwell Brown ’25, a frequent collaborator and close friend to Kisare, Kisare is a prolific artist who is always thinking about the next big project. 

When asked about any future ideas, Kisare responded immediately with three different ideas, proving his collaborators’ description of Kisare to be correct. One of his ideas include an exploration of Black Santa and how the meaning of this figure has transformed throughout history — from the Blackface Santa that was at the center of minstrel shows to Black Americans’ reclamation of Black Santa amidst the Civil Rights Movement. 

While the subject matter of these plays is unique and idiosyncratic, these unconventional framings of the Black experience fulfill Kisare’s goals of creating boundary-pushing stories.  

“Jason has a lot of potential to be kind of, well, one of the biggest writers of our modern century drama,” said Brown. “And I think that’s very high praise. But I do believe it.  I think that it’s just really rewarding to be a part of this process and create new work that people haven’t seen before.” 

Kisare started working on “Black Boy Therapy!” in August of last year.