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Dallas Children’s Theater presents ANDI BOI

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ANDI BOI, courtesy of Dallas Children's Theater. Photo credit: Karen Almond

Dallas Children’s Theater (DCT) is pleased to be announcing the online release of ANDI BOI. This groundbreaking play about a transgender teen is part of DCT’s series of internationally-recognized teen issue plays. Originally presented on stage in February 2020, the video-on-demand production also includes a talkback with members in the LGBTQ community. Co-produced with Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in partnership with First Unitarian Church Dallas, the production will be able for viewing for $20 beginning Monday, JULY 20, 2020 at dct.org/andiboi.

ANDI BOI is a great tool for schools, churches, corporations, and LGBTQ organizations that are interested in creating meaningful dialogue within the community. As part of DCT’s mission to integrate the arts into classroom academics, for schools, a downloadable Behind the Curtain Resource Guide is also available. The guide is intended to provide helpful information for a teacher to use before and after seeing the production. The activities presented in the guide are designed to stimulate lively responses and multisensory explorations of concepts in order to use the theatrical event as a vehicle for cross-cultural and language arts learning. It is an opportunity to use theater as a springboard for dynamic learning, extending the dramatic experience of the play.

ANDI BOI is about Andi, a transgender teen entering his first day of high school identifying as a male. Former classmates recall his last name when they hear it, but there is something different about Andi that keeps the dots from connecting clearly in their minds.  Soon his new teachers, classmates, and his classmates’ parents will figure it out. How will they react? With aggression? With compassion? With confusion? Inspired by one teen’s journey, ANDI BOI is told with a sensitivity towards Andi and uses wit, heart, and warmth to help audiences find their way to greater compassion and awareness.

“DCT has made it a priority to present stories about teens caught in difficult situations and the tough barriers they face, in part, because so little energy is focused on teens. This means a wall of confusion and rejection often meets them,” said Robyn Flatt, Founder and Executive Artistic Director of DCT. “By offering ANDI BOI online, we will broaden awareness and understanding of these young people as human beings, as vulnerable young people among us.  Hopefully through this knowledge and experience, we can provide a supportive space during their search to find true identity, and as a result, we make the journey less painful.”

A recent report from the CDC reveals that two percent of high school students in the United States identify as transgender. Yet, it is clear that the experiences of each child are distinct and run the gamut from very difficult and life threatening to that akin to any teen going through a challenge.  As such, the producing team wants to be clear that this play is far from an attempt to suggest every child’s journey is the same.  ANDI BOI is one story about one life that is largely devised by a playwright. It is not intended to represent an entire community, but rather be a starting point for conversation.

DCT commissioned local playwright, Bruce Coleman, to write ANDI BOI. His first decision was to speak with some of the two percent of high school students who identify as transgender. For Coleman, this included talking to a young boy who recently transitioned and his parents. Using these conversations and research as inspiration, Coleman said he deliberately decided to use honesty and humor as tools for telling this story in hopes that it would have the broadest possible appeal. Coleman hoped to create an atmosphere of good will and understanding that will help audiences begin an important conversation around this topic. “I hope as people get to know Andi, they’ll also get to know something about themselves,” Coleman said.

“As a gay man, I too kept a secret from my family until it became impossible to deny who I was anymore.” Coleman continued, “I feared rejection from family and friends as they discovered who I am, but I ultimately took that rejection and turned it into strength. I have been pushed at by a society that wants to squeeze me into a box and force me to be a thing that goes against everything that makes me this person I am. But when all has been said and done and because of a strong belief in myself, I can finally achieve my heart’s desire: To be seen, to be respected, and to be treasured. It’s all Andi and I are asking for.”

DCT co-produced ANDI BOI with Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and in partnership with First Unitarian Church of Dallas. Texas Instruments, Capital One and PwC are part of the collaboration which has national funding support from the Theater Communications Group (TCG) and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Theatre Communications Group (TCG) awarded DCT and its partners a grant to support the production and the events surrounding ANDI BOI to help theater organizations implement and refine ways to increase audience engagement and community development with a focus on young audiences.

Over the past 15 years, DCT has offered several teen issue plays that examine topics including bullying, learning differences, teen brain development, eating disorders, and dating violence. Subject matter resources lead a discussion after each of these types of performances. At the performances, teens and parents are provided information and perspective on the topic, as well as guidance on how to navigate the inherent trauma imbedded in these situations. Online, DCT has amassed a host of links and resources for audiences.

“I believe theater provides a powerful tool during our children’s transition to adulthood by spotlighting some of the serious challenges they and their peers encounter along the way,” Flatt said. “It is up to us to help all our children, irrespective of color, creed, or gender orientation, to have a safe space for physical growth, an environment for creative discovery, and an open door for tolerance and acceptance.”

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october 2020

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