EDUCATION TAKES CENTER STAGE
At Iron Crow Theatre, education is an important part of our mission and of course, for us, we view education a bit differently. Education is more than the sharing of knowledge and the training of skills. Education, through the medium of the performing arts, is an invitation for learners of all ages to actively participate in the creative process, to experience that which expands one's understanding of self.
We've made history this season in commissioning local, award-winning baltimore playwright, Rich Espey, to create our first ever queer piece intended specifically for Baltimore's youth. Set to embark on a regional tour to local middle schools this work aims to provide students, faculty and staff alike, the opportunity to engage with and dialogue around what it is to identify as a part of the "queer" community.
Growing up LGBTQ+ in middle school is terrible. We know. We've experienced it first hand.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, 92% of LGBTQ+ youth say they hear negative messages about being LGBTQ+. The top sources: their schools, the internet and their peers. Seeing oneself represented in a positive and substantive way, during the most formative years of one's creation of a social identity is a necessity, one that nearly 42% of youth are not receiving.
This project aims to combat the negative messages our youth hear in schools, specifically where we find the least amount of resources, educational content/curriculum and open dialogue - middle school. We've commissioned award-winning, local baltimore playwright, Rich Espey, to create our first ever educational piece exploring issues of LGBTQ+ history, gender expression, sexual orientation, diversity, and inclusion. Set to embark on an educational regional tour, and by exploring the challenges and successes of real-life lesbian, gay, and transgender Americans, this work aims to provide students, faculty and staff alike, the opportunity to engage with and dialogue around what it is to identify as a part of the broader "queer" community.
Alongside the script, administrators and educators will receive a resource packet with suggestions for further reading, curriculum planning, resources and discussion topics for students and schools. This project also coincides with our current Queer: Broaden Your Definition Campaign aimed at urging an understanding of 'queer' as a self-defining term applicable to all who choose to celebrate the renegade and the unorthodox within themselves.
This project would impact the lives of hundreds of Baltimore's youth for the better. According to the CDC, a survey of more than 7,000 seventh and eighth-grade students examined the effects of school climate and homophobic bullying on LGBTQ+ youth and found that LGBTQ+ youth were more likely than heterosexual youth to report high levels of bullying and substance use; homophobic victimization, unexcused absences from school, drug use, feelings of depression, and suicidal behaviors. We'd be fighting to end this experience and to allow children the freedom to express themselves freely.
Plus, we'll be creating meaningful and lasting art here in Baltimore (the tour has no end date), hiring local artists and designers and providing opportunities for adult LGBTQ+ professionals to directly connect with and impact the lives of their youthful counterparts. We'll be impacting both our target audience and our participants lives, all through the medium of live theatre, which as famously quoted, "is the most human way to teach another human what it is to be human."