These Teens Will Never be the Same

Two days ago, I was invited to cover one of the coolest events I’ve ever witnessed. The Tennessee Performing Arts Center along with Cydi Laupers’s True Colors hosted a behind the scenes day for Nashville’s Oasis Center. It was so inspiring and touching to watch this event, the kids and the professionals who made it happen, but before I tell you all the amazing details, I should give you some quick cliff-notes on the organizations involved so you truly understand the impact of the day.

true colors

True Colors is the organization that put this whole shindig together. This organization was founded by THE Cyndi Lauper, and its mission is “to end homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, creating a world in which young people can be their true selves”. I chatted with their Community Organizer Intern, Cassie, and learned that this is all put together by their “Raise You Up” program, which involves Kinky Boots with a community organization. She also informed me that 40% of homeless youth is from the LGBT community (mostly due to family rejection), which is clearly unacceptable and why True Colors is so dedicated to helping these kids.

oasis

Then, there is the heart of this whole operation, the Oasis Center. This local organization is HUGE. It serves about 4,000 local youths a year, and it’s mission is to “provide safety and support to  the most vulnerable and disconnected youth…it seeks to provide resources that allow them to transform their situations and prepare them for productive fulfilling lives”. That’s perhaps the most important mission ever, to encourage the future, our youth. I also had the pleasure of speaking with Pam, the program director, who taught me lots about the Oasis Center. Their were a limited number of teens/ youth that could attend this special event, so Oasis brought a group of LGBT kids as well as some that have a strong interest in theater. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of the kids who were on the list to go, showed up, on time and ready to learn. That’s some kind of miracle, because as all us teachers know, students are never ever all present, on time and ready to learn. These particular kids knew they were in for something special.

Honestly, I had no idea what to expect when I entered the main lobby of the theater yesterday. I did not know the age of the kids, how they would behave, how interesting the tour would, or would not, be and very little about either organization. I met up with the group of teenagers right before they entered the largest theater to watch the cast of Kinky Boots rehearse. Oh my, the look on their faces as the cast began singing and dancing was priceless. That one moment was worth my drive to TPAC.

in theatre

There was one boy in particular, a talented young dancer, who was so lit up when the dancing began. You could see the wheels turning as he watched the insane choreography being rehearsed on stage. Like, he all of a sudden realized, “Oh, I can do this, this could be my future.” As the number ended, the small group of teens erupted in applause, even though they were told not to make a peep. They couldn’t help themselves, and the cast certainly didn’t mind the appreciation.

We were all then taken backstage for a little behind the scenes tour. The kids got to see what a dressing room looks like, where costumes are kept, how the cast enters and exits and lots of other cool ins and outs of the backstage world. I think everyone’s favorite part was seeing the thigh-high high-heeled sparkling boots in everyone’s dressing room.

We ended in a conference room, where the kids had the opportunity to listen, learn and ask questions to part of the Kinky Boots crew and several staff members from TPAC. You may think this sounds boring, but I promise you it was far from it! I learned so much myself that I’m ready to put in my application! These teens got to learn about the coolest jobs in the theater business that most of us either don’t think about, or didn’t even know existed. The staff told them their background (some theater, some not), their experience (EVERYONE lived in NYC at one point or another), how they got their job (work hard! do what you love! learn! be scrappy!) and some funny personal experiences (one involving a Barney suit). The, they were able to ask whatever questions they wanted! Once again, you could see their eyes light up, the wheels turning and the excitement, excitement about their own dreams and ambitions.

meeting

I was so impressed with these young people. They were genuinely interested in everything they were being presented. They were polite, respectful, enthusiastic and asked some really great questions. (My favorite was, what was the best/worst play you ever worked?) This wasn’t even the end of the day. Yes, there was more.

Once the speakers finished, the kids got to eat dinner (pizza and soda) before going to see the entire musical themselves! THEN, after the show, they got to stay for a Q&A with the cast! Who gets an opportunity like this? I grew up in a nice area, went to great schools and never got to do anything this cool. Teenage Hilarie is super envious of them. These at-risk teens got an experience of a life-time. They were exposed to talents, jobs, art, culture and career options that they otherwise would have likely never known existed. That is amazing.

HUGE thank you to the True Colors Fund for selecting Nashville as your second city to participate in this program! Also, if any of you are interested in donating, volunteering or somehow getting involved with the Oasis Center please visit this link. TPAC, as always, you rock.

Cheers!

These Boots are Made for Watching

Kinky Boots is in Nashville!!!! EEEEEeeeee! I LOVE this show. I saw it on Broadway in New York when it opened and actually sat right behind Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein (the creators of the musical).It was a magical night of drag queens, glitter, shoes, high kicks and British accents. Can  you ask for more? Yes. You can ask to see the show again, the traveling show. Lucky me. I got to see it for a second time last night at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

kinkyboots

My friend, Bella, and I went together and because we love dressing up, we decided to dress the part, which can best be described as….well, kinky. That’s really just a nice way to say we looked like hookers, cute hookers. TPAC was decked out for the show. They had the usual huge crowd, themed snacks and souvenirs, but they also had a shoe cam. It’s like the one you see on the E! network.

workin' it!
workin’ it!

The BEST part was seeing Tony (one of TPAC’s best employees) dressed in the iconic red high-heeled boots! From across the room a spotted a photo backdrop and a line of people waiting to take their photo with who I assumed was a cast member. I then see Tony’s head peaking through the crowd and thought he must be doing crowd management. Then, the crowds parts just enough that I spot the boots… the red boots on Tony’s feet! It was amazing, and yeah we definitely took advantage of that Kodak moment.

tony

 

Before the show began we took the theme one step further and ordered ourselves a double of the “Kinky Boots” drink, delicious BTW. One minute before showtime we finally got to our seats, settled in, took a sip of our pink drink and got read for a show unlike any other.

red boots

 

Kinky Boots is a musical based off of a movie based on a true story. The story is of two boys with two dreams. One dreams of dancing in high heels. One dreams of doing anything, but running the family business, a shoe making factory. As adults. the first boy is a very talented drag queen in London, the latter is forced to run the shoe factory when his father unexpectedly passes away. The factory is failing quickly and the son has no clue how to save it in everyone he loves’ jobs. The two very different young men cross paths unexpectedly and together they not only learn how to save the business, but also discover the importance of accepting others and being true to yourself.

Throughout the heartwarming and hilarious story are some seriously impressive musical numbers. The music and lyrics reminds me of classic Broadway hits, but the dancing is like none other. It’s not often you see grown men doing high-kicks, splits, back handsprings and a myriad of other moves in 6-inch heels. Well… I guess it’s possible you do see this often, depending on what clubs you frequent, but I guarantee you that you have yet to see this level of talent.

The show rocked. We left feeling excited, happy and desperate to go shoe shopping.

quote

Kinky Boots will be playing at TPAC until February 8th! GO SEE IT! You may even spot a celebrity… Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson were there last night. Check out show details and future shows here. If you don’t live around Nashville (shame on you), check out the tour dates here.

Cheers!