Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review of About Face Youth Theatre's Brave Like Them

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Brave Like Them. It was devised by the About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble and it was directed by Ali Hoefnagel and Kieran Kredell. It was about a person named Danni (Kyla Norton) who at the start of the show identifies as female. She had gone back to her home town after her parents divorced and is exploring her sexuality and gender identity. She and her friend Jamie (Sandy Nguyen) discover the Riot Grrrls and want to join the movement until Danni realizes how lacking in inclusion the group at the club is because they aren't welcoming to Danni's new friends who are LGBTQ+. But Jamie has become close with the main Riot Grrrls in the town and doesn't want to give that up, even for her best friend. It is about identity, feminism, and inclusion. I thought this was a good show. It had a lot of really talented young actors in it. I think it is a powerful story and it made me think a lot about what it means to be inclusive and how important it is to be aware of your privilege.

I think the relationship between Danni and Jamie started out as a sweet one, but as the play goes on you see it fall apart in a way that is really heartbreaking. They used to be such good friends when they were younger and now you start to see them grow apart as they start to be interested in different things and start to disagree on more topics. I never really fight with my best friend, and I am ten years into that friendship, and it is terrifying to think what might happen to our friendship when we go to high school. But it is a sad truth that friendships that you have when you are young often do fall apart when you go to high school. Another reason why it is so sad is that I feel like their conflicting opinions don't need to drag their friendship apart, but they do. I think the way they try to heal the friendship by the end is really smart and grownup. After watching these teens act like teens, I think it is really great to see them make a grownup decision that doesn't end in anger and works for both of them. This is not just a discovering-who-you-are story, which is about being with yourself and discovering who you you want to be. It is also a story about growing up, making grown-up decisions with other people and thinking about what is best for everyone. You also see how much Danni grows in the scenes with her/their mom, Lydia (Mia Vivens). They admit to their mom that they prefer to use the pronouns they/them/theirs. And they also show their mom their 'zines. I think their relationship is really sweet, and you can see they went through some really rough times together. Danni basically ends up showing their mom their diary which I think is brave and meaningful.

Danni discovers who they really are when they become involved with a band soon to be called Space Sex Vacuum. The people in the band are Chris (Ben Flores), Noa (Jude Gordon), and Coe (Jimbo Pestano) and they want to rebel against the Riot Grrrls because that group is not welcoming they/them/theirs-identifying people to The Crocodile Club. I really liked their song about the audience at Riot Grrrl shows being polar bears and snowstorms. I loved the scene in the record store. It was really funny and a little heartwarming because you see all these people become themselves around each other. The Shopkeeper (Sharon Pasia) was really high and talking about space and what it would be like to have intercourse in space, how there would a space sex vacuum. The band has come to record store for band name ideas, and then the clerk ends up giving them the idea. She was a really funny character, but in the end she has sort of helped everyone like a guardian angel in charge of helping you find your place in the movement towards equality.

The sort-of villain of the show is the lead Riot Grrrl, Hannah (Lilian McGrady), who is basically trying to make it so girls can take over the punk scene. The movement starts out wanting to help girls feel safe and powerful, but it ends up excluding a lot of people. People shouldn't be excluded because of their identity, they should be excluded because of their actions, but Hannah is assuming that every man will do something terrible if they haven't done it yet. It is hard to have a safe space without excluding people, but when you exclude people they get angry about it and you are also not necessarily ensuring it is a safe space. It is so complicated because the Riot Grrrls in this show want to make a safe space for women, but they end up making something that is not welcoming to they/them/theirs- and male-identifying people even though a lot of those people probably haven't done anything threatening to women. I thought this show was going to be about the positive things the Riot Grrrls did for society, but it ended up making you aware of all the problems that the movement had with practicing inclusion. I was disappointed to know that, but I think it is important to come to terms with it.

People who would like this show are people who like stories about finding yourself, record store guardian angels, and crazy band names. I think people should definitely go see this show. It has some really great performances and an intriguing story. I really liked it. It closes on August 6, so everyone should go see it before the run ends!

Photos: Emily Schwartz

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