If the last few months of our political landscape have taught us anything it's that each and every one of us is an important part of the fabric that is this country and we all have voices that need to be heard. Our country is fighting a war with itself but theatre has the power to bring people together in a way few other things can. It allows you to see the world from someone else's perspective and recognize your story in someone else letting you know you aren't alone.
BOXES isn't a show about race. It is a venue for everyone to tell their own story and to bear witness to the stories of others. In your community that might mean looking at what it means to be multi-racial but it could also mean tell the story of struggling to fit in as a trans person in a binary world. It can look at age, gender, class, sexuality or a multitude of other categories. The world puts us in boxes every day with every action we take. This show gives your community the opportunity to explore what that means to them and then decide if they want to break down the walls of their boxes or stand up on them and own it proudly.
Structurally, BOXES can fit in any community regardless of size, experience, budget or time. The goal is to work with you to find the best way to represent your population. Because the material is generated by the ensemble in collaboration with the director we can accommodate for the fact that you have all singers and no dancers, or no singers but lots of writers. One of the best parts of this process is the ability to incorporate ALL of the ensemble's skills, not just the ones that land you a role in a traditional musical. Visual artists, musicians, writers, poets... Everyone is encouraged to share their stories in the vocabulary they are most comfortable with.
This is a perfect ensemble building production because there are no "leads" who get all the playing time and chorus who fill in around them. The entire ensemble stays on stage for the whole production to shine a light on the importance of listening as well as being heard. This also allows the members of the ensemble who aren't quite strong enough to carry a whole traditional show but who still have a lot of talent the opportunity to shine.
Boxes was originally created for the theatre department at Groton School in Groton, MA under the direction of Nicole Harris. Seventeen students were given the opportunity to tell their stories through the lens of the boxes that we are put (and put ourselves) in. The final product was a 90 minute piece of theatre combining existing songs and text with pieces written, arranged and created by the students.
I first came up with the idea for this show in July of 2016 after the Orlando Night Club shooting, which was promptly followed by the very public deaths of a number of black men across the country at the hands of the police. I was heartbroken and enraged to live in a country that still allowed hate and intolerance to run rampant. I needed a way that as an artist, a white woman from relative privilege, I could help combat racism, inequality and ignorance. In the following months I fine tuned my idea while watching the world spiral backwards to a time when basic human decency is confused with political correctness, facts have alternatives and vitriol and divisiveness are common practice.
Those original 17 students more than rose to the occasion, they exceeded all expectations with their strength, open minds and huge hearts. Groton's production was incredibly well received and sparked a flurry of conversations about the diversity and power of their community. Not only were the students commended for their talent as actors, singers and dancers but for the bravery they displaced in sharing their personal stories and the hope they inspired in each other.
As the production grew it became clear that this process was vital to these students and the community at large. The process itself was structured to work with the individuals in the room and the stories they needed to tell, making it a perfect model to be replicated in other communities.