Entertainment » Theatre

From 'Trevor' to 'Leonard,' Caring for At-Risk LGBTQ Kids

by Lisa Lipsey .
Saturday Jan 9, 2016

James Lecesne, writer of the Academy Award-winning film "Trevor," brings us his new solo play, "The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey," about the disappearance of 14-year-old Leonard Pelkey and the small New Jersey town that will never be the same without him.

Featuring original music by Tony Award-winning composer Duncan Sheik ("Spring Awakening," "American Psycho," "The Nightingale" and "Whisper House"), this touring production is directed by Tony Speciale, and as a special treat stars Lecesne, who performs a dozen character roles.

Lecesne shared some insights into creating the fictitious story of Leonard.

" 'Absolute Brightness' was first a book. It came out in 2007. I wrote it before all the attention was placed on bullying and the issues facing LGBTQ young people and the 'It Gets Better' campaign. My other play, 'Trevor,' was written
20 years ago. That story, and the Trevor Project, will always be close to my
heart, but it was time to write a story about a kid in the 21st century. A kid who is different, special and flamboyant."

Lecesne wants to inspire adults to think about how to help kids. "I hope my play gets adults talking to young people, encouraging them to be themselves, to help them understand the joys and the dangers of being yourself fully and extravagantly. What responsibility do we have to take care of our kids?"

He continued, "The show gets us to use our imagination, that untapped resource. There are no props, no big costume changes; the audience becomes the set designer, the costume designer. I am there to light up their brain, to bring them the funny and the serious. I love listening to people laugh and I enjoy their surprise when they both laugh and cry. The best theatre is when you are laughing... but it hurts just a little bit. After the show, people say to me, 'This is a true story, right?' That is such a compliment, that they invest and they believe."

"In the life of theatre, I have learned things take a long time," said Lecesne.
"This show moved very fast. We had a wonderful experimental space, an off-Broadway run and now it is 'life on the road' for a little while."

Working with composer Duncan Sheik was not in the original plan. Lecesne says he first met him at a benefit for the Trevor Project, the confidential suicide hotline for gay and questioning youth.

"Both of us are Buddhists and we became friends. So one day as I did a 20-minute presentation on 'Absolute Brightness,' Duncan was there and said, 'I am going to write music for it.' I said, 'It's not a musical.' And he said, 'I know, I'll write an underscore and transition music.' So, I said,
'Sure.' "

In his spare time, away from the theatre, Lecesne is working on another young adult novel. "Writing for young people is like visiting the future. How different it used to be-to be gay-a radical thing. Getting married once seemed impossible, now it is becoming more mainstream. This is all encouraging, but we have to remember when we say, 'It gets better...' that it only gets better if we make it better. We have to live up to that promise for our kids."

Lecesne is keeping that promise. For some fun, inspiration and encouragement, he has started giving away "The Absolute Brightness Award" during the run of the show. Recipients back in New York include LGBT activist Edie Windsor, who fought for the successful repeal of DOMA, actor/activist Alan Cumming and author/activist Eve Ensler ("The Vagina Monologues"). Lecesne intends to continue this tradition when he gets to California.

"I just made up the award, but I think it is really important to honor people doing this work." He added, "Of course, my first purpose is to entertain-to make this show a good time-something that is humorous and meaningful. The second is to enlighten."

"The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey" runs Wednesday, January 13 through Sunday, January 31 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles. For tickets and more information, call 213.972.4444 or go to centertheatregroup.org

Copyright Rage Monthly. For more articles from Rage visit www.ragemonthly.com


Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook