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Creator of The Trevor Project brings LGBT teen storytelling workshop to Iowa City

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The Future Perfect Project

United Action for Youth Main Office – Saturday and Sunday, May 12-13, 1-4 p.m.

James Lecesne (front row, second from left) and Ryan Amador (front row, far right) with a group of Future Perfect Project participants. — photo courtesy of the Iowa Youth Writing Project

“Future perfect” refers to an ongoing project, a vision that becomes more perfect and more realized as it goes along.

This is how activist and Oscar-winning artist James Lecesne sees the world, particularly with regards to the experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. The Future Perfect Project, co-founded by Lecesne and performance artist Ryan Amador, brings LGBTQ high school students together to tell stories and express themselves through original writing, performances and musical compositions.

Iowa City will have its own two-day Future Perfect Project workshop from 1-4 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday, hosted by Lecesne and Amador. The event is free with registration and open to LGBTQ kids and allies in grades 9-12. Participants may attend one or both days of the workshop.

“It’s become more and more clear that American teens have a lot to say, they have a lot at stake, and they hold the keys to a positive and progressive future,” said Rachel Howell, education director at Fourth Room Theatre — which is helping to bring the Future Perfect Project to Iowa City — in an email to Little Village. “If there’s something we can do to help them hone their voices, we all will benefit from the kind of future perfect they can help to show us.”

Lecesne is best known for writing Trevor, a dramedy about a gay 13-year-old considering suicide, which took home the Academy Award for Best Short Film in 1995. Lecesne also co-founded The Trevor Project, the only nationwide 24/7 suicide prevention hotline for LGBTQ youth. His resume is full of youth- and LGBTQ-focused writing, acting and outreach projects, from Broadway plays to a young adult novel.

“Local theaters put on LGBTQ friendly works with some regularity, but having the option to be a part of creating that theatre (and for FREE!) isn’t available very often,” Howell said. “To be able to work with a someone like Lecesne, who’s made a name for himself and focused on making change with his art, is a wonderful opportunity for everyone — to learn how he did it and how workshoppers might do it too.”

Amador is a Brooklyn-based pop artist. Many of his songs encourage the rejection of labels and empowerment of LGBT people. Amador brings his electric keyboard to the Future Perfect Project workshops to aid musically-inclined participants in writing their own songs.

Iowa City’s Future Perfect Project is being presented by the Iowa Youth Writing Project (IYWP), Fourth Room Theatre and United Action for Youth, the latter hosting the workshops at their Iowa City office.

Lisa Roberts, assistant director of the IYWP, said the program focuses on high school students in part because they don’t have access to the relative wealth of resources and creative outlets — LGBT-friendly student groups, LGBT-specific classes, etc. — college students do.

“High school students, especially in the Midwest, may not feel they have many opportunities to get together and speak their truth,” Roberts said. “I want the students to feel seen and heard … We want to hear what the world looks like to them.”

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Howell added that art gives teenagers agency over their chaotic world.

“Kids deal with incredibly mature scenarios every day. From live shooter drills (or actual live shooters), to sexual predators/pressure and rape, to a myriad of bullying tactics — they have a lot on their plates. But they get NO SAY. They don’t get to vote. Yet.”

“The least we can do is let them be themselves, let them feel emboldened for who they are, and help them any way we’re able.”

That said, the kids aren’t expected to bare their soul, or do anything that makes them uncomfortable.

“The purpose of the workshop isn’t to force any shocking revelations, it’s to help them discover themselves a little bit more,” Howell said. “But potential revelations aren’t off the table either! Every person is different and each who attend will get something completely unique out of it.”

The students may use the songs, monologues and other writings generated at the workshop in whatever way they’d like. Roberts said the IYWP is hosting a youth reading near the end of the summer at which stories may be shared. The creators are also free to attend the IYWP-hosted spoken word club at West High School from 4:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. on Wednesdays.

The Future Perfect Project hosts will offer a safe and welcoming space, and more.

“There will be snacks,” Roberts assured. “You can’t have a three-hour workshop without snacks.”

Any questions about the program may be directed to Roberts at lisa@iywp.org or 402-310-9377. Lecesne will return to the Iowa City area this fall to present his play The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey. More details will be announced later.


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