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'It Gets Better' entertains while addressing bullying epidemic

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You may have heard of the website and online video project It Gets Better, supporting and encouraging bullied members of the LGBT community to persist through social abuse. Four years after the project began, it is now being transferred to the stage and will come to Milwaukee's Marcus Center on March 2. In anticipation of the event, cast member Mario Mosby shared his thoughts on the project yesterday, Feb. 20.

"It Gets Better" tells the story of CJ, a 16 year-old who finds himself perusing testimonial videos on the It Gets Better website, and quickly becomes frustrating at not finding a story similar to his own predicament. Through the help of a very special computer, CJ finds some of the LGBT community from the website in his room, sharing their stories. The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles and 100 local singers collaborate with It Gets Better to bring the message of the online project to the stage. The cast will arrive in Milwaukee starting Monday, and will visit schools and community centers in the area running workshops and leading discussions. The President & CEO of Cream City Foundation, Paul R. Fairchild commented,

Cream City Foundation is proud to partner with Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, the corporate community, our schools, and community partners, to bring 'it gets better' to Southeastern Wisconsin. Working together with young people, artists, service providers, LGBT people and our allies, we have an opportunity over the course of a week to give voice to the impact bullying has on our young people right here at home, and address solutions to this epidemic.

Similarly, The Marcus Center Programming Director, John Hassig said,

I think bullying in general is a disgusting problem. It's a really serious problem and whether people are being bullied for being fat or gay or have long hair or short hair, whatever the reason is, it's a problem that needs to end and this show is a performing arts response to that problem.

And while "It Gets Better" certainly addresses the effects of bullying within the LGBT community, cast member Mario Mosley claims that it is not about preaching or blaming anyone, and that there are several elements to the show that keep it from being all work and no play. Mosley, a UCLA graduate and professional choreographer and dancer, has worked alongside Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and Beyonce and now takes on the role of a drag queen, Tootsie. Mosley provides a great deal of the comic relief though the explosive personality and sass in his character, and yet the audience comes to find that even the most confident members of the LGBT community had a tough road to get where they are. Mosley commented on the comical side of the show and objective of the show saying,

Our goal is not to do the show for people who already know that this is going on and finding ways to improve it. Our goal is not only to do the show for people who are experiencing it. Our goal is to open the eyes of people who may have seen this before with their son or daughter who is LGBT and doesn't quite understand it. We want to talk to people who may not fully be on board, and I think if you're too harsh and in your face no one wants to be a part of that.

Aside from the primary plot following CJ, cast members step out of character to share their own personal stories and invite members of the community who have made It Gets Better videos to share their stories. So while there is a fictional, fantastical entertainment level found in any theatrical production, there is a strong infusion of genuineness and reality.

"It Gets Better" certainly aims to enlighten those who don't understand the struggles on LGBT youth, but it does so in a way that also entertains using a combination of personal testimonies, comedy, music, and local stories. Q&A sessions follow performances, where the audience can ask any questions or share stories and perspectives they may have. Mosley summed up the overall message of the show and his hope for the show's impact saying,

In the end we're all so different yet we're really all the same. Everyone just wants to be loved and accepted for who they are and I think if people could take it to such a simple level of that, the world would be a much more beautiful place. If we could just put everything aside and say, 'OK, I may not agree with their religious practices or their sexuality or their views on raising children, but if you realize that in the end everybody's just trying to do the best job they can as a human being and if they're doing that then they deserve their respect and love.

Due to adult language and topics, "It Gets Better" is appropriate for ages 13 and up and will run at the Marcus Center on Sunday, March 2 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available online or by calling 414-273-7206. For more information, visit http://www.marcuscenter.org/show/it-gets-better/.

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