Laughter—that’s the constant power that drives The Year We Thought About Love, a film about an LGBTQ youth troupe out of Boston. The teens are a part of True Colors, a program for queer youth formed by The Theater Offensive, a 25-year-old organization whose mission is “to present the diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender lives in art so bold it breaks through personal isolation, challenges the status quo, and builds thriving communities.”
Being a part of True Colors is special—it’s “the oldest Out and Allied youth theater troupe in the world.” In this film, we step inside their world to see what it’s like to build queer youth community, share and support in times of crisis, and educate others through performing art.
But really, it’s so much more than that. True Colors is saving lives, too. In TYWTAL, the troupe is in the midst of creating a production about all kinds of love—their diverse sexuality playing out through a series of sketches for schools of students, teachers, social workers, family and friends to attend. We enter the personal lives of several True Colors members in the circle, and at home. There’s one girl who says proudly to the audience when asked about her sexuality, “Well, as you can see, the ladies love me, and I love them!” A transgender member is kicked out of her house, but seeks solace in a new relationship, trusted friends who understand her journey and planning for her future when she begins to take hormones. One boy’s mother sheds light on her newfound openness, after accepting her son—another member of the troupe when he comes out as gay. There’s a deep sense that what drives these kids is simple and complex, but it’s love.
Without a group existing like True Colors, many of these kids wouldn’t have the connections they’ve made, or the resources that are provided here—but because there’s school and jobs, some have to eventually leave the troupe, and that transition appears distressing. Still, many wonderful things come to an end, and True Colors is only the beginning. In TYWTAL, outness is not just being workshopped into a play—the scripts are pulled from the members’ actual real-life stories, some of which prove too difficult and too raw to turn into art when their realities at home are sharply present and too heavy-handed to peer into. And that’s okay. True Colors leader, Nick Bazo, is the glue that holds the group together, and his commitment, honesty and willingness to share with the teens his own struggles, desires and dreams, is totally endearing.
As the play travels to schools and community events, the camera captures audience reactions as a complete mixture: Some kids sitting very still with blank expressions, other hooting and hollering when a kiss between two people of the same gender happens on stage, gasping and covering their mouths. In the end, a film like this champions queer outreach programs for youth in a way we’ve never seen before—where the powers of art elicit the most interactive, educational, funny, vibrant, experiential illustrations of real life for queers, and queers growing up. Where we meet at True Colors, there is ample laughter, a desire to learn and listen, and all that motivation brings life force into and out of a group of teens that support one another in bold ways.
Director/producer Ellen Brodsky previously worked at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, led a National Training Center on HIV prevention for the Centers for Disease Control, and did training for the Safe Schools Program for Gay and Lesbian Students. Associate Producer Pam Chamberlain was a founding member of the groundbreaking Massachusetts Safe Schools Program for Gay and Lesbian Students, the first public project of its kind in the country. The Year We Thought About Love premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and was one of 11 queer documentaries curated for QDoc: the Portland Queer International Film Festival held this past weekend. None of this would have been possible without The Theater Offensive.
Programs like these are so important. They shift conversations in our community, and they build social change through visibility and diverse celebration.
To find out more about the film, and to see where it is screening next, check out theyearwethoughtaboutlove.com. And to get involved or learn more about Theater Offensive and True Colors, go to theateroffensive.org