Finding a Voice with Trevor

Finding a Voice with Trevor

To continue our Pride Month celebration, we're shifting the spotlight to a newer title: Trevor. A deeply moving and funny story of self-discovery and the power of acceptance, Trevor is about living your best life with a ton of passion… and a touch of pizzazz.

It’s 1981 in America, and Trevor Nelson is busy navigating adolescence in suburbia while dreaming of a life in show business. When an embarrassing incident at school suddenly puts him in the wrong spotlight, Trevor must summon the courage to forge his own path.

Based on the Academy Award-winning 1994 short film, Trevor ran Off-Broadway in 2021 and is now streaming on Disney+. In 1998, film director Peggy Rajski brought fellow filmmakers Randy Stone and Celeste Lecesne together to found The Trevor Project, a 24/7 crisis and suicide prevention hotline for lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.

Before Trevor became available for licensing, students in the Kenosha Unified School District participated in a pilot production. We're honored that they (along with their director and dear friend of MTI Holly Stanfield) took the time to share their experience with us.

Some responses have been edited for length.

What about this show stood out to you?

Holly Stanfield (Director): The show allows high school students to tell a story about an emerging high school LGBTQ+ person safely. Our production integrated the actors with the audience and the shared experience of every performance was life changing for both the student actors and the people from our community who attended the show.

Juan Navarro (Trevor): This show surprised me in so many ways but I think one thing that stood out to me most was the difference of how people react to someone being a part of the LGBTQ community now vs how they did back then. I think that kinda opened my eyes to what past generations had to endure and it helped educate me a little more on the subject. But performing this show meant the whole world to me because it has such strong themes and portrays them in ways that the audience can empathize with. I personally have gone through a similar situation as Trevor in my youth and I think it is a show that many young LGBTQ people can relate to and hopefully get help if they need it.

Lorelai Amborn (Cathy): One aspect of the show that stood out to me was how it truly encapsulated how heightened all your emotions are when you are a teen, and how overwhelming it is. Performing it was very special to me because it helped me bridge gaps between my family and friends who didn't understand some of the ideas of the show. Being able to show it to them in such a relatable and easy to understand way helped them to realize how important it is that these stories are told.

Ella Munro (Mrs. Kerr): Trevor is such an emotional show, it has extreme moments of joy yet such despair. At its heart, it's a show about feelings, and it is so powerful to experience all of those highs and lows over the course of the show.

Benjamin Johnson (Pinky): An aspect of the show that stood out to me was the message of, "What if weird is only different? What if different isn't wrong". A lot of people in high school that are a part of the LGBTQ+ community and many others are shamed and disgraced for being who they are and feeling the way they do. Performing this show meant a lot to me because I really thought that this show sent out a really important message to the people. I personally enjoyed doing this show because it was a challenge for me to portray the character that I played. My character was unlike me in that he did not appreciate Trevor for who he was after he found out that he was gay. I appreciate and treasure all of my friends that I have and especially the ones that I got to share this incredible show with. I always reassured them and told them that my character does not reflect who I truly am and they always believed me. It truly stood out that we all enjoyed the experience and story of this show.

Jaylese Smith (Diana Ross): The part that stood out to me was Trevor felt like no one loved him except Diana Ross. People were talking about him. It meant a lot to me because Trevor looked to Diana Ross for love and support. It felt good to be in the show because I felt like I was an inspiration to someone else.

Jaxon Haigh (Todd): What stood out was Trevor’s emotional changes throughout the show. The show starts with him as a happy kid, but as the show progresses he is torn down by the other kids and begins to have suicidal thoughts. I was honored to do something that was emotional and serious in the world. It is a great responsibility to have.

Is there anything you learned in performing this show about the LGBTQ+ community or yourself you didn’t know before?

Stanfield: I did not know about the Trevor Project until I read the show and did the research. I have shared that website constantly since we performed Trevor. I live in a conservative community, and just mentioning our project to some community members allowed me to connect them with the Trevor Project.

Navarro: I feel that I did learn a lot about the time in which this show was written and how it affected those who were apart of the LGBTQ community. I also think I learned that when it comes to falling for someone sometimes it just happens and you can’t control the outcome. This show is very good with letting us all really feel for Trevor as well because he really goes through a lot that he was just keeping to himself, so I would also say that it taught me to share my struggles with someone rather than letting them bubble up because that can lead to worse outcomes in life.

Amborn: It taught me so much about the bravery that our queer elders had and heightened my respect for them immensely.

Munro: Personally, I've gotten a lot more open with my identity since performing the show. And while most of that is just a part of growing up, I think it was really important for me at the time to be involved in a story where being different is so prominent. Where it isn't something that's good or bad - it's just who you are. It has its ups and downs, and as awful as it can feel at times, it's important to know that you aren't alone.

Johnson: Something I learned about the LGBTQ+ community from performing this show is the amount of disrespect that they often get from people in the world. I was not entirely unaware of this but I had never really seen the full view of it all. I personally feel bad for all of the people in that community that are on the receiving end of that disrespect. No one should ever be ashamed or feel bad about who they want to be. We should all treat each other with respect and kindness for who we all truly are.

Smith: It made me think about how the world hasn’t really changed that much, and we need to support people in the LGBTQ+ community.

Alex Beddigs (Luke): With the setting of the show dated back in the 80’s, it was interesting to see how a lot has not really changed in the world now.

Ignacio Perez (Jack): I learned that there are hardships for the LGBTQ+ community. I don’t think I realized that there are hardships like Trevor’s story. It touched my heart.

What number in the show was the most powerful/impactful for you?

Stanfield: When I experienced the audience's reaction to “Invisible” I could feel the tension in the room. This moment in the show is brilliantly crafted to immerse everyone into the reality LGBTQ+ students live on a daily basis in our community.

Navarro: This is a tough decision, but I would have to say “My Imagination” and “Invisible” were my favorite numbers. I would say "My Imagination" was my personal favorite to perform because it’s the point in the show where Trevor realizes it’s okay to just be who he is and he doesn’t need anyone to like him because he’s the one who knows who he wants to be and where he wants to go. I think this number is beautiful and the lyrics really present such an empowering moment for Trevor. I also think the number "Invisible" was very powerful in the show although it’s really sad what the other students do during this song. I think it’s important to the story because this is the point that gets Trevor to the darkest place in his mind. This number is very serious and needs to be approached with care, but if done right it can be very powerful and leave everyone in tears. I really think this number has a lot of power in the show because it just lets you see what horrors Trevor deals with when he returns to school.

Amborn: The most empowering number in the show for me was "My Imagination". Growing up queer, it was hard for me to accept that I was just as good as my peers and that there was nothing wrong with me and my sexuality, even if my peers thought I was weird. Hearing the lyrics "What if weird is only different. What if different isn't wrong." had such a huge impact on me and helped me with accepting myself in the most amazing way.

Munro: "One of These Days - Reprise" was always the song that I would think about outside of the show. I think that within Trevor's own story and outside of it, it's really important to have reminders that you're not alone and there are other people who've had experiences similar to yours, and they've been able to survive it - which means you can, too.

Johnson: In the number, "Monday/Invisible", Trevor is realizing that the whole school is passing around a note that was written about him from Pinky. He finally gets to read the letter that Pinky wrote for him, and it does not contain a very nice message. It was emotional for me to read that note every night of the show. It is not something that I would normally say about a person. Which took part in the challenge that it was to maintain my character. The other number, "Who I Should Be" is a song that Pinky sings to Trevor after he asks him why he has been so nice to him. Pinky talks about how Trevor is not afraid to show who he truly is and be himself. Something that Pinky struggles with because everyone has an expectation of him on who he should be. This scene meant a lot to me because this is the one moment in the show where Pinky opens up to Trevor about who he is and why he really wants to be friends with him.

Smith: "Invisible" was an amazing moment in the show. I also felt a great connection to Trevor when I was singing as Dianna Ross. Especially in the second act.

Beddigs: "One, Two" was the most empowering, not because I was dancing my butt off in that number, but it showed what Trevor wanted to happen and how he envisioned it all.

Perez: "Invisible" - where we were bullying Trevor. It was the most powerful moment in the show. It felt real, because those things happen in high school. It is hard to be in high school and be yourself. It encapsulated what high school is really like, and even what our nation is right now, as we are slowly trying to accept people, but there’s a lot of people that still push hate, and push negative agendas toward the LGBTQ community.

If there is one thing you want audiences to take away from this show, what would it be?

Stanfield: To be aware of the challenge that LGBTQ+ people face in our community and to reach out to students who are trying to live their lives authentically, and support them.

Navarro: I would want audiences to see the show and go home knowing that everyone is different and unique and that all people are human, so treat everyone with respect and kindness because you really don’t know what they are going through.

Amborn: I want audiences to take away that proudly being yourself is the best way to live.

Munro:  You deserve the space you take up in the world, and if people can't understand that then it is their responsibility to learn and not your responsibility to change.

Johnson: The one thing that I would want audiences to take away from this show is to never be afraid to express your truest self and to love one another. Whether you have made a new discovery about yourself in your life or you found a new passion or hobby that you have, embrace it, let it shine, and never look back... You should always respect and value people who choose to be different than you. Loving people for who they are is the best way to meet new people and make new friends.

Smith: We are living in Trevor’s world now. We should support LGBTQ+ people as they try to live authentically.

Beddigs: That the whole world should be a safe space for LGBTQ+ people, because for so long it hasn’t been.

Haigh: That we should be more accepting of people. We shouldn’t treat them differently just because they feel differently about themselves.

Perez: Everybody can support the LGBTQ+ community in different ways. You can be like Diana Ross, a mentor, or you can watch the story and create the change in your community, or school to be more accepting, or even create a change in your heart to accept other people for who they are. The Trevor Foundation created a whole organization that is backing up people of the LGBTQ community.

Why do you think this show is important for today's audiences?

Stanfield: We are beginning to allow people who do not identify with the dominant culture to tell their stories. When our community experiences different points of view in a live theatre production, it gives them a safe space to encounter other’s truths. The power in these moments is palpable, and life changing.

Navarro: This show is extremely important to today’s audience because it’s a story revolving around someone who is different and there’s so many kids, teens, and even adults who feel this way and I think it’s important that they see that they aren’t alone and that others are struggling the way they are. But by seeing this show they will also know they have help around them and a community that will always back them up. By having this in the media, it will also help open the eyes of those who have been closed-minded for so long because I know that for my show it received a lot of support even from those who don’t usually support the topics talked about.

Amborn: I think that this show is important for today's audiences because it helps them to understand how scary it can be to grow up feeling different as well as how different things were in the eighties. It helps give people a way to understand a perspective different from their own and learn more about how certain feelings and experiences can transcend decades.

Munro: Even though Trevor takes place in [1981], it still easily lends itself to comparisons to modern experiences. Although bullying may look different now from how it did for Trevor, it's certainly not gone, and its effects are still just as strong.

Johnson: Trevor is unlike any show that I have ever done in my life and it has become one of my favorites. It is important for audiences to see because many people lived through this time in their life. Either they were seeing the world from Trevor's perspective, Pinky's perspective, or just an innocent bystander who never really thought too much about the situation. This show touches the hearts of every audience member whether they know it or not. I think that everyone should see and hear the message that is Trevor.

Beddigs: With it being dated in the 80s, it still speaks to today’s society and how LGBTQ people are often treated

Haigh: It shows that even the slightest things can really mess someone up... Stop bullying, and be a better person.

Perez: We are coming out of this generation in the past century where the LGBTQ+ community has been neglected, and hiding...scared. Now we’re coming into this light of acceptance, and this show is important because it’s bringing to light the change that is happening around America and the world, where we can start accepting people. Now it’s more than just accepting, but it’s actually about supporting.

Smith: I think everyone needs to hear this story. There are people out there who are living this story. Those people need to know that there are people who will support them.