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Are you queer or trans and between the ages of 12-18? 


Do you like theater, food, and excellent vibes?

Look no further than Staging Pride: Queer Youth Theater!

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Staging Pride: Queer Youth Theater is National Queer Theater's new free after school theater education program for LGBTQ youth ages 12-18. This fun, community-building program brings together queer and trans teens each semester in New York City to make new friends and explore LGBTQ history and culture through theater. Students will work with our expert Teaching Artists Amy Ackerman and Kevin Smith Kirkwood to create an original show about LGBTQ youth issues performed at the end of the program, take field trips to see Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, and experience cutting-edge LGBTQ art. Free snacks and MetroCards will be provided.


Staging Pride meets every Wednesday 4-6 pm February 1st through April 19th at The Center (208 W 13th St, New York, NY 10011). 

Applications close January 15, 2023 at 11:59pm. Apply at


What are you waiting for? Fill out the application and join us!



Staging Pride is made possible by our partnership with The Center and The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation"

Staging Pride Teaching Artists:




















Amy is a Brooklyn based creative capacity builder, cabaret artist, art model, and body advocate. Their one person show Big Kitty in the Big City explores body liberation and navigating the theatrical industry as a person of size (the Tank, Club Cumming). As a member of Honest Accomplice Theatre, they have devised and performed numerous plays including ReconFIGUREd (the tank, University Settlement, college tours), Engineers not found, Unmuted and the Trans Literacy Project (YouTube, College tours).

As an educator, they lecture at universities about fatness as a queer embodiment, teach body love workshops and dance classes and helped devise a gender and Trans inclusivity training with the New York Commission on Human rights.

As a regular performer in Lance Horne’s spontaneous cabaret they’ve graced stages (and public spaces) all around New York with the ‘Monday’s Collective’ (Club Cumming, Joe’s Pub, House of Yes, Tavern on the Green)














Kevin Smith Kirkwood


Kevin Smith Kirkwood was most recently seen in the Offf Broadway return of Kinky Boots the Musical as the Referee Angel!

He made his Broadway debut in the Tony Award winning musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and earned a 2005 New York Innovative Theater Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor for “It'sKarate, Kid!” Kirkwood would go on to receive a New Hampshire Theater Alliance Award Nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor for "Violet" and won the award for Outstanding Supporting Actor for his performance in "RENT." After performing in the entire Broadway run of the Tony Award Winning Musical “Kinky Boots,” Kevin went on to play the role of the 'Scarecrow' in the Broadway at Sacramento Music Circus production of “The Wiz,” which received rave reviews.

In the tv/film world, Kirkwood recently guest starred on 'Katy Keene' on the CW Network and Kirkwood stars as 'Roxy' in the recently released horror feature film entitled “Condemned” (written and directed by Eli Morgan Gesner and also starring Dylan Penn and Lydia Hearst). He can also be heard voicing the character DJ on Season two of Marvel's Wolverine Podcast: The Lost Trail.

Kirkwood created and stars in the wildly popular and critically acclaimed solo show, "CLASSIC WHITNEY: ALIVE!" which has played to sold out houses at Joe’s Pub, The Cutting Room, on cruise ships around the world, and even a command performance at the Whitney Houston estate.

Educated by the Jesuits (St. John's Jesuit Toledo and Fordham University) who instilled a love for youth, service, and the arts, Kirkwood has worked as a teaching artist for NYC nonprofits like The Leadership Program and Arthouse Astoria. As a director, Kevin has directed numerous NYC cabaret and solo shows and also productions of Kinky Boots, Little Shop of Horrors, and Aint' Misbehavin' at the Weathervane Theater in New Hampshire and the Hillbarn Theater in California's Bay Area. Art is power!




Background on Staging Pride:


LGBTQ youth face serious challenges in daily life, due to systemic and interpersonal homophobia and transphobia. According to The Trevor Project’s 2020 Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 33% of LGBTQ youth reported receiving physical threats or harm due to their identity. According to Ali Forney Center, 40% of NYC’s 3800 LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ.


Compounding external factors affect queer and trans youths’ success in life. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 40% of LGBTQ youth have experienced rejection from family or a close friend. Rejection can lead to LGBTQ youth being kicked out of their homes, which accounts for high rates of LGBTQ youth homelessness; and also to negative mental health outcomes like anxiety and depression. LGBTQ youth have a 120% higher risk of homelessness than their cis/straight peers. 


Homophobic/transphobic bullying is commonly experienced by LGBTQ youth in and outside of school, often unaddressed by parents, teachers, or school administrators. Verbal, physical, and sexual harassment can cause LGBTQ students to miss school, perform poorly academically, drop out, and/or practice self-harm. According to GLSEN’s 2019 National School Climate Survey, 59% of LGBTQ students felt unsafe attending school because of their sexual orientation, 42.5% because of their gender expression, and 37% because of their gender.


Many LGBTQ youth report feeling isolated and lack connections to queer and trans peers, teachers, and family. Schools rarely teach LGBTQ history or culture; and even LGBTQ teachers may not be out of the closet with students, leaving students with few role models or cultural context for their role in their community. Sexual education programs in schools rarely teach LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, so LGBTQ students may be more likely to have relationship and sexual issues than their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts. Many schools are now operating GSAs (Gender and Sexuality Alliance clubs), but these function as peer support networks—they do not provide the programming or creative outlets that NQT can.


Formed in response to the pressures facing LGBTQ youth, NQT has found that theater classes/productions created by and for LGBTQ communities provide a transformative intervention by: 


1. Building community amongst queer artists and students 


2. Teaching LGBTQ history and culture, and 


3. Foster positive self-esteem through skill-building, expression, and performance.


Staging Pride: Queer Youth Theater will foster community, teach LGBTQ+ history thorugh artistic engagement, develop leadership skills, and promote positive self-esteem amongst LGBTQ+ youth.


By engaging with queer and trans peers and adults, Staging Pride will build a strong community of mutual support for LGBTQ+ youth in New York City. Queer and trans youth face disproportionate amounts of lonliness and isolation as a result of homophobia at home and in schools. These young people have few opportunities to make friends, date, or make meaningful connections with other LGBTQ+ teens. Through fun and educational workshops, field trips, and rehearsals, Staging Pride students will build strong interpersonal bonds and collaboration skills, which will ultimately support social-emotional learning and connections outside of the program at home and in school.


Staging Pride will teach LGBTQ+ history and culture through theater exercises, games, and devising new performances. Drawing on LGBTQ+ literature, drama, music, and movies, as well as LGBTQ+ history, Teaching Artists will introduce and interrogate queer and trans culture as the basis for creative performance-making. Students will study key LGBTQ+ texts and figures throughout the semester, using their findings to write and devise original scenes and monologues, developing writing, literacy, and performance skills in the process. Students will reclaim narratives around the LGBTQ+ community in the process of creation in a process-oriented, non-judgemental setting.


Lastly, Staging Pride students will build positive self-esteem and leadership skills throughout the program. Positive self-esteem, or pride, is critical to nurturing mental health amongst queer and trans youth, who face increased levels of depression and suicidality compared to their straight and cisgender peers. Building pride amongst queer and trans youth in a supportive environment can be potentially life-saving. By providing students with community resources and positive reinforcement in the theater classroom, students will build confidence and pride through the program.


While building community, knowledge, and pride, students will rehearse and perform an original devised performance for a small invited audience at the end of each semester, demonstrating new skills and leadership abilities.

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