"You are worthy of love
Worthy of life
And knowing that will set you free,
there's nothing else you have to be...
you are WORTHY to me."
- From the song, "Worthy," from The Hinterlands
The Hinterlands is an eight-part original musical web series that explores the life of a gay kid named Paul. Living in the middle of nowhere (the hinterlands) in a rural “Red State,” Paul struggles with bullying and prejudice, and contemplates taking his own life. The Hinterlands is our response to the ongoing wave of young LGBT kids who have committed suicide because the hatred they faced made them feel as though their lives were unbearable.
We wanted to respond to the issue of gay bullying in a way that would help these kids understand that they're incredibly valuable members of our human community and that they are inherently worthy of love and compassion. We decided to do what we do best - write a musical. As storytellers and songwriters, we can ask questions, create empathy and make change. By creating the character of Paul we believe we will be giving young people a person with whom they can relate and empathize. By watching Paul's journey to discover how to cope with the day-to-day bullying he faces, teens can gain strength and be inspired to overcome their own obstacles. Yes, “it gets better” for gay youth who make it through their difficult childhood and teenage years, but The Hinterlands is our attempt to help all bullied young people find and embrace their own innate worthiness NOW, despite the onslaught of hatred they must survive every day.
These two links help explain why gay kids in rural areas are particular danger of being bullied and feeling suicidal:
The Hinterlands will be filmed in late 2012/early 2013. The filming will be done in collaboration with professional filmmakers based in Madison, Wisconsin. Although we live in New York, we want The Hinterlands to capture the isolation that many young people in small towns feel when they are "different" than others in their community. Filming the series in an area like The Hinterlands will add to the show's naturalistic tone and style. After the show is filmed and edited, the eight episodes will be rolled out in Spring/early Summer 2013.
A selection of songs from The Hinterlands are currently available at www.elliottlarsenmusicals.com; there will be a designated project website when the episodes launch in 2013.
Reaching the Kids
A guiding factor in the creation of the Hinterlands as a musical web series – rather than a staged production – was our belief that kids need to be able to access a story like this from the safety of their own laptops, iPads and smart phones. And kids in the real hinterlands are the most in need of a project like this, as some communities are highly intolerant of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender kids.
It is critical that the Hinterlands Project reaches its most important audience - bullied kids. Therefore, when the web series is completed, we will email links to organizations, such as the Trevor Project, that share a mission around this issue as distribution partners. Because gay bullying is such an incredibly relevant topic (recent surveys say more than a third of gay kids attempt suicide, four times more than straight teens), we expect that organizations that champion this community will be highly receptive to support a project that seeks to enrich the lives of gay kids, and all young people who struggle with feelings of unworthiness.
To enrich The Hinterlands viewing experience, the project's website will include links to resources from existing organizations for youth, parents, teachers and allies. The Hinterlands website will also host an online community for fans of the series that is a safe place for kids to interact and provide support to one another.
The Writing Team:
Danny Larsen (composer & co-lyricist) and Michelle Elliott (bookwriter & co-lyricist) graduated from NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program in 2005. Their most recent collaboration, Cloaked, received a New York Off-Off Broadway production at CAP21 in June 2010. It was then chosen and presented as part of the Village Theatre’s Festival of New Works in August 2010. Danny and Michelle were awarded a 2011 Jonathan Larson Grant for Cloaked. Michelle was the recipient of the prestigious 2011 Kleban Prize for Most Promising Librettist for Cloaked. Their first musical, The Yellow Wood, received the 2006 Richard Rodgers Development Award and the Daryl Roth Award. The Yellow Wood was presented as part of the 2007 New York Musical Theatre Festival. Then it was presented in the Village Theatre’s Festival of New Works in 2008. It was again chosen for presentation in the National Alliance of Musical Theatre Festival of New Works (NAMT) in October 2008.
Throughout 2012-13, Danny and Michelle will be Artists in Residence at CAP21 where they will develop two new musicals. Their newest musical, Maiden Voyage (working title), is a passionate exploration of the lives of women aboard a notorious pirate ship. This musical is scheduled for production at CAP21 opening in February/March 2013.
The Creative Team/Project Support:
Brandon Ivie is a theatre director dually based out of New York City and Seattle. He is the founding artistic director of Contemporary Classics, a Seattle-based musical theatre company dedicated to producing and developing contemporary musicals, where he created the New Voices songwriter showcase series, which has had 13 wildly popular editions partnering with Seattle Repertory Theatre and ACT Theatre. He has directed or produced Seattle premieres of The Last Five Years, A New Brain, John & Jen, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, The Drowsy Chaperone, tick, tick… BOOM!, Zanna, Don't! (Seattle Times Footlight Award). He has developed musicals regionally at Village Theatre, The 5th Avenue Theatre, New York University, and the National Alliance for Musical Theatre. He was on the artistic staff at The 5th Avenue Theatre for four seasons as casting associate and artistic projects manager, where he recently returned to direct Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, which received a Seattle Times Footlight Award. On Broadway he has provided dramaturgical support for next to normal and Catch Me If You Can, and is currently assistant directing A Christmas Story. He studied at University of Washington, participated in the Lincoln Center Directors Lab and is a proud SDC member.
Annie Cull is a creative marketing professional working in the field of sustainable investments. After relocating from the Midwest, she got excited by the active film community in Washington, DC. In just the last two years she has contributed to a handful of short films for festivals and contests serving as Co-Producer, Associate Producer, Assistant Direct and Production Assistant. Annie has a Bachelors degree in Journalism and Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and spent more than a decade living in Minneapolis, MN, where she was a member of the board for a small non-profit theatre company. She writes and has performed stand-up comedy.
Kat Ramsburg is a New York based dramaturge. For six years she served as the Education Director of The 5th Avenue Theatre, a leading regional theatre in Seattle, Washington. She also spent two additional years as their Annual Fund Manager. In New York, she is privileged to be the assistant to Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winners, Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt and is currently working with them on their upcoming musical with director Michael Grief. She is also an active member of Actors Equity Association. Currently, Kat is studying playwriting at Primary Stages Einhorn School of Performing Arts.
Other Ways You Can Help
Please contribute to this important project. Even a small gift can make a big difference. And pass our campaign on to your friends via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.