By Bridgette M. Redman
There are many reasons to do theater. Dennis Corsi put his reasoning into the name of his new theater company, Touch Your Soul Productions. It’s a name pulled directly from a song in the first musical that the company will perform, opening this week: “Bare.”
“Our mission statement is that we believe in the power of art to touch the soul and will use that power to make positive change in the world,” said Corsi, a senior majoring in theater at Michigan State University. “I firmly believe that art has a power to really get at people’s hearts and to make people think different things, so my goal with all the shows I do is to not just entertain, but to make a difference and share a message.”
The message with the first production is one that speaks to all teenagers who are, as the musical says, “dying to fit in.” It especially focuses on gay teenagers and the disapproval they face from peers, parents, religious figures and themselves.
“Bare” sets its characters in a Catholic high school theater class, telling its story with pop music, a play within a play and, in this production, the use of custom-made Venetian masks as a metaphor for how teens hide their true selves.
“I’ve heard this show described as ‘Spring Awakening’ meets ‘Rent,'” said Corsi. “The style of music is very pop rock like ‘Rent’ and the story has a lot of similarities to ‘Spring Awakening.”
The overlap in issues include the exploration of teenage sexuality, suicide, pregnancy, religion and popularity. “Bare” also deals with drugs and physical self-identity.
Krista DeLong, a theater senior who is performing in the show says each character provides a different perspective on the musical’s issues. “I think every single character in this show has something that they are unsure about – themselves, or afraid of themselves in the world. It’s about learning to find your place in the world and belonging with the people you want to be surrounded by, people you love and who also love you. It’s about recognizing that fact that you do fit in.”
For both DeLong and Corsi, this musical is the culmination of a dream they’ve had for many years. Corsi knew when he first saw the musical that he wanted to stage it, while DeLong fell in love with one of Nadia’s songs and has wanted to play the role ever since.
“I heard the show for the first time a little over two years ago and when I first heard it, I was completely overtaken and inspired by it and decided right then that I would do this show some day,” Corsi said. “For the past two years, I’ve been thinking about it, waiting until I was prepared in my life and in my academic career to do it.”
To further their mission of educating along with entertaining, the company is hosting panel discussions after each show. The topics are “The Masks We Wear,” “Homosexuality and the Church,” “Hot Topics Among Youth” and “Coming Out.” The company also plans to donate a portion of its proceeds to the Trevor Project.
“I would hope that after seeing the show, people would be more willing to talk about things that are upsetting, because the ending is so upsetting,” DeLong said. “It is a real situation that could happen. No one wants it to happen, but it could if things are kept quiet.”
‘bare: A Pop Opera’
Touch Your Soul Productions at the RCAH Theatre located in the basement of Snyder Hall on Bogue St. on the campus of Michigan State University, East Lansing. 7 p.m. Oct. 6, 8 p.m. Oct. 7-8 & 2 p.m. Oct. 9. $10 adult, $7 student. http://www.touchyoursoulproductions.com