As one of the leading professional family theaters in the nation, Dallas Children’s Theater often uses its platform to open a dialogue about the issues facing young people today, and its latest production, Andi Boi, is no exception. Following a transgender student’s first day of school identifying as a male, the play aims to foster compassion and awareness, all while engaging the audience with an interactive game on their smartphones.
Robyn Flatt, Founder and Executive Artistic Director of DCT, commissioned local playwright Bruce Coleman to write and direct a piece that focused on the two percent of high school students who identify as transgender. The lead actor, Zander Pryor, had an important role in shaping the title character. Coleman talked to Pryor and his mother at length about his experience transitioning in real life.
“I asked a lot of questions. Their answers led me to the development of the actual story,” says Coleman.
Pryor says that, while some people may have preferred a trans playwright for the subject, “Bruce did his homework and he listened. [He] kept an open mind, and I think that’s what allowed him to find the truth in this topic.”
The play shows Andi as he navigates difficult conversations with family members and classmates alike. Rather than adding extra weight to these moments, Coleman was deliberate in using honesty and humor to broaden audience appeal. He shares, “Andi’s feelings and desires are universal. We all want to have friends. We all want to be loved and treasured for who we really are.”
The addition of the smart phone game was another way Coleman wanted to highlight the story and push the audience to relate to its characters. “Adding in the elements of 3D projection and augmented reality helps us to not only tell the story, but also to connect with teens even more,” he says.
In the play, Andi bonds with his classmates over the animated game Biddybeasts; meanwhile, the audience members are interacting with the same imaginary world over their own smartphones. While the director feels as though the interactive element is a small part in the overall understanding of the production, he offers, “The transformation of the characters in the video game they play reflects the journey that Andi is on himself. I think it might be one more way that the play might lead to understanding Andi’s experience.”
Andi Boi makes an exceptional effort to accomplish its goal of prompting Dallas to embrace the two percent of young people who are often forgotten or ostracized.
“I hope cis people learn how similar they are to trans people and that we’re people, full stop,” says Pryor. “I hope trans people see themselves represented in this show with dignity and grace.”
Andi Boi is showing at Dallas Children’s Theater February 7-16. The play is recommended for ages 13 and up. Tickets are $16 and can be purchased here.