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‘Listen Up Project’ ready for Lyndonville opening night

Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 5:15 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 5, 2021 at 5:23 AM EDT
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LYNDONVILLE, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s opening night Wednesday for the “Listen Up Project,” a musical production written by teens, for adults.

Vermont filmmaker Bess O’Brien with Kingdom County Productions, is digging back to her roots in theater with the project. It’s based on a similar show -- ‘The Voices Project’ -- back in 2005, where a team of young people interviewed hundreds of Vermont teenagers about the trials and tribulations of their everyday life. They then used in to write a script and the music for the show.

The cast and crew of the “Listen Up Project have been rehearsing since early July, eagerly awaiting opening night. “It’s nice to feel like I have a say in things and it’s nice to feel like I’m being heard,” said Cora Rabin, the assistant stage manager for the show.

“I never had anybody ask me, ‘So what was your experience, how does this make you feel, and would you like to put this in the show?’” said Sydney Singh, a cast member.

Three years ago, O’Brien set out to give Vermont teenagers a platform. “They feel, I think, a huge burden to change the world and are wondering where the adults are to help them pave a future for themselves that is going to be positive and hopeful,” O’Brien said.

Using hundreds of interviews from teenagers, and young minds to write the scripts and music, the team heading the “Listen Up Project” is doing just that. “It goes to the source constantly -- of young people and their voices -- and really trying to give them a platform for speaking out and educating adults about what’s going on in their lives right now,” O’Brien said.

Phin Holzhammer was on the original writing team. “Three years ago at least I learned about it, through the site Young Writers Project. It was a callout asking for young writers to help write the script. Creative young minds kind of sat in a room and just talked about things and wrote things down,” Holzhammer said. Now, he’s working the stage crew and watching his stories come to life.

Rabin is also working behind the scenes. She says despite long sleepless nights and hard work, they’re looking forward to touring with the show. “Theater is one of those weird things where it’s so much work but when it all comes together and you see the bigger picture, it’s so worth it,” she said.

Sydney Singh, a cast member, is looking forward to amplifying stories that mirror her experiences. “I had the chance to talk about my experiences as a bi-racial woman in Vermont and someone who’s pansexual and I got to talk about all that stuff and I’ve never had that before,” Singh said.

Singh, along with other cast members, is hoping Listen Up provides adults with new perspectives on a range of issues including race, identity, climate change. “Me personally, I’ve had a lot of people sort of just brush it off because they’ve never had to deal with it; because there’s such a huge population of white people here, so they don’t like to think about it; because they’re like, ‘This doesn’t affect me, there’s not a lot of people of color here.’ But there are,” Singh said.

Now, these teens are preparing for opening night in the hopes of sparking some change. “I hope that adults in the audience understand that even if it’s not what you dealt with, it’s what we’re dealing with now,” Singh said.

Though Wednesday is opening night, the show tours for about two weeks, performing in nine locations. All shows are outdoors under the stars. The play runs about an hour and a half with no intermission.

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