Sacha Sacket never thought he’d do a musical, but when the opportunity to help bullied or depressed LGBT youth came along, he couldn’t say no.
Op-Ed by Sacha Sacket
Performing in a musical is the last thing I expected to be doing in my thirties. Like any self-respecting gay boy, I was obsessed with Rent and West Side Story in high school, and even dabbled in college. Upon graduation however, I swore off the nasty habit. Musicals entail belting and prancing, two things any self-prescribed “manly” gay must never do. Also, “Clang Clang Clang Went the Trolley” would probably have to be sung at some point and, while I do think Judy Garland is absolute genius, I do not want to be her. So, in a nutshell, musicals were decidedly frothy things and most definitely not for me.
Getting asked to audition for one isn’t something that happens everyday, though. Actually showing up for tryouts was definitely out of character, but it was getting a role that scared the bejeezus out of me. You see, I’ve always been seeking a small slice of indie music cred. For ten years, I’ve written, produced, and performed my own music. I’ve put out six albums, toured America, and for the most part, it’s been pretty awesome — I’ve got some stories, let me tell you. However, during a break from recording my new pop/dance record, I randomly googled gay bullying (more than a little leap of logic, I know) — which landed me smack dab in the middle of Dan Savage’s It Gets Better video campaign.
I had seen a few of them before — a YouTube phenomenon that rose up in 2010 in response to a rash of teen suicides. The videos are largely made by adults sending an inspiring message to gay kids: life does get better, hang in there. And it’s totally worth your time to watch some if you haven’t already. Many of them are completely heart-warming, a gorgeous slice of humanity. Your standard gay across the street, A-List celebs, and even the President himself have made contributions.
However, this specific point and click foray led me to a video that quite literally changed my life. Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year-old high school freshman who was very actively getting bullied, decided one day to film his own It Gets Better video. I found a kid desperately trying to hold it together, promising his audience things he desperately needed to believe himself. The complete irony of a kid telling others to ‘hang in there’ while being in the thick of high school hell turned me to mush. The most difficult part is he committed suicide shortly after.
It was all I could do to turn to the piano. I ended up writing a new song in minutes. Something in me had to express what I had just seen and hopefully let other kids know they aren’t alone. Most of all, I wanted to contribute in some way to help change things. It’s been a long time since I was in high school and I can’t believe gay bashing isn’t making any major sign of retreat. I was terribly bullied from 3rd grade through my junior year of high school. Kids spat in my hair, teachers lisped at my expense, and few kids risked conversation with me. But I did have one thing to get me through — music. Straight up. I played piano and sang everyday for hours on end. It was the only place I had any room to express myself. In my sophomore year, I landed a role in the high school musical. With that came friends, a spotlight, and other closet case compatriots. Glee. Not the show, the feeling. Being in that musical gave me hope in a world where I was told I deserved none. In hindsight, writing a song for Jamey was probably the most natural thing in the world for me to do, and perhaps I wasn’t giving musicals enough credit, either.
A few weeks later, I played my new song at a house concert, talked a bit about Jamey, and suddenly found myself talking to a wonderful person named Liesel Reinhart. She was writing/directing a new musical entitled, you guessed it, it gets better and was very interested in getting me involved in some way. It was complete serendipity. Here I had created and performed a song inspired by the same kids she was writing about. And intrinsically, I knew I had to be part of the project, musical be damned. Fast forward to the role of Mikey D, a Boston-bred-gym-obsessed tough guy. I spend my nights knocking other actors around and doing burpees (look it up – instant workout!). And for the record, he sings, not belts, and dances (I really try my best not to prance).
The script had another lovely turn as well. Not only did Liesel write “Song for Jamey” into the show, I break character and share my story as well. What else could a singer-songwriter ask for? Even crazier, I’ve gotten the opportunity to write other songs for the show too. There is something very wonderful about hearing something I wrote brought to life by characters on a stage. Singing in harmony with five other insanely talented gay guys ain’t too shabby either.
So yeah, in three short months, I’ve somehow become Mr. Musical and to be honest, it sorta fits like a glove. Theater offered me the only safe space in school. And now, it affords the opportunity to make a difference in a way I never could flying solo. I really wish I had the It Gets Better message when I was growing up. I thought I was the only gay guy in the world. Completely isolated, scared, and ashamed. Just to know there was someone gay out there leading a full and happy life would have made all the difference. Perhaps I can’t solve the issue of bullying in one dance number but I do believe a little hope goes a long way. it gets better has given me the amazing opportunity to shine a light for someone out there. Show them my way out. Also, gearing up to perform musical numbers at 8pm and my own dance tracks at the club afterwards is rather snazzy. Even better? I’ve started writing a show of my very own.