Nia Benjamin, artistic director of Ninth Planet, had their mind set on youth from the beginning. Over the course of three years, Honey, Honey has taken on multiple identities but has now grown into a story by and for LGBTQ youths of color. “We felt it would be important to make work for young audiences that isn’t condescending or lacking complexity,” Benjamin said. Teamed up with Sam Tower, another Ninth Planet director, the two created a performance in partnership with the Attic Youth Center and its attendees to create an entertaining and honest story about young LGBTQ folks of color.
Focusing on the youth
A longtime advocate of performance by and for young people, Sam Tower works on projects for youth both with Ninth Planet and as the engagement manager for International Performing Arts for Youth. With Honey, Honey Tower kept their ears close to the teenage students involved with the film and gave them their own agency in their performance and the characters they are playing.
“Nia and I are the directors, but we are on the same level as everyone else,” Tower said.
What Benjamin and Tower have found is most essential is having young people involved in the project as much as possible, specifically, LGBTQ young people of color. The Attic Youth Center was the right place to go. The directors held workshops for youth that allowed them to create their own versions of the script, making the entire project prompt-based. As many as 20 people were part of Honey, Honey, nine of whom were performers.
“This whole project has highlighted that everyone has something to offer and that everyone’s voice belongs in this story,” Tower said.
A rock and a hard place
When the pandemic hit, Benjamin and Tower converted their script into a screenplay and have worked around its challenges ever since.
“Creative minds are always better than fewer,” Benjamin said. “The addition to submitting versions of the script to us felt very natural as a part of our creative process.”
Their process is generous and patient, as the material is made and passed by others before it ever meets the audience. This feels true for Honey, Honey, too, but has been complicated by the pandemic. The work tends to center on the mental side of the characters, perhaps in part because they were creating work for the small screen. It was “much harder to do in film,” said Tower, who doesn’t have experience creating screenplays or working on feature-length films.
“We had huge goals with Honey, Honey, and to meet them we had to dash any expectations of what it would look like in the end,” Benjamin said.
The two directors wanted to create a community of people who had never met but who would come together to make Honey, Honey. With the unexpected change in media, Benjamin and Tower have created a film that has been patient in its release and just as community-driven as it would be on the stage.
What, When, Where, and Accessibility:
Honey, Honey will premier in April 2021. Along with the community film, Ninth Planet has released a play deck of quick draw card prompts for playtime at home that are available now. Proceeds will help fundraise for bringing back their interactive dance performance, Homeworld.
Image Description: a woman rests her head on her tattooed arm in bed, in a room tinted with orange light.