This weekend, when Burbank High students take the stage to perform a play, one storyline of several in the production will represent LGBTQ youth.
As part of teacher Annie Terry's drama class, students broke up into groups to write several stories that will be featured in the show titled "The Time Zone."
That's when Fiona Czerwinski and Willow Dawson, both 17-year-old seniors, teamed up to write about a girl who must confront her sexuality.
"There is this girl who is scared to be herself," Fiona said. "She's always pushed into the wrong direction by her parents and her boyfriends and her friends. And she has been a support system for her friend who came out as gay in middle school. When they get into this fight at this party, she kind of goes off in an 'It's Wonderful Life' style and says, 'I wish I had never even met you.'"
That's when Dani, the main character, enters a dream state and learns that if she had never met her friend, Jess, in middle school, Jess would not have come out without Dani's encouragement.
Dani must then confront her own sexuality, and later, her family and friends.
Willow and Fiona discussed the storyline with their peers for accuracy, and to test the pulse of what other students felt about the plot.
"We all came together to decide how we were going to approach it. I think it inspired other groups as well to push things that are important to them," Willow said.
Still, some students raised concerns that the storyline would be "too ahead," or "too aggressive," Fiona said, while another opinion concluded, "it was going to make people uncomfortable."
In November, amid the developments of the 2016 presidential election, the girls began to gather the confidence to share the story.
Fiona recalled asking herself, "'If not now, if we don't do it, who is going to?'"
She added that she knew at that moment it was time to deal with the subject.
"It's just going to keep getting pushed under the rug, and people are going to be sitting in the audience feeling underappreciated — not represented on stage," she said. "We wanted to make sure we had representation of all people and sexual orientation[s] and all people of color."
Willow added: "We saw this production as our particular opportunity to say something important."
On Thursday, when the two seniors invited Burbank school board members to attend the upcoming performance, school officials praised them.
School board member Roberta Reynolds said she appreciated the girls for "opening the dialogue and for taking the initiative to be an advocate in that way," while fellow member Steve Ferguson said he was also pleased.
"I'm proud that this is student-produced," he said. "I'm really proud of the creative process you went through."
"The Time Zone" will be presented at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday in the Wolfson Auditorium at Burbank High School, 902 N. Third St. Tickets, which cost $5 for students and $10 for adults, will be sold at the door.
Kelly Corrigan, firstname.lastname@example.org