This season Bring It On: The Musical is introducing theatregoers to Broadway’s very first transgender high school student.
“In creating a universe of characters, I always try to find as many differing perspectives as possible, because that’s where comedy comes from most often,” says Bring It On book writer Jeff Whitty.
Among the spunky, new high school characters is La Cienega, one of three black girls in a hip-hop dance crew at Jackson High, the urban school where Bring It On’s blonde, apple-cheeked protagonist Campbell is transferred. Early in the musical’s first act, Whitty introduces audiences to La Cienega, portrayed by actor Gregory Haney, without any fanfare. She strides onto stage with her crew as one of the girls. Although Haney’s muscles may raise an eyebrow or two, no mention is made in the dialogue that she is transgender.
Whitty says he didn’t want La Cienega’s inclusion to become too saccharine in an “after-school special way,” where the character is forced to explain herself, delivering a heavy-handed lesson. “In that case they become the other, they become a separate person, which allows an audience to put them in a box and keep them in a box,” he says.
“When I thought that I wanted to have a transgender high school student, my next thought was, I just never want to really bring it up and never discuss it in the script. Then the audience can’t see La Cienega as the other; they have to become her friend. That, more than anything, is how progress is made,” he notes.