A thirteen-year-old boy provided the cast and crew of Seasons of Love a living reason why they donate their time and talent to raise money for CHRIS Kids.
Since its inception, the variety cabaret has raised over $300,000 to help CHRIS Kids provide housing, counseling and support for homeless youth in Atlanta. But a chance encounter brought the immediacy of their work home to Director Mike Beecham.
“One of the first days of rehearsals, we were at a gym and across the street there was this 13-year-old kid who was new to the streets and he was asking for things to keep him warm. He had tears in his eyes as he was asking for things,” Beecham says, remembering how the boy was looking for anything to help him get through what would be one of his first nights on the street.
“There are hundreds and maybe even thousands of kids on the streets of Atlanta looking for a safe, warm place to stay where they don’t feel threatened,” he says.
Beecham tried to help, but ultimately had to watch the homeless teen wander off.
“That story doesn’t have the greatest ending. I called CHRIS Kids and before they could show up he got scared and ran off, and that happens a lot,” he says.
That encounter has helped Beecham and his volunteer cast and crew of professional performers approach the ninth year of Seasons of Love with renewed vigor and passion.
“Every year we sort of have a theme for the show and this year the theme is musical icons, and this year we’ll have medleys from well-known performers like Barbra Streisand and Elvis Presley,” Beecham said.
This year’s performance will be a two-night engagement at the 14th Street Playhouse, and organizers hope to raise $25,000 to $35,000 to help patch critical holes in CHRIS Kids’ operating budget.
“The state gives us a mandate to provide a dollar’s worth of care, but only gives us the funding for about 76 cents worth of care,” Development Director Beth Keller says. “Being good people of course we provide the full dollar of care, but the rest of that money has to come from other sources in the community.”
Although CHRIS Kids no longer has specific GLBT programs, Keller says the organization is known for its ability care for the needs of homeless gay and transgender teenagers across all of their programs.
Seasons of Love started when Beecham was looking for a way to volunteer and CHRIS Kids suggested he put on a show. It started in a gym at Saint Mark United Methodist Church, and through his contacts has grown to be a professional-level theatrical event.
“Most of these folks are either still performing professionally or were at one time performing professionally and have come back to Atlanta to get off the road and into more of a family situation, but it’s all professional level talent,” Beecham says.
During the first year they used the name Seasons of Love, one of the songs from “Rent,” the iconic musical, and the name has stayed. The song has remained a staple of the show.
“Most of the show is about enjoying the music and in the second act we do take a moment to talk about CHRIS Kids and that’s when we sing ‘Seasons of Love,’” Beecham says.
Keller is stunned by the amount of time and support that is donated for the show.
“The lights are donated, the sound person flies in from Florida at his own expense, the 14th Street Theater donates, Einstein’s donates food for the performers, Gravity Fitness donates the space for the rehearsal space and when you add it all up it’s countless,” she says. “It’s not just a performance, it’s a coming together of all these different partners across the community that makes this happen.”
Top photo: Organizers of the annual ‘Seasons of Love’ cabaret hope to raise between $25,000 and $35,0000 for CHRIS Kids’ operating budget. (by Danielle Boise/courtesy CHRIS Kids)