“I hope ZANNA, DON’T! has grown beyond its personal origins into something much more universal. It is for anyone who grew up feeling different, which as far as I can tell means just about everyone.” These are ZANNA DON’T author Tim Acito’s words on the journey his beloved musical has taken in a changing world.
ZANNA is set in Heartsville High, a world where everyone is gay–well, almost everyone! The big-man-on-campus is the chess champion, and the captain of the football team is made cool by being cast as the lead in the school musical. The students write a controversial show called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” about straight people in the military, which becomes the catalyst for a young man and woman to fall in love. Enter Zanna, a magical, musical fairy who, with a wave of his wand, brings true love to one and all!
In 2000, Acito, bookwriter, composer and lyricist of ZANNA, DON’T!, was in his apartment listening to love songs on the radio. He reminisced, “I though about how great it would be someday to turn on the radio and hear such a beautiful song sung from one man to another.” And from there, ZANNA, DON’T was born. Acito’s knack for writing catchy music and upbeat, exciting stories, coupled with his thematically ground-breaking concept, propelled this clever musical into a life off-Broadway and beyond. Acito admits, “The project began quite shamelessly as a personal wish fulfillment—to revisit my 1970s adolescence, but in a world where the normalcy of being gay was reconfirmed by every sitcom, Saturday morning cartoon, and top-40 hit. It was a joke, of course, and I was having a great time with it.” However, Acito knew that at the heart of the joke was a palpable question: “Why is it a joke to ask for the same simple experiences everyone else can take for granted? It was disturbing to me that even I had been conditioned to laugh at the thought of equality. I felt compelled to include some more sobering thoughts within the goofy exuberance of Zanna’s world, as a reminder that there can be profound psychological and societal consequences when popular culture fails to include all of the population.”
Amid new political developments regarding equality, ZANNA DON’T becomes all the more pertinent in our society. Tim Acito has created a smart, fun, sentimental story about what it’s like to grow up in a world where acting outside of the social norm is unacceptable. Acito concludes, “Who among us hasn’t struggled with identity, prejudice, friendship, and love, only to have their hearts broken along the way? And who among us hasn’t turned to music and laughter to help us put the pieces back together?”