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A Familiar Face

A Familiar FacePortraying the main character in the children's program "Dottie's Magic Pockets," Tufts graduate Jen Plante hopes to be a positive role model for children of non-traditional families.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [05.30.08] For many young children, television images play a large role in forming their view of the world around them. It is for exactly this reason that Jen Plante (A'95) is working to provide an identifiable image for children of non-traditional families.

Plante, known to her younger friends as "Dottie," plays the main character in "Dottie's Magic Pockets," the first kids' show centered on gay and lesbian families.

"The show focuses on issues of identity-what it means to be unique," Plante says. "What you may see as a fault could be part of someone else's set of values. The show deals with self-esteem and there is an educational subplot and life lessons."

Available only by mail order and in DVD format, the show evolved from an idea by Tammy Stoner, co-creator of Pink Pea, an independent production company dedicated to creating programming for non-traditional families.

The show revolves around the story of a mother who is left alone when her partner takes their son to school. Knowing his mother will be sad, the son leaves her a sweatshirt with big pockets full of magic glitter, transforming her home into a fun house.

"[Stoner] was beginning to see her 3-year-old son pick up on the fact that many families on TV had a mom and a dad," Plante says. "When he called her partner 'dad,' she knew it was time to make something happen."

Interested in viewing the DVD? First Church in Boston, 66 Marlborough Street, Boston, MA 02116will be hosting a Dottie's Magic Pockets Screening Sunday, June 1, 2008, at 12:30 PM.

Plante's career in acting began here at Tufts, where she double-majored in English and drama and performed in the comedy troupe Cheap Sox. After getting her MFA from Columbia University, Plante acted in several off-off Broadway shows in New York City and also worked part time as a teacher for an independent middle school.

A year before joining forces with Pink Pea, Plante had been looking to fulfill her dream of being on a children's show, a dream fueled by her love for children, teaching and acting. Landing an audition with a major cable network, Plante says she made it close to the final cut, but her honesty kept her from getting the role.

"At a certain point they began asking about my life and I wanted to be very upfront with them," Plante said. "So I told them I was gay, and I was asked to leave. It may not have been directly related, but it was clear that I was not going to fit in with the image that the network was trying to portray."

Plante says that "Dottie's Magic Pockets" has been a true labor of love for all involved.

"Working on a limited budget actually helps a lot with creativity," Plante laughed as she described the show's unique characters, including Uncanny, the singing can, and Wally, a walking wall of purple fur.

Upon the release of their first and only DVD, Plante says the production has gained good press from various media outlets including NPR, which noted that "if [Stoner] can convince viewers to accept gay parents-even just as the background to a story-she'll be helping out millions of families." The production was further promoted when Plante and crew were invited on the R Family Cruise in March, a trip set up by comedian and talk show host Rosie O'Donnell specifically for gay families.

The show was also accepted in the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival this June, which will help them reach out to gay and lesbian families in that area.

With six episodes written and waiting for funding, Plante and Pink Pea hope to find someone to help them further develop "Dottie's Magic Pockets" and bring the show-and its message-directly to family living rooms.

"We would love to be picked up by a network like HBO or Logo-a network that doesn't have to answer to sponsors," Plante says. "A lot has been taken for granted. I think there is an attitude that 'Well, there is gay stuff everywhere, this doesn't really matter,' but what parents didn't realize until they saw their children's reaction to the show is that there is a big void of gay families on television and their kids are noticing."

Profile by Kaitlin Melanson, Web Communications

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