Benjamin Howes plays Papa Bear in "Shrek: The Musical," now in San Francisco at the Orpheum Theater. Off stage, he has a new role -- one that reaches out to young teens who are gay.
"I don't know what impact my story will have, but if it reaches just one person and helps them to feel like they have somebody who has been in a similar experience, they have someone who understands what it is they are going through," says Howes.
The song "Freak Flag" talks about being proud of who you are even if you're different.
The entire cast has joined the "It Gets Better" campaign on YouTube, where celebrities and others post messages of hope for gay, lesbian and transgender teens. Recently, a number of young people have committed suicide across the nation.
"It's devastating. No child should feel like that. A child, you know... someone just coming into what should be the happiest years of their lives," says Tyrone Davis, Jr.
Davis is also an actor in the musical. He admits, even today, it's hard to talk openly about his sexuality.
"Half my family doesn't know because they don't live in San Francisco, but my immediate family knows," says Davis.
As a teenager growing up gay, he found refuge in the arts.
"I say it gets better, you will grow up, you will move away, you will meet people, you will fall in love, you will be happy doing whatever it is that you do as long as you remember that it's OK to be who you are and it's OK to show that to people," says Davis.
The hope is these coming out testimonials will encourage some gay teens to end their isolation.