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STATING MY CLOSET CASE
"I don’t wanna be labeled. Bi is as close to (nervous laugh) an unlabeled label as I can get to. And you know some people say 'oh that’s just an excuse to be promiscuous'…"
I'd like to give a big shout out to SPECTRUM, the alliance on campus at my alma mater Morehead State University in eastern Kentucky. I was so honored to be their first guest speaker of the semester via Skype last night. They asked me all about Cleaning Closets and the work I do in the LGBTQ community. In fact, one of the students has asked me for a quote for one of their research papers. I just hope I can live up to my apparent reputation. These youth give me hope for the future. They play a major role in making the coming out process easier for everyone!
In a moment of self reflection, I recently decided to thumb through some old journals that I've been keeping since at least middle school. In doing so, I stumbled upon and entry from January 19, 2002. In this journal entry I laughed about the great date I had with one of my best friends. We went to the movies, and when it was over I chose not to go to the bathroom because I saw some gay boys that made me nervous because I wasn't out to anyone else yet. Only myself. And I hadn't even been out to myself that King at this point. Perhaps about a year. In this entry I state that "I almost met some gay guys in the bathroom (at least I think they were gay--I don't have official gaydar yet)." I thought this was hilarious and so telling of who I was at the time. And I love that it was on paper instead of the computer. It made it more nostalgic. I've grown so much since then.
I am blown away by the progress these young people have made in a short time this week. This is a relief because I was starting to get nervous about the production. I wasn't worried that the students were going to let me down. I was nervous that I was going to let them down. They're depending on me to facilitate a process that will lead them to a successful show. Plus a third of them were away at a theatre conference this week!
Have I taken up too much time on discussion and terminology? No, I don't think so because we've been sharing stories since the start, and we had to build a safe zone as well as an ensemble before we could develop a new work.
Their stories are amazing, but can I provide them with the right feedback? I've always felt like I wasn't a deep enough thinker. Thank goodness this ensemble has the emotional depth to make up for where I lack. Maybe I should share this insecurity with the cast at the next rehearsal because they've been so brave and open with me. (Or now they could just read it in this blog.) I love that we've created a space where we can be honest. I wish I could give you more of an inside look at what happens between us, but once the therapeutic threshold is closed, what's Learned here Leaves here and what's Shared here Stays here. But in the same sense, I don't want to give you any more than what you're going to see in the show because I cherish my sacred time with these young people. Those moments are for us to hold onto.
The students have been asking me from the beginning what this show was going to be. You can read about their confusion in their blogs. But I didn't know exactly what it was going to be myself. I had an idea but nothing has ever been set in stone. For the longest time I was convinced it was going to be a staged reading, but now I'm seeing how uninhibited they are without journals and notes in their hands. We may end up having more of a workshopped piece with sketch and improv elements. I tell the students all the time that I am no expert at improv, but my industry knowledge, education from this university and passion for the art make me more than qualified to stand up there and guide them. This experience has really allowed us all to stretch ourselves. Not only do I have to think as an educator but as a director as well. It's a challenge that excites me and keeps me up late at night rambling in this blog.
How much input do I allow the students to have versus my own input? In the end, it's up to me to make the final and "best" call. But so much of the work we do depends on the ensemble. Tonight was the first night where we truly started to see the shape of something that made sense to us all. The amount of excitement we have for opening night has just sky-rocketed. Now we just have to focus that energy into the new work before the clock runs out.
These young people are so loving and inspiring during rehearsals and even when I see them around campus. Being back in an educational institution is also inspiring. Returning to my own place of higher learning has inspired me. I am receiving such respect and love from faculty that were my teachers and new staff alike. It's a different kind of respect than receiving good grades; it's the kind of respect you receive when your hard work to get those grades is now being put into practice. I'm sure my professors feel a sense of pride knowing their dedication is paying off and manifesting itself as something tangible.
Anytime I teach a group of students, I learn with them. I think right now that's the most fulfilling part of the rehearsal process so far. This cast rejuvenates my own youth while also helping me appreciate my age. I love being a part of the ensemble they are creating. See what the students have to say as I continue to post a different blog by each of them daily. And you should also like Cleaning Closets on Facebook and follow Cleaning Closets on Twitter since that's what I've been telling my students to do!
Being back on campus at my alma mater is surreal. So many things have changed at Morehead State University while so many things have remained the same. I don't want to date myself but it has been almost ten years since I graduated and there are still familiar faces to welcome me back! The things that have changed are for the better while the faces that remain are the best ones to see!
The new faces are the students and I had a great turnout for auditions last night! The cast list just went up and I'm excited to start rehearsals tonight! Well, I better get ready for that as I still have some prepping to do for rehearsal and some work to do for my job. stay tuned as the students start blogging about their Cleaning Closets experience!
In less than a week I will be at Morehead State University creating art with a whole new generation. I'm excited to see how different the campus is since it's been almost a decade since I graduated. I'm excited to see how different and similar this generation is, to see old friends like the professor I'm boarding with. I am excited to hear new true stories. I'm excited to "give back" as I've mentioned before. Have times changed in Eastern Kentucky, or is it a place stuck in the valley frozen in time? MSU was always pretty gay-friendly despite its position on the GPS, but there was definitely some work to do.
But I have a lot to get in order before I head out. I have to make sure everything is in line at both of my jobs so that I can work remotely and keep my employment! I have to finish up some things with my friend for the film documentary version of Cleaning Closets so that the next big announcement will be ready by the time I get back. I really want to tell you more about that but it'll just have to wait. Until then, you can enjoy blog posts from the students as they recount their journey through the Cleaning Closets experience.
I recently interviewed the first storyteller for the upcoming film documentary! My friend Charli, from one of my many jobs (oh the life of an artist), has agreed to use her brand new (at least new to her) hand-held camera to record the documentary. I'm super excited to be gaining more stories for the archives, while also equally excited to be collaborating with a new artist and friend! And my film "crew" and I both learned so much from our storyteller. I met this storyteller at Tribe, a discussion group hosted by Project Vida.
This middle-age storyteller admitted that she still struggles with her identity. To herself she identifies as a heterosexual transgender woman, but due to health reasons she'll never be able to fully transition which makes her feel like the woman inside is sometimes dead. Therefore he outwardly identifies as a bisexual man so as not to confuse the people around him. However this doesn't always make things easier since like the T in LGBT, the B is quite often the least accepted letter in society. According to several of the interviews that I've conducted, many of the people who identify as transgender and/or bisexual are often ostracized by both the heterosexual and the homosexual communities. Being bisexual is often misconstrued as being confused or being greedy or even as being a stepping stone to becoming gay.
I won't share the whole interview with you because you'll have to wait to see that when the film documentary is finished. Instead I've included one of my favorite anecdotes from the interview in a small sound bite in the Archives. Be sure to check back next Friday when I talk a little bit about the actual filming process which is always new to me as a theatre artist!