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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'…"
Like the clasp on the bracelet pictured here, I finally got closure. Last week I got to Skype with the ensemble from Morehead after not even getting to say goodbye to them due to the massive snowstorm in Kentucky. Our entire week of performances was cancelled. One performance was rescheduled for a date when I had already returned to Chicago. Great for the students, sad for me. I also sent them a care package with pride bracelets made by Moonshine Gems and cards made by Frances Mayo Photography. I told them to really take to heart the feedback they received at the post-show talkback. I agreed with a lot of the critiques and questions posed by the audience, but even the things that we didn't necessarily agree with are important to consider. But now it's up to the students to take their own show to the next level. Many of them are interested in editing their personal stories and submitting them to some 10-minute play festivals. I say go for it! In a post-show survey I gave the students for feedback on the program, one of them said that they want to "use [their story] to help people on a smaller scale." I wish all of them the best of luck. I can't wait to take the feedback from the students and create a better program that I can take to other institutions!
When asked in the survey what they learned from the experience, one actor said, "I am unsure what to say. I learned a lot about the LGBT community in general, but I feel like I also learned things about myself and my peers that I can't put into words. I guess I furthered my understanding/respect for others' situations. And I think I gained confidence."
by Guest Writer ReneeUnfortunately, we were only able to perform the show we had put together once. Due to an enormous amount of snow and ice, we were out of classes for a week. And as classes were cancelled by the University, so were any other events. Honestly, I was worried about the one performance that we did have. We hadn't rehearsed in a week, so I was worried that things wouldn't run very smoothly. We were able to get a rehearsal in just a bit before the show though, and things ran pretty smoothly. After the show, we had a talkback with the audience members. They asked questions or gave their commentary on the show, and I think we received a lot of pointers on what makes our scenes more interesting to the audience.
This process was so different from anything I have been involved in before, and I'm honestly kinda sad that it's over. Rehearsals were the highlight of my day. I knew no matter how horrible the day had been, I had an amazing group of people that would be surrounding me that evening, making me laugh and cry and realize how many things I have instead of seeing only what I lack. Honestly, even if it sounds kind of cliche, this was an eye opening experience. Many of the people in the cast were not those I would usually cross paths with, and I would have never guessed the struggles they have been through just by seeing them. I'm really glad that I had this opportunity, and I hope that we can all stay in touch.
by Guest Writer Alyssa
I think what has become the most challenging part about being an actor/actress in these scenes is that we don't want to let the true stories fade, we don't want to let the writers' visions become blurry, so we try harder to understand our roles. We have become much more than a cast and crew, we have become a safe haven for each other. It is remarkable how far everyone has come.
I will miss our Love Bucket, where we shared our thoughts and feelings toward what we learned each rehearsal. I will miss sitting In my bright yellow chair watching the scenes in front of me unfold, but most of all I will miss seeing the friends I have made here. Of course I will see them after the shows are done, but it was great to work on this beautiful project with everyone. We all stood up for something we felt so strongly about, something that our director Jonathan started. This project to share the
stories from the LGBT community also helped us create a bond together that can never be broken.
by Guest Writer Samuel
My experience with Cleaning Closets has truly been magical. I would not trade the memories and friendships I have made during this process for anything in the world. I just feel like there is something so special and so unique about people who are struggling with similar issues coming together and sharing their stories. I am truly amazed at the strength and the courage the cast members have shown throughout this process. I am so proud that we were all able to dig so deep inside ourselves and pull out things that may be a little painful.
Jonathan Mayo is truly a remarkable man. I have personally felt like I have learned so much from him in the short time he has been here. Not only is he an incredible mentor, but I am so proud to call him a friend. It was so easy to see how much he deeply cared for us and this project. Sadly, the weather put a little bit of a damper on our performance week, but we fortunately get to perform the show tonight and I am overjoyed that the public is going to see this awesome show we have created compiled of such interesting and moving stories. My heart is broken that Jonathan will not be here with us but I know we will all be putting everything we have learned from him to the test and our performance tonight is definitely dedicated to him. We could not have done it without him. I honestly hope to be half the man he is one day.
Cleaning Closets is a beautiful project. I look forward to watching this grow and grow in years to come. I hope that down the line I will get to sit in the audience at another university or wherever Jonathan decides to take it and watch other people's stories come to life the way we have brought our stories to life. I will carry Cleaning Closets in my heart for the rest of my life and hopefully can utilize what I have learned from this experience in my theatre career for years to come.
Remember to always Live, Laugh and Love!!!!
by Guest Writer Rikki
Now that it's time for the show, I'm really excited about how it turned out. I'm glad that it's turned into sketch instead of a stage reading, because I think it's a lot more fun this way. I hope the people who come to see the show feel the same.
It's been a great experience working with everyone, and I've learned so much. Not just new vocabulary either; I've learned more about myself. The process of Cleaning Closets has opened my eyes to a lot of new things. It's also been a very fun process. I'm grateful to have been a part of it. The things that I've learned during Cleaning Closets will be with me for the rest of my life.
by Guest Writer Pierce
It seems like no time at all has passed since my last blog, although it has been over a week. It’s a cliche, I know, but time flies when you’re having fun. Though it has been fun, we have been working devotedly to weave our stories together as comprehensively and entertainingly as possible. The final product is bound to be a true masterpiece.
Our show features the full gamut of emotion: fear, laughter, sorrow, love, anger, and self-realization. The audience will experience the joy of acceptance, the sting of rejection, and the triumph of self-realization. I, and the rest the amazing cast, can’t wait to present this one-of-a-kind production.
by Guest Writer Rikki
With only one week left before the show, I am extremely excited for what it’s becoming. The cast is amazing, and I have so much respect for everyone. They have so much courage, and they inspire me every rehearsal.
It’s been a lot of fun putting scenes together and doing acting exercises with everyone. The scenes are really coming together. It’s a lot of fun to be in the scenes, but it’s also fun to just sit back and watch. Some of them are really funny while others are touching. It’s been a great experience so far, and I have high hopes for how the show will turn out.
by Guest Writer Zack
This journey has been an incredible experience. At the beginning of the rehearsal process I was nervous because I didn't think my story was good enough, and I didn't have the courage to stand up and say it in front of people. Some people still don't know that I have a story to tell.
As the rehearsal process continued, I learned that I'm not alone. Others are in the same boat--traveling the same rough river. [Them] sharing [their] stories allowed me to appreciate those people and applaud them because they have the courage and strength that I don't have.
I have also learned to have more courage in myself and allow myself to share more personal stories that I haven't shared with anyone in my life. Allowing myself to share those stories with my cast mates I have gained trust which is essential for an ensemble in a theatrical production.
I have built another family. This is a new family on my tree that I love dearly, and I'm so glad that I have gotten to work with them because I didn't know some of them and now when I see them we stop and chat. This is what I needed in order to continue growing and expanding my story because you need a family that will support you.
I'm so blessed to have been given this opportunity to grow and learn about subjects that I haven't even heard of or it was hard to talk to someone about.
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.