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.
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 Jordan
So, it is two nights before the show opens [as I'm writing this]. I am very excited about what the show is going to be. This has been a very amazing process. We have taken our fourteen stories and condensed them into an hour long stage play about a bunch of high-schoolers. I have never been more proud about getting a show on its feet. I look forward to opening night. If anyone else has a chance to experience this process, I recommend it greatly. Thank you for reading!
by Guest Writer Jordan
When I first heard of Cleaning Closets I wasn't really interested in it. I did not have a very interesting coming out story, and I have always felt that your sexuality should not be made a big deal, it is merely a part of you. I define my sexuality, my sexuality does not define me, the saying goes.
I was pushed into going to the writing workshop by a friend, and there is where saw what the project really was. This was when I got excited, yet nervous. “What if I am not good enough?” “What if he does not want to use my story?” “I am only a freshman, I don’t know these people, what if they don’t like me?” “What if I don’t fit in with the other actors?” These were all thoughts that were swimming through my head before the auditions.
But now we are three weeks into rehearsal and I feel as though I have known this ensemble my whole life. We have become not just friends but close ones. We know each other’s stories and connect with each other on a level that I would never have imagined.
The actual rehearsal process itself is very different than anything I have done before. I have been working in theatre for eleven years, and I thought I knew all about the different rehearsal processes. But this was something different. We weren’t just rehearsing and becoming better actors, we were writing. Writing our stories, watching others' stories, learning from each other’s experience and in turn becoming better people. Whether it was dancing to build our sense of openness with the ensemble or picking up my fellow actor and using her like a battering ram to break my way out of a pantomimed jail, everything we did had a lasting effect on me not only as an actor but as a person.
I would like to thank Jonathan for bringing this wonderful program to Morehead State University and giving me this opportunity to learn and grow in this environment.
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.
by Guest Writer Samuel
When I initially heard about Cleaning Closets last May I was instantly excited and intrigued. As someone who is newly openly gay I was excited by the idea of being surrounded by people who have experienced the same things I have and are dealing with the struggles I have faced and am still facing. I am very passionate about equality and gay rights. I am the first person to say being gay is not easy. It involves a lot of fear, tears, and anxiety. With that said, I want people to know how hard it really is for people who are gay or bi or what have you. People like us face hardships everyday and yet people will say its a choice. I know I would not personally choose to make my life harder everyday. That is one thing I want people to take away from this show once it actually goes up. I want people to see just what really goes through someones head who is dealing with this. People who battle with coming out of the closet often are suicidal, turn to drugs and people don't realize that. They continue to tear us down.
I love this whole cast and Jonathan so very much. I have already learned so much about this group of people. I feel so welcomed and loved when I am with them every night at rehearsal. Every time we close that therapeutic threshold it is like we are all escaping from the real world to a place of true love and acceptance. I find myself amazed everyday by the new stories that the cast shares. I have learned so much about these people that I would have never suspected. What I love most is all though we are all from totally different walks of life and backgrounds we all fit together like the prettiest puzzle you have ever seen.
I look forward to seeing how the show grows from now until opening night. I just hope that everyone who sees this show sees the beauty in it like we do. I hope to change someone's life in the audience even if it is only one person. I hope that someone may be in the audience who is struggling with coming out and that they can find the strength to come out and love themselves for exactly who they are because of our show.
Remember to always Live. Laugh. Love.
by Guest Writer Dana
Cleaning Closets wasn’t a project that I really understood. I went in thinking that you either had to have a coming out story or a story of someone coming out to you. While that is how the audition process went, I would have never imagined the diversity and the different walks of life among our cast members.
Everyday I go to rehearsal I learn something new, and that to me, by itself is an amazing thing. I have learned so many things so far I cannot wait to see what happens in the next month. I’ve learned and realized more about me in these two weeks than I ever thought was possible. It is a very comforting, and sometimes unsettling, process. I am so happy to be a part of it and as the days fly by I am even more excited to see how this production is going to unfold. We deserve to tell our stories and that’s exactly what we plan to do.
by Guest Writer Alyssa
I am unbearably excited for performance week! I've been in many plays but this experience is just so different. The process of writing and creating what we will be sharing with the audience is exciting, because we control the message the audience gets to encounter. Jonathan has truly created something amazing.
This production is sure to change lives, I know it has already taken a toll on mine. When I first auditioned for Cleaning Closets I didn't expect at all to create such a bond with everyone. I don't really let a lot of people in on my feelings, but when I'm with my fellow cast mates I feel like I can share my entire life story! It's such a relief knowing that we are creating this magnificent collaboration of stories to share with an audience. We have laughed, cried, smiled, and have had breakthroughs during our rehearsal process, all because we're not scared to face our past together. I've learned so much from each and every one of these beautiful people, and surprisingly myself.
by Guest Writer Pierce
I first want to say that the whole experience thus far has been a true adventure. I am new to theater and have already learned so much. I couldn't have a better instructor or more knowledgeable peers. They all have earned my deep respect. I look forward to learning and growing more with my fellow cast mates.
I am very excited for the show, albeit a little anxious. I am totally impressed with the courage shown by everyone involved, and will strive to match their courage. I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts and stories, and have found doing so very therapeutic. I have found the thoughts and stories of others very informative and inspiring. I can't wait to build an ensemble with such kind and fascinating people.
If you're in the Morehead area (or relatively close) from Feb. 17-22, come and see a show that's sure to be a unique, thought-provoking, and touching experience!
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!
by Guest Writer Rachael
The nuclear family is engraved in our brains at a young age. A stay at home mom, a working dad, and a couple children crafted from angel dust is what was (and for some reason still is) seen as the perfect ideal family. I knew at a young age this was bullshit. Despite the way my parents and grandparents saw the LGBTQ community, I was very open my entire life. I just wanted everyone to be happy and wanted them to have the life they desire. When I started to voice my difference of opinion the response I would get from my mother would be “Rachael, you’re a liberal aren’t you?” as if it was something wrong to be, an insult spit in my face to change the way I thought. I would deny it, thinking it was something I shouldn’t be, and I would claim I just wanted everyone to be equal. It wasn’t until I was older that I told my mom “Yes, I am a liberal and fucking proud of it.”
I consider myself an ally and when I heard of the auditions for Cleaning Closets I thought it was a project I would love to be a part of, and not only help in the storytelling aspect but grow in my knowledge and respect for the LGBTQ community. Like many of the other people in the cast, I was very confused at first with how the process would go. I expected to walk in the first day and begin compiling our stories and see what our show is going to be. But it is so much more than that. Cleaning Closetsis a classroom, a safe haven, a creative space. I may have started this process skeptical and confused, but now I see the potential in what we have. We have great people and we are learning together every step of the way. I am eager to see the art we make together. Theatre reflects nature, and this production will reflect the problems we face, our unique stories, and the nature of LGBTQ community and the adversity they still face today.
by Guest Writer Renee
To tell the truth, I wasn't going to audition for this show. I didn't know if I would even be able to be in it, because I am currently not completely out. When I decided to audition, it was literally a last minute thing. That was about a week ago, and I am so glad that I followed my impulse. This process is a bit new to me. I am used to walking into rehearsal and having a script immediately. At the moment, it's all about sharing stories and ideas and our viewpoints. We are not only building an ensemble, we are creating alliances and forming friendships. I feel like I have another group of people that I can call my family. I had no clue going into this process of nightly rehearsals that I would find so much strength and support from people I hadn't even known in just one week. Walking into rehearsal and seeing everyone is the highlight of my day. Being able to just sit in a circle and talk to people and have them really listen, and to really listen to them in return is one of the most simple and most beautiful things I have ever been a part of. I have gained insight on different perspectives and discovered things about myself that I hadn't really understood. Because of the support of this cast, I had the courage to come out to my Grandmother. I don't know if I will ever be comfortable with being fully out, but I know that I have already made progress just from having people who understand my situation, or sympathize with it around me. I am very ready to see where this can take not only me, but also the rest of our group. We don't know what we will create yet. Our show and our futures are still unwritten. I know we will make them Beautiful.
by Guest Writer Iva
Before I even auditioned for Cleaning Closets, I thought I had a clear understanding of what the show would be about. Basically, we would be sharing other people’s stories. And these stories would be about someone coming out, or someone who had been come out to. I only had two terms in mind. And they were “Homosexual” and “Lesbian”. We would be telling their stories only. But from the moment I attended the [initial] workshop, I realized we would be learning about the entire LGBTQ community. And not only that, but how race, culture and religion was tied into it. I am only 3 rehearsals in, and there is still so much I am going to learn. I learned a lot about gender and sexuality. I learned a lot about how a person can express their gender and their sexuality. Not only that, but I have learned so much about my fellow actors. I learned how they identify, and I have learned a lot about their struggles and how they have over come them. I assumed Cleaning Closets would be just an ordinary show, but it is beyond that. This show has created a positive learning environment for everyone involved. Everyone is accepted, and everyone is comfortable with each other. Before this show, I thought I knew all there was to know about Gender and Sexuality, but thanks to Cleaning Closets I have gained and will continue to gain a better understanding of the LGBTQ community.