OUTSpoken is a second-year program from the Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) that will take place in Summer 2015. Our goal is to create a platform for the LGBTQ+ community of Knoxville, Tennessee, and its surrounding areas to record and perform the experiences of sex- and gender-diverse individuals in the South.
Registration for the OUTSpoken workshop series is now open. On-site participants will be a part of three workshops over the course of three months in order to create, edit, and produce a piece of art to be performed during SAFTA’s OUTSpoken events in Summer 2015. Workshop attendees will work with professionals in performance, prose, and poetry to compose and tell their own stories.
Workshops will be held on January 17th, February 21st, and March 28th, 2015 and run from 1PM to 3PM at the Sundress Academy for the Arts. Cost for the workshop is $25 for one, $45 for two, or $60 for all three. (Participants who attend at least two on-site workshops will be eligible to perform their piece at the OUTSpoken events later in the year.) Scholarship applications are also available on our website.
As LGBTQ issues gain greater visibility, it is crucial that we explore the complexities of sex and gender diversity respectfully. That said, we realize that unity cannot and must not be silent, and that in order to create a meaningful dialogue, we must acknowledge and listen to the stories, experiences, grievances, arguments, and counterarguments of all sex- and gender-diverse persons.
Rehearsing the piece “Singing Blue/Straight Girls”, (from left to right) Sean Madison Kelley, Amber Autry, and Molly Kessler, with dir. Adam Crandall in the background.
OUTSpoken (a one-night event) will be going up next Saturday, the 28th at 7PM at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Church. Molly Kessler will be one of seven performers lending their talents to the pieces showcased in the production. Having been an actor since her freshmen year, she wrote her first play “I See London, I See France” in 2013. She will be performing the poetry piece “Singing Blue” as well as playing a supporting role in the prose piece “Steel”.
ES: How did you get involved with OUTSpoken?
MK: Well, I was contacted by Adam [Crandall, director] who organized the event.
ES: OUTspoken presents a series of separate written pieces, along with poetry readings, by local LGBT and ally writers. Can you tell us more about the pieces that you are a part of?
MK: The piece is a poem called “Singing Blue” and Adam’s joined it together with another poem called “Straight Girls”, and it’s sort of a back-and-forth: both pieces are about gay women pining after straight girls, and realizing that it’s an unattainable or unrequited love. So, Sean Kelly, who’s performing “Straight Girls”, and I are doing this back and forth.
ES: One of the themes common to both “Singing Blue/ Straight Girls” as well as the other piece you are involved in, “Steel”, are people dealing with relationships, or potential relationships, that aren`t working out. Do you have any personal connection to the type of issue these pieces are exploring?
MK: Yeah, I think we all do. It doesn`t necessarily have to be romantic but just, trying to be friends with somebody or trying to work with somebody when you have incompatible personalities. It doesn`t even have to be romantic. I can think of dozens of situations like that, sexual preference aside.
ES: What do you, speaking of both the pieces you’re in, hope to achieve? Do you come in with a specific goal in my mind, with these projects?.
MK: I just come into it hoping to tell the story. Because that’s what I assume part of the goal in writing it was, to convey some sort of emotion or tell a story, and I hope it comes across and does the story-teller justice.
Director Adam Crandall (left) directs Taylor Jackson (right) in OUTSpoken piece “Banging”.
ES: Of course, OUTSpoken is more than just a night of story-telling. There’s also a wider social issue being promoted. What kind of role do you think a production like this plays in the big picture of giving voice to LGBT people in our community?
MK: I think that the kinds of stories we’ve told for a long time don`t really show that side of human experience. But we’re showing those who may not know a lot about LGBT issues, that they’re real people, showing them go through things that everyone can relate to. It helps you understand that it is a human experience, and that we are all the same.
ES: So, would you say that the performing arts, like theatre and film have a special role to play in promoting that kind of understanding?
MK: Well, yeah, because it’s entertaining. And when people are entertained, they listen. Even something like the difference between news programs and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert-people get their news from shows like that now, because it’s entertaining and they retain it. And in our production… the pieces are so beautiful, and you can`t help but listen.
ES: So we’ve talked about performance- what about writing? Do you have a lot of experience with, say, writing poetry?
MK: Well, I’ve written poetry, but I don`t show it to anyone because it’s just goofy and stupid. It all rhymes, and it’s all Seussy and not about anything real. I have written a play, which was not fiction but based on my experience studying abroad in France.
ES: Having both performed and worked in a written form, would you say you have a preference?
MK: I much prefer writing, myself. The difference for me… I don`t know, it’s not that I feel more connected to my words… I feel more connected to someone else saying my words than I do when it is myself saying somebody else’s words- if that makes sense. I feel more comfortable with someone else saying my words, than me saying someone else’s. Because I feel like I don`t do them justice.
ES: How about your future plans? We were talking earlier about how you were planning on moving to Chicago. What do you plan to do once you get up there?
MK: Yes. Some friends and I, including Amber Autry, who is also in the show, are planning on moving there sometime in September. I want to take some classes with Second City and Improv Olympic. I’m not sure quite where that will go, I’m really interested in writing more than performing, but life takes you places, and you don`t know where it will go. And that’s exciting, and also terrifying.
ES: One more question. Do you have a favorite LGBT pop icon?
MK: It’s gotta be Ellen. Without a doubt Ellen. It will always be Ellen.
Erik Schiller is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, where he received his BA in Anthropology and English, with a minor in Theatre. He has been performing in live stage and film productions in Knoxville since 2009, working with local companies that include the Clarence Brown Theatre, Yellow Rose Productions, and Badland Pictures. In addition, he has served as Secretary for All Campus Theatre at UTK, is a founding member of the guerilla theatre troop Shakespeare Unauthorized, and has had poetry published in the Phoenix Literary Arts Magazine.
We are excited to announce the premiere of OUTSpoken, a theatrical review written and performed by the local LGBTQ community and its allies.
OUTSpoken began with a series of writing workshops, where community members developed their experiences into poems, monologues, narratives, or other literary forms. We also received many submissions online from writers and artists around the country, which were then revised and transformed into performance pieces.
Some participants worked with local actors to bring their writing to life, while others will be performing their writing themselves. It is our sincerest hope that this project will help create a platform to record, perform, and illuminate the experiences and struggles of the Southern LGBTQ community, as well as celebrate sex- and gender-diversity in East Tennessee and beyond.
The event will include performances by Adam Crandall, Donald Rickels, Molly Kessler, Sean Kelley, Amber Autrey, and Raven Mason, and will feature the writing of T.A. Noonan, Erin Elizabeth Smith, Andrew Emitt, and more!
OUTSpoken will take place on Saturday, June 28th, at 7:30pm at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. Tickets can be purchased in advance from the SAFTA website for $10 or at the door for $15. A percentage of the proceeds will go to support the East Tennessee Chapter of GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network).
Knoxville, TN — OUTSpoken is a new program from the Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA). The goal of this program is to create a platform for the LGBTQ community in Knoxville and surrounding areas to record and perform the experiences of sex- and gender-diverse individuals in the South.
OUTSpoken will begin with a series of writing workshops, where community members will develop their experiences into poems, monologues, narratives, or other literary forms. These pieces will then be revised and eventually performed in a staged reading. Artists from all over can also submit poetry or prose submissions, as well as video submissions of a monologue or film, online.
The workshops, which will run monthly from February through April, will be held at the organization’s headquarters, Firefly Farms, in Knoxville. These workshops will culminate in a staged reading in June 2014, showcasing the works of a wide range of individuals, including those whose experiences demonstrate intersectional issues. Participants will have the option of working with actors to bring their writing to life or performing their writing themselves.
As LGBTQ issues gain greater visibility, it is crucial that we explore the complexities of sex and gender diversity respectfully. In order to create a meaningful dialogue, we must acknowledge and listen to the stories, experiences, grievances, arguments, and counterarguments of all sex- and gender-diverse persons. It is our sincerest hope that this project will illuminate the struggles of Southern LGBTQ persons and celebrate sex and gender diversity in East Tennessee and beyond.