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.
Two weeks after a breathtaking premiere, Adam Crandall, SAFTA’s Performing Arts Assistant, reflects on his experience organizing and producing OutSpoken, his first original production for SAFTA in which members and allies of Knoxville’s LGBTQ community combined to share their unique stories of love, loss, and life.
It’s been about two weeks since SAFTA’s performance of OUTSpoken, and it has taken this long for me to truly grasp what we accomplished through this program. As director, designer, actor, and organizer of this production, I was so absorbed with the technicalities of all the pieces coming together that I never really had the chance to reflect on the completed puzzle.
Before I directed OUTSpoken, I had previously learned a little about the directing process through an All Campus Theatre’s production of Almost, Maine. However, I quickly realized that directing an already established play is very different than building a production from the ground up. With OutSpoken we were constantly adding and changing different scenes as the writers and actors worked on translating written word into performance pieces. It became a completely organic process—one in which I had to sometimes just step back and let develop on its own.
As a member of the Knoxville queer community, June was a very special (and busy) month for me. I performed with the Knoxville Gay Men’s Chorus for the first time at a crowded Bijou Theatre in front of an amazing and positive audience. I then had the opportunity to march in my first Knoxville gay pride parade with my SAFTA family and enjoyed the largest Pridefest the city has ever seen.
After all this celebration, it was then time to share OUTSpoken with the rest of the community. Leading up to the performance on June 28th, I had no idea what to expect. Would all the pieces come together? Would our planned blocking work out in the actual venue? Would anyone even show up to watch us crash and burn?
Luckily, plenty of people showed up and they didn’t have to watch us crash and burn. The amazing performers and crew created a very intimate experience for the audience that I have never witnessed before. That night, the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church became a safe place where Knoxville’s LGBTQ community could come together to share their experiences of love, loss, and life. Many times during the evening as I sat on stage as a performer, I forgot I was acting and became lost in the stories being shared—some of which I had never heard until that night.
Throughout my internship with SAFTA—which started way back in January—OUTSpoken has taken many different shapes. Although the end product looked very different than many of our initial ideas, the end goal was always the same: to share the voices of Southern LGBTQ people with the rest of the community. We accomplished our goal.
Adam Crandall is a graduate of the University of Tennessee’s Theatre program, where he was involved with both Clarence Brown Theatre productions as well as student productions with All Campus Theatre, including his directorial debut Almost, Maine. He serves as the Director of Theatrical Arts at SAFTA.
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.