Beyond the popular work of LGBT writers and composers — think Tennessee Williams or Stephen Sondheim — several New Orleans stage productions are making a point to share stories about LGBT experiences and characters. Below, the organizers of a few recent events talk queer spaces, representation and their efforts to put LGBT lives in the spotlight.
Greetings, from Queer Mountain. This monthly storytelling show created by Micheal Foulk is held the second Friday of every month at The New Movement Theater. Local host Amanda Golob presents the evening featuring several eight-minute stories by LGBT-identified storytellers. Lots of people tell relationship or coming-out stories, but there also are funny stories such as the tale of a risque encounter with a carrot, or topical discussions, such as an ongoing conversation held after the recent presidential election.
The best part of the event, Golob says, is the sense of community among participants, many of whom come every month and hang out for the low-key, early-evening show.
"A lot of times queer people don't feel like they have a space," she says. "Me being queer, it adds an extra layer to everything I do in life. It's nice when people can relate to that."
Postcards From Over the Edge. This play in development begins in 1890s New Orleans and discusses the prosecution of "crimes against nature" laws throughout the city's history. These Louisiana laws effectively criminalized LGBT people, penalizing those who had been arrested for sex work or for what was seen as deviant behavior and often forcing them to register as sex offenders. "[The laws were] pinpointed at penalizing people who the government had deemed perverse," director Tela Love explains.
The production will draw on newspaper archives and historical records, but writer and performer Karel Sloane-Boekbinder hopes it also will highlight the personal heroism of its characters.
"Often when LGBTQ issues are portrayed in mainstream media ... they don't show triumph," she says. "They don't show [characters] overcoming incredibly difficult circumstances to succeed."
The producers recently hosted a staged reading and talkback about the play-in-progress. The full production is scheduled to premiere June 2018.
As One. New Orleans Opera Association marketing director Joe McKesson says this contemporary chamber opera, which opened at Marigny Opera House earlier this month, has been staged 10 times since its premiere in 2014. It's an opera partially inspired by the life of transgender film director Kimberly Reed. Though it's now closed in New Orleans, you can listen to some of the music on the opera's website (www.aopopera.org), sung by a male and a female singer.
McKesson says productions like As One play an important role in facilitating discussion about the increasing visibility of transgender people, especially for people who are just learning more about trans rights.
"Right now is a time for hard conversations," he says. "There are no easy conversations in our current political or social environment. Art plays a very strong role in helping to start those conversations."