LGBTQ+ History Month Celebrations

Here’s a round-up of how we’ve been celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month at ALRA this February.

Queer Cabaret

ALRA’s debut Queer Cabaret was hosted and compered by ALRA graduate and drag queen James Steventon who performed as his drag alter she-go Jazmin Sparks. There were also self-made performance pieces from current students, allies and community members, lip syncs, and living room boogies!

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Student work

ALRA South MA Professional Acting student Hayley Calleia created a spoken word piece which we uploaded to our IGTV. View it here.

Staff sharing

A few ALRA staff members shared their favourite inspirational members of the LGBTQ+ community and their work via email to the rest of the organisation. Here are some of the resources:

Daneka Etchells, Chair of the LGBTQIA+ Working Group

Asexuality is an umbrella term for those who have little-to-no interest in having sex, even though most desire emotional intimacy. Asexuality exists on a spectrum, and some asexual people do experience sexual desire and attraction, some do not. Asexuality isn’t because of dysfunction, aversion, fear or inability to find a partner. It’s a real and valid sexuality. Ace people are not broken, but often by mistreatment are shunned into thinking they are.
Today’s thought of the day, I suppose, is when thinking about our LGBTQIA+ activism for the future, endeavouring to include asexuality within this! Asexual and aromantic are often left out and ignored within queer politics, so let’s stand by our ace people and lift them up! We shouldn’t gatekeep, we should open our arms to asexual people if they want this.
Here are two short clips to give an introductory insight into asexuality:
Emi Salida for HuffPost:
Tinder – 5 Asexual People Explain What Asexual Means To Them:
Here’s a link to The Trevor Project explanation on asexuality for more information:
I’ve also linked some great asexual activists below:
Yasmin Benoit @theyasminbenoit
Ema Salida @embly99
David Jay @davidgljay

Aiden Crawford, Head of Foundation Acting Diploma (ALRA South)

The Queer House
The Queer House is an artists’ agency and producing house for queer actors, writers and makers. They are associates at the Gate Theatre and HighTide. “This house is built by queer people for queer people”. The Queer House is an awesome collective of queer actors, artists and theatremakers. They also host nights called ‘Get in the House’ to showcase new work. Check them out if this is something that interests you!
Homotopia
Homotopia is a Liverpool-based arts and social justice organisation making art, interventions and participation that inspires and unites communities. Homotopia is the UK’s longest running LGBTQIA arts and culture festival. A great organisation based in Liverpool, they support and showcase queer art and artists and have an arts and culture festival every November. They also have a 12-month artist development program (Queercore) for early career artists who are based in and around Liverpool. Their YouTube channel is also full of performances and interviews from queer artists and people from an array of backgrounds that I can recommend to all of you.

George Richmond-Scott – Co-Lead Voice Tutor & Course Leader MA Directing (South)

Patrick Gale
Patrick Gale was my go-to queer writer in my 20s. His books are quirky, off-centre and addictive. The one I remember best is ‘The Facts of Life’ which follows three generations of an unusual family as they confront the harsher facts of modern life. It had a massive impact on me with its depiction of gay men and HIV around the time I was diagnosed myself 20 years ago.

Elliot Page
Elliot Page is an awesome actor and has had the bravery to come out twice while in the public eye; as gay in 2014 and again last year as trans. “Hi friends,” he wrote on social media platforms, “I want to share with you that I am trans, my pronouns are he/they and my name is Elliot. I’ve been endlessly inspired by so many in trans community. Thank you for your courage. I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life. I feel overwhelming gratitude for the incredible people who have supported me along this journey. I can’t begin to express how remarkable it feels to finally love who I am enough to pursue my authentic self…”. The actor also spoke of his fear in coming out and highlighted the difficulties faced by less privileged people who have done the same. “I also ask for patience. My joy is real, but it is also fragile. The truth is, despite feeling profoundly happy right now and knowing how much privilege I carry, I am also scared. I’m scared of the invasiveness, the hate, the “jokes” and of violence. To be clear, I am not trying to dampen a moment that is joyous and one that I celebrate, but I want to address the full picture.”

Janet Mock
Janet Mock is an uber talented American writer, television host, director, producer and transgender rights activist. Her debut book, the memoir Redefining Realness, became a New York Times bestseller. Mock is a writer, director, and producer on tv show Pose, and is the first trans woman of colour hired as a writer for a TV series in history. The series is brilliant, vibrant television – some of the best I have ever seen – and has been congratulated for casting trans women in trans roles and for accurately depicting a unique queer subculture. In 2019, she signed a three-year deal with Netflix giving them exclusive rights to her TV series and a first-look option on feature film projects; this made her the first openly transgender woman of colour to secure a deal with a major content company.

Tommi Bryson
Tommi Bryson is a Sheffield theatremaker specialising in solo performances and comedy songs, and co-founder of monthly variety night Sounds Queer. I directed her in a Youth Theatre play at the Crucible Studio in 2017 and was so impressed by her creativity, confidence and kindness. Her recent production ‘A Princess Could Work’, described as “a modern, queer reaction to the Disney Princesses of the early 90s”, is a satirical musical about transgender representation in mass media. I caught it at Theatre Deli in Sheffield and was blown away by her wit and easy connection to the audience. She says: “The work I do falls into three broad spaces: community, representation, and comedy. I get to do all kinds of amazing things (stand-up, composing, facilitation, producing) but primarily I am a theatremaker. I direct, perform, and write whenever and whatever I can; though I admit my home turf is comedy songs.”

Brandon Lee Sears, Co-Course Leader of MA Professional Acting (ALRA South)

These two artists from the LGBTQIA+ community have inspired, altered, and lifted my understanding of visual art. I’ve grown into a deeper understanding and acceptance of myself from engaging with their explorations of race, gender and identity. They’ve helped me to understand better an idea of the sacred and spiritual in art. How can we revel and find freedom in our purpose of art-making? How can we be a conduit for a message, instead of feeling like we are sum-thing or sum-one to be judged? How do we wield the power of art and creativity to connect, communicate, and transform?

“To live completely, we must end the fear of death. To love completely, we must end the fear of disappointment.”  Krishnaji “The Four Sacres Secrets: For Love and Prosperity, A Guide To Living in a Beautiful State”

Zanele Muholi
Zanele Muholi is a South African non-binary visual activist working in photography, video, and installation. Muholi’s work focuses on race, gender and sexuality with a body of work looking at black lesbian, gay, transgender, and intersex individuals.

Zanele Muholi: In Conversation with Lady Phyll | Artists Talk | Tate Exchange
Zanele Muholi: ‘In My World, Every Human is Beautiful’ | Tate 

Nick Cave
Nick Cave is a queer visual artist, dancer and performing artist whose Soundsuits are sculptural costumes that camouflage the body, creating a second skin that conceals race, gender, and class, forcing the viewer to look without judgement. The sculptor envelopes the wearer’s body in materials including, but not limited to dyed, human hair, plastic buttons, beads, wire, sequins and feathers. Cave made his first Soundsuit in response to the brutal and racist beating of Rodney King in LA.

As-Is by Nick Cave | Documentary
Nick Cave | Artist Page

Jane Jeffery, Lead Acting Tutor and Head of 2nd Year (ALRA South)

I want to celebrate one of the original and most influential Queer Icons of my youth, Peter Tachell. I met Peter recently at a festival after listening to him speak; he is a wonderful, warm and inspirational individual whose passion for the cause has driven his work throughout the last 50 years.

Elen Benfield, Head of Foundation Acting Diploma (North)

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah – Lady Phyll
Lady Phyll is Executive Director of UK Black Pride and the Kaleidoscope Trust. I also shared Lady Phyll in my contribution for Black History Month because she is a truly inspirational woman who has worked tirelessly over 20 years as an LGBTQ rights and anti-racism campaigner, but I also really wanted to share her work again now too for the same reason. Phyll’s work focuses on intersectional matters of race, gender, sexual orientation and class. Here is an article which explains a little more about Lady Phyll and her work: https://eachother.org.uk/what-uk-black-prides-lady-phyll-is-most-proud-of/ (CW: the murder of George Floyd, Racism and Homophobia are discussed within the interview). And here’s a video of Lady Phyll talking about why Black Pride needs to exist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_XJYA74_Do (CW: Racism, Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia are mentioned within the video).

Stonewall’s Glossary of Terms
Stonewall’s Glossary of Terms – I thought I would attach this as a resource to refer to if any of the information you are coming into contact with this month/beyond contains any terms that are new to anyone, so you can look them up.

Why displaying your pronouns is important
We are all asked to publicly display our pronouns at ALRA, but I wanted to link this article for anyone who perhaps doesn’t know why we are asked to do this/why it is important. This article is succinct and clear and hopefully answers all of the questions you may be holding about pronouns.

Aly Spiro, Course Leader of BA (Hons) Acting and Senior Faculty Member (ALRA South)

Two beautiful songs from a beautiful queer musician, Georgia Bruce.

Paloma Oakenfold, Assistant Dean (ALRA) and Co-Course Leader of MA Professional Acting (ALRA South)

For this special month, I would like to draw people’s attention to Drag SyndromeThe kings and queens of Drag Syndrome all have Downs Syndrome. The characters (Horrora Shebang, Justin Bond, Lady Francesca, Gaia Callas, Frotzita Honkong, George the Lord, Gymma Black) are fabulous, powerful and outrageous. Their performances fizz with a love of life. The director of this film, Jess Kohl, says: “I wanted to change the, ‘oh, they’re so sweet’ reaction that these individuals often receive. Drag Syndrome’s artists are radically challenging preconceived notions of sexuality, gender and disability, while being authentically themselves. What about that is sweet?”. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do – this troupe rock my world.

Kate Coogan, Lead Acting Tutor and Head of 2nd Year (ALRA North)

‘Who Said It Was Simple’ bAudre Lorde
There are so many roots to the tree of anger
that sometimes the branches shatter  
before they bear.
Sitting in Nedicks
the women rally before they march   
discussing the problematic girls   
they hire to make them free.
An almost white counterman passes   
a waiting brother to serve them first   
and the ladies neither notice nor reject   
the slighter pleasures of their slavery.   
But I who am bound by my mirror   
as well as my bed
see causes in colour
as well as sex
and sit here wondering   
which me will survive   
all these liberations.

Lucy Curtis, Course Leader of MA Professional Acting (ALRA North)

Audre Lorde dedicated both her life and her creative talent to confronting and addressing injustices of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. “I used to speak in poetry. I would read poems, and I would memorize them. People would say, well what do you think, Audre. What happened to you yesterday? And I would recite a poem and somewhere in that poem would be a line or a feeling I would be sharing. In other words, I literally communicated through poetry. And when I couldn’t find the poems to express the things I was feeling, that’s what started me writing poetry, and that was when I was twelve or thirteen.”

I’m so happy to have this opportunity to share my favourite poem of hers this month as we celebrate.

A Litany for Survival

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
futures
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak remembering
we were never meant to survive.

Gemma Maddock, Co-Lead Voice Tutor, Course Leader of MA Professional Acting 2019/2020 and Assistant MFA Linklater Teaching Practice (Voice and Theatre Arts) Course Leader (ALRA South)

I would love to celebrate some incredible artists whom I adore! Both Cazeloen and Gingzilla live in the UK despite being from Australia, and I have had the joy of witnessing their incredible journeys having know these two for over 12 years. Caz can be seen regularly at the Glory and many other venues across London when there is not a pandemic, and Ginge is all over the interwebs with their America’s Got Talant stint. Felicia Fox I am new to but adore everything they are about.
Recently, the incredible director Leo Skilbeck directed the PG2 South show and their company MILK PRESNTS is a queer artist-led theatre company doing great work. They are based in the North and are superb.
Lastly, there is a film on Netflix based on a real-life couple in Australia called Holding the Man. It was originally a play and has been done many times there and also here in the UK; in fact, I worked on a production of it a few years ago that played at the Stag. Fun fact: Cazeleon is in the film, briefly (not in drag).

Michael White, Lead Movement Tutor (ALRA North)

I’d like to share the work of Alan Turing. Perhaps best known for his work cracking the Enigma code during the Second World War, he is also a founding figure of modern computer science. His work is still vitally important, now more than ever; especially as we move into a world of virtual-social-reality driven by Artificial Intelligence. His famous Turing Test asks the question: can a machine ever pass as a human? Turing, sadly killed himself, after facing criminal charges for being gay, and punished with chemical castration in the 1950s. We might wonder if those that charged him with such a crime ever stopped to question their own humanity? Turing holds a special place in Manchester history and a statue of him sits in Sackville Park (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing_Memorial).

Sonia Watson-Fowler – EDI Cohesion Lead

Kieran Sheehan – Acting Principal

As a young performer I was greatly influenced by DV8 physical theatre company led by artistic director Lloyd Newson. His work was extraordinarily inspiring to me as a young gay man. It seemed to be looking at the world through a queer lens using an overtly physical language that I had not encountered before. As I have ‘grown up’, the work has resonated with my experiences of my world either directly in relation to the narrative or within the texture of his direction. In particular, his approach to casting his dance work and developing cross art form production that unapologetically holds his identity as a gay man within the centre of his practice and creative criticality, has been an affecting experience. Sometimes I hate his work, but I always wish I was as fearless as him.
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