Featured Q-STAGE Artist: Simone Bernadette Williams & Holo Lue Choy

 

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Q-STAGE Core Artists Simone Bernadette Williams & Holo Lue Choy have created a dynamic and powerful show together, titled e. Click here for more info and tickets! (Photo Credit: Blythe M. Davis)

Can you tell us about where the idea(s) for your Q-STAGE show came from?

We really wanted to create a narrative about our lives. We are both mixed race, queer, trans and struggle with eating disorders, and we don’t get to hear stories revolving around all of those identities and their intersections often enough. We wanted to make something that was so authentically us.

Why do you feel it is important to share this story/the story(ies) of your performance with the community?

e is really important for audiences to see because it is unlike anything else. We’ve never made a piece like this, we’ve never seen a piece like this. At this point, the most targeted body in America is that of the black trans woman, and so for two black, trans femme people to come up and communicate about our lives, while we are alive, is revolutionary.


What aspects of your queer identity do you hope to express through your Q-STAGE piece?

The main focus we’re working with is the intersectionality of our trans identities and our racial identities, and the way those co-actively affect the way we navigate the world. We want other queer and trans folx of color to see themselves, for once.

Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production? Have you been involved with 20% Theatre in the past and, if so, in what ways?

Simone: I work primarily as a spoken word artist, and dabble in acting, directing, playwriting, visual art, curation, singing, songwriting, fashion design and knitting. This is my first time working with 20% as an artist, but I have attended many shows.

Holo: My training started in a conservatory dance and theatre context. Outside of this training, I’ve been heavily interested in incorporating sonic design (both live and recorded) and visual art in the form of video, lighting design, and use of architecture/space to create interdisciplinary performance works. This is my first time working with 20%, after having seen The Naked I, and last years Q-STAGE.


What social issues are important to you and how do they inform the art you create?

The more appropriate question would be if there were issues unimportant to us. Every piece we create, whether together or individually, is in response to the oppressive systems of hetero-normative, cis-normative, white supremacist, neo-liberal, capitalist, patriarchy. In e, we address all of these, and talk about how they affect us as artists.


What other artists or performances have inspired you over the years?

Simone: I am a huge fan of the work that youth in our community make. Any poet who goes through TruArtSpeaks inspires me, especially executive director Tish Jones. Pillsbury House, Penumbra and Million Artist Movement are three organizations that continue to center the voices of people of color, which is important to me when looking at work.

Holo: Huge influences on my early artistic training were Kenna Camara-Cottman, Angharad Davies and the two years I spent apprenticing with Ananya Dance Theatre. More recently my work has been based in the performance art idiom, using movement as the basis. A lot of what I’m currently working with is inspired by the Judson Dance Theatre, and my experiences performing for Rosy Simas and Laurie Van Wieren.


Are you working on any other projects or are there others you hope to work on?

Simone: I just wrapped directing a piece written by myself and three other youth called BATTLE FATIGUE through blank slate theatre company, which shines a spotlight on the school-to-prison pipeline’s intersections with blackness and mental illness. Mostly, however, I am gearing up to head to UW Madison as a member of the 11th cohort in the First Wave program next fall!

Holo: Currently e is my main focus as a creator, though performatively I’m preparing for a lot of new works. I’ll be performing in Aniccha Arts’ 3600 Cuts in June, and Fire Drill’s Bill: The Musikill in July, both at the Southern Theatre. Additionally, I’ll be performing in Rosy Simas’ Skin(s) when it tours to Illinois next Winter.

What is your favorite pre or post-rehearsal snack or meal?

Simone: Ice cream. Hands down.

Holo: Fried rice seems to be a daily post-rehearsal staple.

What is your favorite hangout spot and why?

Simone: I really love hanging out at the Midtown Global Market and walking the greenway. I can get some delicious food, celebrate diversity & enjoy a beautiful walking path.

Holo: Any spot in nature is ideal. I most frequently find myself walking through the Lake Harriet Bird Sanctuary, though Cedar Lake forest is also amazing for wandering.


When you’re not deep in Q-STAGE rehearsal and development, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies or passions in life?

Simone: I spend most of my time making or watching art. I love hanging out with my friends, going out dancing, knitting and reading books.

Holo: Most of my time seems to be consumed in making art. When not working on a show, I’m usually walking around nature, seeing work, or listening to music.

 

Featured Q-STAGE Artist: Sami Pfeffer

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As one of our 2017 Q-STAGE Artists, can you tell us about where the idea(s) for your show came from?

My piece is about the ways in which trauma and abuse, a well as others’ reactions to and judgements of those experiences, haunt survivors. The piece is also about theatrical hauntings. Who possesses whom: the audience or the actors? The play features two performers, a paranormal investigation, and lots of flashlights.

I’ve been obsessed with abuse and trauma for as long as I’ve been actively healing from my own. Which is to say I’m interested in empathy. I want to understand how empathy can be withheld because I can’t even withhold empathy from the folks who’ve been abusive to me. But they can certainly withhold it from me.

I’m also interested in the structures in our lives that teach us about empathy. Like theater. I find theater odd. We can sit six feet from an actor and believe that they’re dying in Medieval Europe, but we won’t believe their lived experiences of rape or racism. What conventions make the former reasonable and the latter suspect?

My more recent performances have happened in the context of tourism- I spent a winter working as a ghost tour guide which is a job that requires dexterous empathy because the people who embark on ghost tours can be susceptible to great amounts of cruelty for their beliefs. Personally, I’m undecided on spiritual matters, but I had to quit that job because I felt like those fucking clerics of old who sold relics by the dozen to already impoverished believers.

I intended to write a different play about that experience. This play was supposed to be more surreal, performance art instead of theater. But the spirits want what they want. And who am I to withhold empathy, especially from myself?

Have you been collaborating with any other artists to create this show? Who are they are how are they contributing?

Yes! I’ve collaborated with the actors, Suzi and Beckett Love, and the co-director, Kai Greiner. I had about ⅗’s of the script finished by the first rehearsal, so we spent a few weeks devising the last ⅖’s of the play.

The piece is much stronger because of the collaboration. This is by far the most personal play I’ve ever written and at a certain point, for me, I needed it to become other. I needed the play to no longer be about me but to be about a character so that I could finish the story because otherwise, it’d go on for as long as I’m alive.

Why do you feel it is important to share this story/the story(ies) of your performance with the community?

I hope that this story does three things: 1. Encourages folks who’ve experienced emotional abuse to believe themselves and take those abuses seriously. 2. Encourages folks who’ve perpetrated emotional abuse to believe that their behaviors can be damaging even when we don’t have very strong cultural definitions of what emotional/psychological abuse looks like. 3. Encourages community members in general to recognize that we are all capable of committing abusive acts (which are really similar to oppressive behaviors, just on different scale and with different amounts of power and privilege) and that we are all culpable because abuse is not an individual failure alone but also a communal one.

What aspects of your queer identity do you hope to express through your Q-STAGE piece?

The biggest aspect of my queer identity that I hope to express through my Q STAGE piece is that of self-work. My queerness is less grounded in my desires, my genders, my body even, and more in how I commit myself to being in the world. For me, queerness is about finding ways to radically identify with others and dismantle the systemic barriers that our collective bodies face. As a white, educated, owning-class, size-privileged person I define some of my queerness in how I hold myself accountable to the power I inherently receive. And use, to be honest. I have yet to find a way to have power and not use power so I try to be aware of who I’m aligning myself with and who I’m aligning myself against.

Another aspect of my queer identity that I hope is expressed through my Q STAGE piece is one of survival. Like so many queer folks, I’m gaslighted every day. Our realities are ridiculed, ignored, challenged, denied, and made murky by this world. We are more likely to suffer depression and anxiety and all those medical pathologies made up to narrate our valid responses to an invalidating country.

We struggle not only to have our bodies recognized, but to have our minds declared cognizant enough to engage in the act of recognition, to recognize ourselves as ourselves. We struggle both to feel and for the right to feel. And we struggle to recall and maintain our histories because even within our own stories, some of us use our confluences of privilege and pain to overwhelm and drown out other queer voices.

In short: sometimes we gaslight each other. On a national level, gaslighting is a strategy employed by generally privileged queers in order to gain access to systemic power by performing sanctioned acts of erasure of other queer truths and identities considered more “disruptive” to dominant society. We see this in white-cis-washed films like “Stonewall” and the Gay Marriage movements which helped endear straight Americans to certain queer bodies because of perceived sameness, but did nothing to advocate for the validity of difference.

On an intimate level, gaslighting is a strategy employed by often similarly positioned queers in order to gain psychological power by performing acts of erasure towards their partners’ truths, especially those considered disruptive to the gaslighter’s dominant sense of self. I understand the urge here- having a queer self is already hard. We are continuously experiencing threats to not just our selves but to our right to have selves in the first place, and thus any request to engage in self-examination can be perceived as yet another ontological threat.

Plus, this level of self-examination requires us to also acknowledge the traumas that we collectively and individually carry within our queer bodies, and to engage with those traumas in order to avoid perpetuating them. In other words: we are asked to heal.

Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production? Have you been involved with 20% Theatre in the past and, if so, in what ways?

As an artist, I’m late-blooming, less a flower than an ivy, creeping up on even me. I spent six years fallow and asleep. I dropped strong roots though and found little veins of truth to stick my tubers in. And now that I’ve got a stalk and stem, I’m pulling those truths up through my body, up into my unfurling leaves.

20% Theatre is one of the first companies I’ve branched into. I directed two pieces for The Naked I: Self-Defined.

What social issues are important to you and how do they inform the art you create?

I feel like I answered this above in the section about queerness which for me is inextricable from fighting against the white supremacist cis-het patriarchy of capitalism.

What other artists or performances have inspired you over the years?

Recently: Faye Driscoll, Shá Cage, Michael Sakamoto, Rennie Harris, Eric F. Avery, Vie Boheme, Pedro Lander

Are you working on any other projects or are there others you hope to work on?

I am working on other projects! In addition to my Q STAGE piece, I’m also creating my second installation for Northern Spark and working on a series of short films about self-empathy. As a person both dysphoric and dissociative, I struggle to spend time in my body, and my films document the revulsion and joy of my self-embrace.

What is your favorite pre or post-rehearsal snack or meal?

My favorite pre AND post-rehearsal snack is grapefruit, steak, and La Croix.

What is your favorite hangout spot and why?

My favorite hangout spot is a secret little beach on the MPLS side of the Mississippi River because 1. I love the river, 2. I love being alone.

When you’re not deep in Q-STAGE rehearsal and development, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies or passions in life?

When not deep in Q STAGE, I spend my time facilitating youth programs and events at Intermedia Arts, and in the few hours I have not doing either of those things, I take my dog on long runs, I walk through the alleys looking for cool trash, and I try to find moments to sit still and just be me.

Featured Q-STAGE Artist: A.P. Looze

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Who are you and what is your Q-STAGE show called?

I’m A.P. Looze and my show is called “The Grief Experiments.”

As one of our 2016 Q-STAGE Artists, can you tell us about where the idea(s) for your show came from?

My friend Floyd passed away by suicide in 2014 and almost immediately I wanted to create something about that experience. In hindsight, I realize that impulse to make something was in fact a way of avoiding the pain and the loss I was feeling. I hadn’t grown from the experience yet. I was still entrenched in it. I think I found a new energy and a new way of looking at it after having lived some life after her death. After creating some distance from the trauma of that loss, I was better able to look at it for what it was, or what my memory thinks it was—the truth keeps changing. This piece feels like a snapshot of truths I experienced in the wake of Floyd’s death.

Have you been collaborating with any other artists to create this show? Who are they are how are they contributing?

Yes! Zoe Michael is directing this piece, and Lisa Brimmer is providing some voice work. I have worked with Zoe before, and I trust her instincts and thought she would be a great fit for this piece. She has provided so much shape, texture, and detailed elements to my writing and very broad stroke ideas of what I have wanted to convey. Her perspective has been so valuable.

Lisa is lending her support with some voice elements in this piece. Her voice has added such a presence, distinctive personality, and a particular dimension to the piece that allows it to open up. She has also been lending a very keen, empathetic and inquisitive perspective to the rehearsal process that feels enlivening.

Overall, I have been so grateful for both of them in this process.

Why do you feel it is important to share this story/the story(ies) of your performance with the community?

I think this piece is rooted in telling and showing my truth—the hard, horrible, hilarious, deep, joyous mind bending truth of my grief. I hope that elements of my experience will resonate with others. My intention is not to teach a lesson about grief to the community because as universal as grief is, it is also a deeply individual experience and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. I hope it gives people an opportunity to reflect upon their own grief, our shared grief, everyone’s grief, the big griefs and the little griefs that make up our everyday lives. That is the best thing I could ask for.

What aspects of your queer identity do you hope to express through your Q-STAGE piece?

A question I have been so interested in is: “If I existed all by myself with no one around, would I still be transgender?” I think one answer is no, because with no one to compare myself to, I couldn’t know there was any other way to be, or look or feel. But…do we know that? Is there something way deep down in the soul that would just know, “this is not the body I belong in”? Is my queerness always dependent on society, the friends I surround myself with, etc…or can it be completely separate from that and come from within?

Floyd and another friend whom I severed ties with had huge influences on how I defined my own queerness. When these people suddenly disappeared from my everyday life, I felt untethered. I thought to myself, “Is my queerness a farce?” In the midst of these losses of friendships, I also bid adieu to alcohol. I didn’t realize how much of a foundation alcohol was to my existence as a queer person until that, too, disappeared. Most gatherings of queer people that I found myself in included alcohol. Sometimes we surround ourselves with people and things that serve the purpose to cover up our own pain and suffering. I had to start asking myself what is the queerness and, bottom line, sense of self, that I cultivate on my own that are not attached to these people and this substance that are no longer in my life? I went back to the roots of my queerness, my own self-discovery of being queer as a child in order to understand and accept the validity of being queer from a gender and sexuality standpoint. I think this piece shows how grieving is heavily influenced by queerness, and queerness is heavily influenced by grieving. They go hand in hand. There is a sense of letting go that happens with being queer—letting go of the expectations we and others have of our bodies and then finding what rings the most true on our own.

Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production? Have you been involved with 20% Theatre in the past and, if so, in what ways?

I have done a variety of things on stage. I wrote for and performed in 20% Theatre’s The Naked I: Wide Open in 2012. I have collaborated with Lazer Goese on a number of occasions. I have also done a solo piece as a part of Pleasure Rebel. I was very into photography when I was in high school and earlier parts of college. My place of artistic and creative inspiration and “work”, so to speak, lands in the realm of writing. My ideas come to life through words more than anything else.

What social issues are important to you and how do they inform the art you create?

I think healthily expressing feelings and healing from trauma are social issues. We live in a society that idealizes intellectual thinking and action-oriented productivity that has tangible, measurable results. Where’s the space for the feelings? For listening to our inner selves and to others? There is so much pain in the queer community, the entire world. It’s an abundant amount of hurt that seems so challenging to express, uncover, understand and resolve in the midst of living in a world that has so many expectations thrust upon us that divert our attention from looking within. It’s hard to measure emotional growth. It’s hard to measure self worth and and connections to others. What does that yardstick look like? I feel lucky and privileged to have had the time to look within myself and create this piece. It has been a blessing. I want everyone to have access to the time and space and people that can help heal. It is so important to build healthy selves, healthy relationships to others, and healthy relationships to existence. This is where a lot of my energy has been located.

What other artists or performances have inspired you over the years?

Sandra Cisneros, Mary Oliver, Jeanette Winterson, Eula Biss, Claudia Rankine and Aimee Bender stand out to me as inspirational writers. I saw Masanari Kawahara’s piece Little Boy soon after Floyd passed away and that really stuck with me. When I need to sink into images, I have turned to Francesca Woodman.

Are you working on any other projects or are there others you hope to work on?

This piece has been such a journey. Sometimes when I sit with the material, I think of other ways of entering into it. Performance has been helpful to open up certain parts of my experience, but I keep wondering how images, dancing, and additional writing can open up even more doors. How can I see this from every angle? I keep making lists on the backs of envelopes of things I want to do that are related to this material, and things that are on a different wavelength.  It’s exciting to make lists. It’s terrifying to do them. Where does one begin?

What is your favorite hangout spot and why?

Physically? My couch. It’s so versatile! I can sit on it, lay on it, watch movies on it, write, eat, nap, think, hang out with people on it, cry, etc. It’s like this island in my apartment where everything is possible.

But really, hanging out in my imagination has been pretty great lately. I can access it any time, and in all my time being alive, I have never lost it. And, everyone has one and they can be shared! It’s magical.

When you’re not deep in Q-STAGE rehearsal and development, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies?

Writing, reading, and thinking. Also, I’m learning how to juggle. Thanks, Puck.

Don’t miss A.P.’s The Grief Experiments in Set “B” of Q-STAGE: New Works Series, performing Friday & Saturday, May 20 and 21 at 7:30pm, and Sunday, May 22 at 2pm.