Bisbee Pride, Day Two
Thursday, June 18, 2015
After I woke up, I timed each of my poems so I could have a realistic idea of how many poems I had time for. The rest of the day blurred together, and then it was time to set up for my first performance.
Set-up was quick, and left me with plenty of time to get to know the other performers. I talked with Venus DeMars and her students Alex, Molly, and Ruby, among others, and they were all fascinating people. Alex was flamboyantly awesome, Molly had the most amazing pink hair and radiated intelligence, and Ruby, though quiet, stunned with her depth. Then there was Venus. Tough as nails, courageous, and remarkably compassionate, I felt lucky to speak with her.
Suddenly, though, it was time to start.
Pete Goldlust, the Director of Central School Project, the organization that brought us to Bisbee and put together these amazing events, stepped on stage to introduce me as I looked around at the almost completely full theater. A minute later, I firmed my knees and walked onto the stage.
I performed 14 poems, the slight shaking fading more and more with each. The audience was rapt, a room of about 80 sitting in complete silence, and more than one had tears on their faces by the end. I could feel the emotions running high, and when I stepped off the stage, the applause surprised me with its fervor. When Pete mentioned my workshop the next day, multiple audience members called out to ask the time.
The night would only get better from there.
Venus took center stage first, with a riveting, emotional performance on coming out, and the changes that have (and haven’t) happened since then. I could feel tears clinging to the corners of my eyes as she stepped down and Molly walked forward.
Molly’s first piece was a powerful monologue, touching philosophy and identity in thoughtful ways as she spoke about the struggle to be yourself in a world that wants to put you in boxes so you fit with everyone else. Ruby followed with a heart-wrenching performance on who we’re told to be, covering a mirror with sticky notes and magazine cut-outs as she spoke, filling the mirror until her reflection disappeared. By the end, tears were streaming down my face. Molly then did another monologue exploring more themes of identity, and then it was Alex’s turn.
Alex’s performance began bemusing, grew to involve the audience, and ultimately culminated in a moving letter to a childhood crush that both broke my heart and gave me faith in the ability of people to grow. Then Venus stepped on stage again, and after smashing some memories, invited everyone on stage with a flashlight for a brilliant, powerful song. As the last chords faded into air, a bunch of my fellow audience members told me how much my poems had moved them. One in particular spoke to me about losing their wife, and how my poem Chasing Horizons had helped them heal. I was overwhelmed.
I spoke to a bunch more people at the after-party, where a friend who had seen me perform before told me she had cried throughout my entire set from pure overwhelming emotion, and I sold some books that evening as well. When I left, I felt like I was glowing. The trip had dawned brightly, and I couldn’t wait for the morning to come.