Behind the interviews: Kyla N.

Thursday, January 15, 10:14 PM written by About Face Theatre

At the end of January, AFT will proudly present the first public reading of the beginning portions of STANDING UNDERNEATH NIGHT AND DAY, a new project led by AFT Artistic Associate, Kelli Simpkins. The piece uses a collection of 50 interviews conducted over a five month period with intergenerational members of the Chicago LGBTQIA community and those advocating for youth and seniors. In the weeks leading up to the show, we will be sharing posts from a few of these folks to share their perspective on the piece and why they wanted to be involved.


What inspired you to become part of this project?

The resonance it had with the community as a whole, especially within the LGBTQIA community. Across generations of oppressed and marginalized people, loneliness is a daily part of life. This piece is inspiring because it speaks to the similarities among groups of people thought to have nothing in common. This project will give youth, elders, and everyone in between common ground because we all know what it is to be isolated. This project will bring light to these profound yet simple human emotions that haunt the fringes of society. It is enlightening to share the most vulnerable part of yourself to strangers in hopes that they will connect deeply with a piece of art no matter what community they identify with.

How would you explain this problem of loneliness within the LGBTQIA community to someone unfamiliar with the issue?

Loneliness in the LGBTQIA community is isolation by discrimination. This community is plagued by othering. People in the LGBTQIA community are constantly being left out of the idea of normalcy. Society holds tightly to it’s strict gender binaries and heteronormativity. This pushes people within this community into isolation because holding their girlfriend’s hand on the CTA grants looks from strangers, because wearing a dress could potentially get someone beaten to a pulp, because according to many people, the LGBTQIA community is not valid. It’s tough to hear someone tell you that you are not valid, that you are somehow fundamentally flawed. LGBTQIA in both the young and older communities become isolated. They feel lonely. They are called names and meant to feel “weird” for being who they are. It is isolating to think that who you are is wrong. If this is the case, then you will never be “right” or “normal” because that goes against who you fundamentally are. The denial of who we are leads to isolation and denial of self. LGBTQIA people feel as if they are the only ones who feel this way, that they cannot relate nor will they ever feel as if their thoughts and feelings are valid. The fear of being different drives this loneliness that leaves LGBTQIA feeling isolated and alone. Too often it feels as if there is no way out, that there will always be an uphill battle with the ones around you and ultimately with yourself. This is why loneliness is so deeply rooted in the LGBTQIA community.

How do you hope the piece will ultimately build community or change around this issue?

I hope this piece will get people in the LGBTQIA community to rally around one another, to increase the support for one another. Community can dilute loneliness. I hope this piece brings people outside of the community who will fight to uplift the LGBTQIA community. Not only to uplift, but to really connect to the loneliness and understand how much worse it may be. I want this to turn apathetic people outside of the community, into spokespeople for what the new idea of normal really is. To be normal is to be true to yourself. I also hope that this can strengthen the existing community and provide common ground for youth and elders despite the differences. I hope this project strengthens the existing community and embraces the people in the intersections as we look toward the future.

At this phase, the piece primarily explores the voices of young people and seniors in the community. What is one thing you’d like to tell to your younger self about life/love/community?

The future, without a doubt, will be better as long you are dedicated to creating it. This future can only happen if you are dedicated to being the best person you can be, staying true to yourself, loving yourself and giving back to the community from which you took. Don’t forget the importance of your community. Know that there is always work to be done. Never stop believing in the power of art. Never buy into apathy.

The piece also aims to find common ground between generations, so with that in mind, what is one thing you would want an elder community member to know about you?

I am still fighting for the community’s validity and I am standing on the shoulders of many people like you, who fought just to be seen.

Kyla is an actor, playwright and director in Chicago and is a member of About Face Theatre’s Youth Task Force.

by AFT Artistic Associate Kelli Simpkins
JANUARY 24th @ 7:00pm & JANUARY 25th @ 3:00pm
Center on Halsted | 3656 N Halsted St in Chicago

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