Behind the interviews: Bruce K.

Wednesday, January 14, 11:06 PM written by AFT 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?

When Kelli told me about the project, I was drawn to the notion that loneliness can be an experience that young and old share and might address together. Having traversed the path from a gay youth to a gay senior, I imagine that the challenges of finding meaningful connections could create a bond between LGBTQIA youth and older adults. I like that idea, and I’d like to believe that we can learn from each other.

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

Of course, loneliness can be a product of modern life. The ties of extended families weaken, the power of friendship dissipates, and our greatest access to community is often reduced to “liking” or “friending” someone on a smartphone. But I think that LGBTQIA people are also vulnerable to feeling lonely as a legacy of homophobia. Sadly, as a psychotherapist and social service professional, I hear the lament of loneliness almost as much from today’s LGBTQIA young people as I did from my own generation. In spite of all the progress we’ve made toward securing our rights, the truth is that many LGBTQ youth continue to experience rejection, ostracism, harassment and violence that is fueled by homophobia. The result can be a lifetime of fear and insecurity that leads to not only alienation from others, but also alienation from one’s self. Within these lie the seeds of loneliness.

For LGBTQIA seniors, that legacy may persist and be amplified by the stigma of aging as well as by the profound losses that are part of the aging process. As I age, I am aware of my diminishing circle and my fears of being abandoned or alone. This need not be our destiny, but that will require a different vision of LGBTQIA aging that includes connection with those who are different from us by virtue of age and/or other qualities and dimensions.

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

I would hope that the piece will build connection; bridges of empathy based on shared experience, mutual respect and care. I also hope that it will generate a will to create structures that reduce loneliness and alienation among and between young and old. Each has so much to give to the other which could prove so valuable in this time of otherwise tenuous connections.

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?

We are here to love in one form or another; get on with it. Don’t let all the other challenges of life deter you, embitter you, or cause you to minimize the importance of this.

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

I guess I would start by acknowledging difference. I am a product of my times just as you will be a product of yours. The lessons of my life may not suit you. Consequently, I cannot adequately prepare you for what lies ahead in your life. Still, I did my best and I like what I have become, so if there are any lessons of my life that may be useful to you, I’m happy to share them. Regardless, as I am grateful to those who came before me for all the good they created and the sacrifices they made, so I hope you will be mindful of those who came before you. We came here to love, just like you, and were fortunate to have expanded the space in which that could occur. We did that for us and for you. Build on it. We can help (just ask!), but the next steps are yours.


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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