This weekend, the New Orleans Queer Youth Theater (NOQYT) debuts their first-ever public performance, Beyond Acceptance, an imaginative work that envisions a world liberated from conventional social norms regarding gender and sexuality. Founded in 2013, NOQYT is part of the Pride Youth Theater Alliance, a national network of independent queer youth theaters. NOQYT is led by co-directors Rebecca Mwase, Rachel Lee, and Evan Spigelman, all of whom are dedicated creating safe spaces of self-discovery for queer youth in New Orleans.
Last fall, NOQYT sponsored an “open workshop” semester for local youths who were interested in exploring the theatrical arts. In January of 2014, the group held auditions for their first core ensemble of performers, and Beyond Acceptance is the culmination of their work.
“Beyond Acceptance comes from conversations we’ve had with youth and activities and exercises we’ve done,” says Spigelman, a New Orleans theater artist and co-founder of the experimental troupe Skin Horse Theater.
“A lot of the youth felt that the prevailing language of acceptance that’s used in much of mainstream LGBTQ politics is not enough to value the totality of different queer and trans experiences, and so we created this play to start to imagine world beyond acceptance and a world even possibly beyond gender.”
Spigelman and his co-directors worked with the NOQYT ensemble on techniques like scene building, writing and storytelling, and movement and sound. For Spigelman, the process is just as important as the final product.
“I’ve been doing theater basically my whole life, and that is the way that I have actualized my own power and how I’ve chewed through some of my own questions around identity and queerness, and I know I am not the only one,” says Spigelman.
“I’m using tools that have helped me to provide a space for other queer youth. While there are lots of different organizations doing beautiful work around queer youth in New Orleans, there’s isn’t enough. So it’s an attempt to create one of those spaces and to be in concert with the other organizations that are doing work for queer youth and have a space for queer youth to actualize their power.”
Beyond Acceptance will debut on April 18 and 19 at 8:00 pm and April 20 at 3:00 pm at the Dryades Theater, 1232 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. in New Orleans. Admission is $15 for students and seniors, and a sliding scale of $20 and above for general admission.