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Glad to be Stevie Jay

Interview by Paul Burston/Time Out Magazine

Judging by the title of his show, the life Stevie Jay leads is bigger than most. Described as a 'cosmic variety show', Life Love Sex Death...and Other Works in Progress attracted rave reviews in Stevie Jay's home town and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where it played last year. Unashamedly autobiographical, the show evolved through a series of poetry slams, workshops, and guest spots at fundraisers. "I had piles of performance ideas that I'd been collecting for years," Stevie Jay explains from his home in Charlottesville, Virginia. Then one day I brought this enormous stack of papers to a writing coach, Kevin Quirk, and got it all organised. Six weeks later I started performing the show."

Asked if the show really is as exposing as it sounds, he laughs. "During the first run of the show, I had fallen under the spell of a certain someone...I wouldn't exactly call it a relationship...more like a multi-chakra psycho-entanglement. Anyway, I was performing every Sunday night, and each week there would be a new development in this personal drama, and so I just kept putting it all on the stage; personal letters and emails were turned into monologues and sketches. At one point, we had this horrible dinner date, and I transcribed the real-life dialogue from the worst part of the evening, added some music and turned it into a skit. I figured that people would find this all terribly self-indulgent, but when I performed the scene, jaws dropped and people gasped, ‘Oh, my God! That’s my life up there!’ I’ve come to understand that the deeper I go with the material, it’s no longer just about me; it’s about everybody.”

And he really does mean everybody. As you may have gathered, Stevie Jay is not one to march in parades and wave banners, and has, in fact, been called "a latter-day Lenny Bruce." When asked to respond to this description, Stevie says, "I definitely feel a kindred spirit there. Lenny had a passion for blowing the whistle on societal myths and cultural phobias about so many things—sex, race, religion...and he used humour to illuminate this culture's preoccupation with sexual labels, too. I, personally, have never understood the custom of turning one's sexual orientation into a worldview, or into one's personal identity. And that point is made in the show, that life is just so much bigger than that. Love is so much bigger than that."

Fine words, but all the love in the world can't alter the fact that for a show like Stevie Jay's to be seen, it also has to be marketed. And for all his determination to break down barriers and refuse labels, his show is being marketed by a PR firm specialising in gay theatre. Is this a contradiction he recognises? "I do, and I ignore it, just as I ignore it in my personal life. If someone asks me directly, 'Are you gay?,' my answer, across the board is, 'Why are you asking? Do you wanna have sex with me? If so, then tell me you wanna have sex with me, straight up, and leave it at that. I'm a person. I'm Stevie Jay."

"My feeling is, the only way we will ever move past this gay/straight stuff is if we stop making it an issue, and the very asking of the question makes it an issue; the same can be said for answering it. I know this can be confounding because we're hard-wired to put things in a box. But this isn't just some new-agey concept for me. It's my reality. This is how I feel and think and live."

"Life, Love, Sex, Death...and Other Works in Progress" is at the Finborough. See Theatre: Fringe.

Click here to learn more about Stevie Jay's feelings on the subject of sexual labels.

life, sex, death, and other works in progress
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