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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 thingssex, 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
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.