All Together Now #11
Article by Noelani Kamelamela
(Somerville, MA) A day before their first dress rehearsal for All Together Now #11, collaborators Mark Lipman and Jenee Halstead sounded excited and hopeful, clearly in the middle of their creative process. A three way call before Halstead’s latest gig was bouncy and peppy with occasional noises as the connection faded in and out. Deferring politely to each other at times, they had an easy back and forth and provided me with insight into their recent reworking of the performance art piece “Welcome to the Closet.”
As frequent music collaborators and close friends they had been asked two years ago to create something for the fifth installment of the then recently launched mixed arts event series All Together Now. They expanded the idea of the closet through music, movement, dialogue, costumes, props and audience interaction.
For Lipman, a musician and therapist who identifies as queer, he said he was longing to explore the various ways in which he had been hiding pieces of himself as a performer, primarily his body and his desires. Halstead validated and related to his shame and also told her own histories of fear and shame. Together, they were able to gather the audience through their stories and metaphorically out of the closet.
The original work was guided by the headspaces both were in at the time.. Although only two years have passed, the issues the duo intends to center are slightly shifted. For so long, Halstead said she has seen herself as a singer/songwriter and a creative force without specifically thinking about womanhood as something that strongly applied to her. So many of the role models she saw in popular culture upheld values which didn’t appeal to her as a young woman who wanted to be an artist.
She said she has been coming to accept who she is as a woman, not necessarily aligned to all the ideals of womanhood but getting to actively parse out which pieces truly belong to her as a person. Lipman said he has been recently struggling with his voice. Resting to heal his main instrument has pushed forward new anxieties related to performing that he didn’t have two years ago.
They’ve both spent an intense time of hours and hours envisioning a new show that speaks more to their current journeys. At the same time, they said they still intend to push forward the idea of using the closet to envision and transform the shame that keeps people from expressing themselves fully or realizing pieces of themselves. Although the new work has emerged differently, the intention is still the same: to get the audience to witness and participate in releasing shame. They both still feel that so many personal issues are a direct product of how society enforces ideals and norms.
Both Mark and Jenee will be presenting new dialogue, as well as different cuts of live music and backing tracks. Jenee has a cover single soon to be released that speaks directly to coming out. At “All Together Now #11” in addition to “Welcome to the Closet,” there will also be live music performances with local rock band Hemway and hip-hop artist Red Shaydez. Local artist Michael C. Thorpe will be presenting on stage with his own textile designs. The event should be a special night captured by photographer Omari Spears.