Check out this spotlight video from Erin Perry highlighting The Legacy Arts Project and the impact of Hotline Ring!
A Collective Virtual Fundraiser
We are thrilled to announce the return of Hotline Ring, a collective virtual fundraiser led by Kelly Strayhorn Theater in collaboration with 1Hood Media, BOOM Concepts, Braddock Carnegie Library Association, Dreams of Hope, The Legacy Arts Project, and PearlArts. Join us for the live streaming program as Hotline Ring brings together our aligned missions and our supporters to create a spectacular event as an opportunity for giving that will have an enormous impact on our region.
The benefits of meditation cannot be ignored, but not everyone finds it easy to sit in one spot and in total silence. This is why another type of meditation, called movement meditation, can be so beneficial. Movement meditation is not your usual meditation where you sit still and focus on your breath. Instead, you are moving through various positions with a mindful and slow pace.
Gia Fagnelli, a third-generation yinzer, the current reigning Mx. Innovative at the Portland Erotic City Awards, and a writer, speaker, death doula, video producer, actor, performer and extraterrestrial gender experiment who combines the arts of drag, pole, prose, video, sound, installation and movement and transmits the amalgam to screens and stages across the galaxy, and Jordan Harris, an experimental movement artist, aerialist, choreographer, dance instructor, and drag artist currently working in both Pittsburgh, PA and Austin, TX will present their interpretation of movement meditation with the assistance of various movement artists during Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s Freshworks Residency Showing: Moving Meditations – Kinaesthetics on Friday, May 7 at 7:00pm on Zoom!
Being quarantined during the pandemic was the inspiration for this 30-minute meditation tool for community members in the world of drag and sex work. “I noticed two things,” Gia said. “One, we definitely need to recognize that we need a work/life balance and that television is programmed to make us nervous, panicked and tense. I wanted to create something therapeutic that focused on healing through movement with different artists from the drag world to sex workers. The piece will show how we can use our bodies as movement meditative art.
” However, the piece is open to a variety of folks as Jordan explains, “Although we focus specifically and identify with sex workers and queer bodies of color, our piece is open to anyone who consumes the meditative medium.” Gia agreed stating, “A lot of folks will be able to engage and recognize their own energy and representation in the piece. It’s not literal. It’s very abstract. I believe that we are all a cluster of quivering cells and will be able to identify with something or someone in the piece.
” The main objective is for the viewing audience to notice their current state and notice if their breathing is more relaxed and their heartbeat is at a steady rate. “I don’t think people realize when they fall asleep with the television on their subconscious is soaking in the panic, noise and explosions,” Gia said. “We are recording and internalizing this stress and it’s living in our bodies. This piece will provide a rinse cycle for the mind, spirit and be visually stimulating.
” The soundscore for Moving Meditations – Kinaesthetic was created by dynamic Pittsburgh music and dance duo slowdanger who collaborated on the experience with Fagnelli and Harris. To experience Moving Meditations – Kinaesthetic yourself, visit Kelly-Strayhorn.org to purchase your tickets and join us on Friday, May 7 at 7:00pm.
Moving Meditations – Kinaesthetic s
Gia Fagnelli & Jordan Harris
Freshworks Residency Showing
Gia Fagnelli is a third-generation yinzer, the current reigning Mx. Innovative at the Portland Erotic City Awards, and a writer, speaker, death doula, video producer, actor, performer and extraterrestrial gender experiment who combines the arts of drag, pole, prose, video, sound, installation and movement and transmits the amalgam to screens and stages across the galaxy. Jordan Harris is an experimental movement artist, aerialist, choreographer, dance instructor, and drag artist currently working in both Pittsburgh, PA and Austin, TX. The artists collaboration proposes a meditation tool for community members in the worlds of drag, art, and sex work, exploring queer creative alchemy, gender identity, and the intimacy and isolation of performing digitally. Moving Meditations – Kinaesthetic features movements and a healing soundscape by Pittsburgh’s slowdanger.
Contextual writing from Jasmine Hearn concerning [text me when you get home] the upcoming Artist Talk with Joseph Hall.
Joseph Hall and I met a lesbian dance party in 2011 or maybe in the lobby of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. If the first, I was in complete shock that he won first place in the dance competition that we both had entered into. I placed second. If the second, I was in complete admiration of this person who cared so deeply for artists and order.
Joseph and I kept meeting on dance floors from then on at SAPPHO — a bimonthly queer dance party … at post show dance parties at the Kelly Strayhorn… at protests.
We found each other in sweat in joy in movement together spinning in the night.
As I continue my residency at Kelly Strayhorn Theater with A Patient Practice, I am remembering how I have learned to move my queer black body and listening to who I learned from, alongside.
Queer dancing black body
Queer dancing black body at night with spirit and kin alongside
Queer dancing black breathing body at night alongside
Sweat through my white geometric print dress
We were together tequila on the floor
Gin on tongues
Maybe you make out with that one
And I make out with this one
Meeting you at first at a lesbian dance off
And I identify lesbian
You had heels
I got second place
And spark of interest
Who is this guy?
Living room spillage of grooves and the tempo of want and release
Sappho — a bimonthly queer dance party
Like full moon
Like new moon
Like best time to make medicine of sweat and the accidental bumps that immediately are followed by sympathy and apology
The naming of ourselves
Rhythm that didn’t prescribe it self
Cypher without pressure
Sometimes white hands on our breathing black brown sweaty bodies
The Walk home always measured
In the middle of the street
Or lucky rides with friends with cars
Bus no longer running
Black bodies running or walking fast
In middle streets
STAYCEE PEARL dance project & Soy Sos is seeking 2 full company members and apprentices for upcoming seasons. Contracts include training, rehearsals, performances, and teaching. Please review their website to learn more about SPdp&SS at spdpandsoysos.com. Hourly and salaried pay information will be discussed upon invitation to the next stage of the audition process.
May 10, 2021, Video Audition Deadline.
July 5, 2021, In-person Call Back in Pittsburgh, PA by invitation only (Invited dancers will be notified by May 24, 2021).
Aug 16, 2021, Contract Start Date On-Ground in Pittsburgh, PA
There’s a movement that’s happening. Sex workers have been fighting for decriminalization for generations. Lena Chen, Chinese American performance artist, writer, and activist; and Maggie Oates, who works at the intersection of art, privacy, and computing technology, building containers that facilitate collaborative play and intimacy, are the creators behind OnlyBans, an interactive game that critically examines the policing of marginalized bodies and sexual labor. The artists will present a play through of the game with Kelly Strayhorn Theater as their virtual Freshworks Residency Presentation on Friday, April 2, 2021 at 7:00pm on Zoom!
Many people use the internet to promote their activities and events, amplify the work and good news of others, see what others are doing, and scroll for enjoyment. They accept the social media platform’s attempt to “control content” as a form of adding order to the platforms and even providing additional online security. The reality is that this is one form of censorship that targets sex workers and other industries.
In fact, sex workers face higher levels of stigma and discrimination than those in other service professions. And you can thank the United States Congress for that!
In 2018, President Trump signed into law a set of controversial bills intended to curb illegal sex trafficking online. Both bills — the House bill known as FOSTA, the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, and the Senate bill, SESTA, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act — have been hailed by advocates as a victory for sex trafficking victims, though their efficacy has been questioned by critics – including American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation who warn of threat to free speech.
The bills also poked a huge hole in the Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. Known as “Section 230” and generally seen as one of the most important pieces of internet legislation ever created, it holds that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” In other words, Section 230 has allowed the internet to thrive on user-generated content without holding platforms and ISPs responsible for whatever those users might create.
“The Internet has long been celebrated as a limitless realm of free expression, but this digital wonderland is becoming increasingly oppressive to those who express their sexuality as part of their art, activism, or work,” Freshworks artist Lena Chen explained.
FOSTA-SESTA creates an exception to Section 230 that means website publishers would be responsible if third parties are found to be posting ads for sexula services — including consensual sex work — on their platforms. While the legislation purports to end trafficking, what FOSTA-SESTA has actually done is create confusion and immediate repercussions among a range of internet sites as they grapple with the ruling’s sweeping language.
In the aftermath, numerous websites took action to censor or ban parts of their platforms in response (remember Craigslist’s Personals section?) – not because those parts of the sites were promoting ads for sexual services, but because monitoring potentially unlawful content was too hard.
So, who is a sex worker? Turns out that “sex work” is a broad category; and OnlyBans will spotlight a specific area. “We are focused on people who are advertising their services online and people who may be selling digital content,” Maggie said.
If you didn’t catch it, OnlyBans, is a play on “Only Fans,” which is a content subscription service where content creators can earn money from users who subscribe to their content as “fans.” The site is popular in the adult entertainment industry.
So, how does the digital performance game work? Assuming the role of a sex worker, players attempt to establish an online fanbase and earn money through posting sexy images provided in the game. Players encounter content moderation algorithms, shadow-banning, “real name” policies, facial recognition software, and other threats based on actual experiences of sex workers. As their content gets flagged, they discover just how “free” the internet really is when you are engaged in stigmatized labor subject to policing and criminalization.
“OnlyBans offers a speculative vision of how marginalized communities might band together to protest these unjust policies and create better alternatives,” Lena said.
Built on Twine, OnlyBans incorporates actual images from real-life sex workers who have been censored and deplatformed by social media companies. “We hope this interactive experience can educate and entertain viewers through combining the aesthetics of social media with real knowledge and engaging storytelling,” Maggie said.
The game prototype was initially developed by Lena Chen with Open Data Institute’s Violeta Mezeklieva through a residency with Polis180 (Berlin). Now as artists-in-residence at Kelly Strayhorn Theater (Pittsburgh), Lena, Maggie, and their collaborator Goofy Toof are revamping both the gameplay and visual design. OnlyBans incorporates research from Hacking//Hustling’s study on content moderation “Posting Into The Void” and draws inspiration from Lien Tran’s social impact game on condom criminalization “Cops & Rubbers.”
To experience OnlyBans yourself, visit Kelly-Strayhorn.org to purchase your Pay What Makes You Happy! ticket and join us on Friday, April 2 at 7:00pm.
In addition, given the March 16 racially and misogynistically motivated massacre in Atlanta that intersects with the issues of OnlyBans, we share this message from Chen and affirm our institutional and individual solidarity with Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities, immigrants, sex workers, and marginalized people around the world.
“As the daughter of Chinese immigrants, as a trauma survivor, and as a sex worker, I see elements of my own story in the lives of the victims in Atlanta.
Their murders were the consequence of a culture that has normalized sexual shame, gender-based violence, and xenophobic fear-mongering.
Digital surveillance and deplatforming is intertwined with state sanctioned violence and discrimination against sex workers, such as police raids leading to the arrest, deportation, and deaths of migrant massage parlor workers.
Research shows that increased policing, whether on the streets or on the Internet, only endangers sex workers further. Decriminalization is the most effective approach to ensuring the safety and autonomy of sex workers.
The killings in Atlanta are a traumatic reminder of the violence faced by AAPI and sex worker communities everyday. I hope we can take this moment to rest and to care for ourselves and each other. As we move forward, we must work in collaboration with those directly harmed by policies that continue to stigmatize and criminalize our existence.”
Please support these organizations which serve Asian migrant massage workers:
In response to the violence in Atlanta, Lena is co-organizing a day of healing and art with Sex Workers Outreach Project Pittsburgh and women AAPI artists and organizers. The event will feature free wellness services donated by community members. If you would like to volunteer, donate a service or product (for care packages to be distributed at Asian-owned massage businesses), or offer financial support, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
REST: A Day of Healing & Art
For The Asian American Pacific Islander, Massage Worker, & Sex Worker Community
As a part of Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s Freshworks, a month-long creative residency for Pittsburgh-based artists and collaborators, NaTasha Thompson and Petra Floyd will debut their work in progress entitled, “Lavender Terrace.” Both are graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University and have extensive experience using their work to communicate underrepresented voices and shared cultural inheritances.
I had the opportunity to talk with them and from watching their interactions with each other I assumed that they were long-time friends only to find out that their relationship is just 1 year in the making! In fact, Lavender Terrace started out as a classroom assignment and blossomed into a creative work along with their friendship.
NaTasha was reading Harlem Renaissance writer Marita Bonner’s The Purple Flower for an analysis assignment and a few times the two would bump into each other during classes at CMU. “The School of Drama and the School of Art were hosting interdisciplinary workshops – one was experimental writing and the other was experimental dance,” Petra explains. “We were the only two Black students in the classes and naturally gravitated to each other.”
“After completing The Purple Flower, I reached out to Petra to see if she would be interested in doing visual work for an idea I had around the play and that we could use it to experiment inside of our education, and after the first draft, it took off from there!”
The idea took off indeed! The two entered the first iteration of their work to an on-campus contest and won. “The College of Fine Arts hosts an interdisciplinary award and I reached out to NaTasha and told her that I think we should enter it,” Petra said. “It was a two-day marathon of work and we won! We won $2500 and this provided an opportunity to execute something really big, but then COVID didn’t end. Then we saw the announcement for Freshworks and it provided a way that we couldn’t work at school as well as an opportunity to work with others – safely.”
Lavender Terrace is a speculative movement response to Marita Bonner’s play The Purple Flower. Bonner’s writing was first published in The Crisis, the official publication of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1928. Bonner’s play is an allegory for sexism and racism against black women, and the play was never performed in Bonner’s lifetime.
The two creatives didn’t want to spoil any surprises but shared that the audience will experience beautifully choreographed movement pieces, pre-recorded performances, live elements and interactive opportunities. We will also meet two characters “Cornerstone” and “Finest Blood” pulled from the original work, who represent the problematic tropes that have persisted about Black people over the past century. “Our work is about the pursuit of “life at its fullest” by Black Americans in the late 20’s,” NaTasha said. “Our goal is to craft snapshots of that pursuit over the years.”
Lavender Terrance debuts on Friday, March 5 at 7:00PM. Click Here to purchase your ticket to this Pay What Makes You Happy performance.
When you hear the names Gene Kelly and Billy Strayhorn you think of two entertainment legends: Kelly, an actor, dancer, singer, filmmaker, comedian and choreographer and Strayhorn a jazz composer, pianist, lyricist and arranger.
What doesn’t come to mind is that both individuals were being monitored by the FBI. This juicy nugget came up as I was listening in on a conversation between Patricia Ward Kelly, official biographer and wife of Gene Kelly and David Hajdu, official biographer for Billy Strayhorn as they met for the first time during a Zoom call I arranged with KDKA TV & Radio Reporter Lynne Hayes Freeland. We all got together to chat about the live moderated conversation that the three of them will have during Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s Suite Life 2020 Concert on November 28th where, for the first time, we will pay tribute to both of the organization’s namesakes.
During the virtual meet and greet, Mrs. Kelly casually asks Mr. Hajdu, “Do you have Billy’s FBI files?” And he replies, calm and matter-of-factly, “Why yes, they are over here in these boxes.” He returns the question back to her, “What about you? Do you have Gene’s files?” She says, “Yes, they are right here in my office?”
Wait? What just happened? FBI files? I had so many questions: Why did the FBI have files have on Gene Kelly and Billy Strayhorn? What did they do? Why was the FBI watching them? What did the files say? How many files did they have each?
Realizing this opportunity was not for me to get my questions I answered, I quickly started searching for information on my laptop. There I found a treasure trove of information that the FBI’s focus on musicians and entertainers has its roots in the agency’s Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), which led to the surveillance of several of the most important entertainers and Black jazz musicians of the mid-20th century. The bulk of this activity took place when FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover unleashed this program which aimed to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” subversive political groups.
The bureau had been keeping close tabs on the civil rights movement, accumulating massive files on leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. The FBI also spent countless hours investigating thousands of celebrities, entertainers, writers and other prominent individuals during the Cold War. The official story was that the effort rooted out communists and others who wanted to overthrow the government. The reality is that countless citizens who had not committed wrongdoing found their lives under the bureau’s lens of hyper-acuity.
Like many others in Hollywood, Gene Kelly was under investigation for his presumed “Communist” activities. He, of course, was not a Communist, but he was under constant surveillance by the FBI under the heading “Security Matter C.”
Among the earliest entries are those for Duke Ellington, reaching back to the 1930s. Agents compiled a dossier that runs as a counterpoint during his life, that had little to do with his musical achievements. The first entry is from 1938. Jazz historians mark this as the year Ellington first met Billy Strayhorn. For the FBI, it was when he performed for the All-Harlem Youth Conference, a progressive gathering that included well wishes sent by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Ellington’s band would play at a variety of concerts, but if the FBI didn’t like what group was hosting the event – for them that meant the entertainers were not only supporters, but participants of the groups.
Mrs. Kelly and Mr. Hajdu also talked about what influence the City of Pittsburgh had on both artists, how both felt like outcasts and navigated discrimination, and so much more! I was amazed on how much I didn’t know about our namesakes outside of their celebrated talents, and how watching the interplay and connection between both biographers would be so engaging.
I invite you to join me and listen in on a LIVE moderated conversation led by KDKA-TV & Radio Reporter Lynne Hayes Freeland, with Mrs. Patricia Ward Kelly and Mr. David Hajdu on Saturday, November 28 at 6:00pm, right before the Suite Life concert that will feature music from both entertainment giants, performed under the musical direction of Pittsburgh’s own Poogie Bell!
Every Wednesday at 2:00pm, KST Deputy Director Orlana Darkins Drewery takes to Instagram Live for conversations with the KST community in Pittsburgh, and across the USA. Join us to see how folks are managing the impact of COVID-19. For this Wednesday, April 15th stream, Orlana chats it up with Alumni Theater Company (ATC) founder, Hallie Donner. Check out Alumni Theater Company here: https://www.alumnitheatercompany.org
Hallie Donner graduated from Bucknell University in 1993 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a teaching certificate. Hallie started her career as a third grade teacher at Featherbed Lane Elementary School in Baltimore, MD. Each of her four years at Featherbed, she volunteered to direct a school musical. Realizing that producing theater with young performers was her true passion, Hallie moved to Pittsburgh to obtain a Master’s degree in Arts Management at Carnegie Mellon University in 2000. Upon receiving her Master’s degree in 2000, Hallie began teaching at the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Charter School a K-5 public charter school in East Liberty. From 2000 – 2016, Hallie founded and developed an innovative drama program at the charter school that integrates theater education with classroom studies and values education where young people explore and develop their creative capacity and personal character. In 2008, Hallie founded the Alumni Theater Company (ATC) to provide more intense learning and performance for youth in grades 6-12. ATC began as a group of exceptionally talented alumni from the charter school, and in 2012 became an independent 501(c)(3) organization.
Down with ODD is a part of KST Global Stream, KST’s COVID-19 responsive online programming initiative.
Below is video of the conversation between Orlana Darkins Drewery and Hallie Donner Check out the full schedule of upcoming guests here.
Every Tuesday at 12:30pm, KST Executive Director Joseph Hall takes to Instagram Live for conversations with arts leaders in Pittsburgh, across the USA, and internationally. Tune in, get to know Joseph, and find out how he and fellow arts leaders around the world are adapting to the challenges brought on by COVID-19.
For this Tuesday, April 14th stream, Joseph was joined by “Bessie” award winning multi-disciplinary artist and Brooklyn, NY based community organizer, Maria Bauman-Morales. Check out Maria Bauman-Morales and MBDance here: http://www.mbdance.net
Maria Bauman-Morales is a “Bessie” award winning multi-disciplinary artist and community organizer based in Brooklyn, NY. She is 2020 Columbia College Dance Center Practitioner-in-Residence, 2019 Gibney Dance in Process residency award winner, 2018-20 UBW Choreographic Center Fellow, 2017-19 Artist in Residence at Brooklyn Arts Exchange and was the 2017 Community Action Artist in Residence at Gibney. In 2009 she founded MBDance which recently premiered (re)Source to sold-out audiences, co-commissioned by the Chocolate Factory Theater and BAAD!. She creates bold and intimate artworks for MBDance, via dream-mapping and nuanced, powerful physicality. Centering non-linear stories, bodies and musings of queer people of color, she draws on her studies of English literature, capoeira, improvisation, dancing in nightclubs and concert dance classes to emphasize ancestors, imagination, and Spirit while embodying inter- dependence. Bauman-Morales is also a performance collaborator with Jumatatu Poe’s and Donte Beecham’s Let ‘im Move You: This is a Formation. Previously, she danced with Urban Bush Women (UBW) and was UBW’s Director of Education and Community Engagement before becoming Associate Artistic Director. She still works with Urban Bush Women as part of the UBW Summer Leadership Institute advisory council and faculty member for the Summer Leadership Institute. She is an active member of our dance community outside of choreography and performance. Bauman-Morales is a Core Trainer with The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, helping arts organizations and university dance programs understand and undo racism. In 2014, she co-founded a grassroots organization, Artists Co-creating Real Equity, which won the 2018 BAX Arts and Artists in Progress Award for working to undo racism in our daily lives. Organizing to undo racism informs her artistic work and the two areas are each ropes in a Double-dutch that is her holistic practice. She is also a mentor to early career artists through Queer Art Mentorship.
19 Mins with Joseph Hall, is a part of KST Global Stream, KST’s COVID-19 responsive online programming initiative.
Below is video of the conversation between Joseph Hall and Maria Bauman-Morales. Check out the full schedule of upcoming guests here.
KST is thrilled to welcome Joseph Hall back to Pittsburgh as the new Executive Director of Kelly Strayhorn Theater. Hall’s first day on the job was Monday, March 2. Check out the short message from Hall below and join us for his official community welcome reception as a part of Neighborhood Happy Hour on Thursday, March 19 from 7:00pm – 9:00pm at Kelly Strayhorn Theater. HUNY will be there DJing sounds! Check back for more details on Hall’s first 100 days with KST and exciting news about the future of the institution.
Neighborhood Happy Hour: Homecoming and Welcome Reception for Joseph Hall
This monthly social at the KST Lobby Bar brings the people of East Liberty together! Grab a drink, meet your neighbors and chat over a snack from a local food truck. Invited guest speakers spark conversation and each event offers community members an opportunity to share news, announcements, and information about other East Liberty happenings, events, and concerns!
This season’s first Happy Hour will be a Homecoming and Welcome Reception for KST’s new Executive Director, Joseph Hall. Join us as we invite East Liberty and all of Pittsburgh to welcome Hall back to town! Enjoy music by one of Pittsburgh’s hottest DJ’s “HUNY,” delicious appetizers, KST Lobby Bar cocktails and more!