MUHLENBERG COLLEGE "LIVE TO TELL"
The LIVE TO TELL project was so tender and fierce. One of the artists in the project Greg Paradis wrote this really lovely essay about our work together
It's Greg, from Muhlenberg College's Live to Tell. This picture is beautiful. I wanted to say that I had a fantastic time in LTT. It was the best experience I have ever had doing anything theatrical. I may even go so far as to say it was the best experience I have had, period. I wrote an article for the Muhlenberg Weekly about Live to Tell (i was asked to write it), but it didn't fit what they had wanted - they had wanted something impartial, something without bias. I simply couldn't do that. So here's the article, in case you were interested in reading it. Right before he left us for good, Tim Miller signed my Fag Bag. You have probably seen me with this bag before – it is a plain brown messenger bag that I sling over my left shoulder while the bag dangles on the right. However, what makes it a Fag Bag rather than simply a bag is the fact that almost every inch of its surface is covered with pins, most of which can be seen as “gay” in one way or another – I have scores of “gay-themed” pins (“Proud 2 B Fabulous,” “I’m Way over the Rainbow), about a dozen musical theatre pins (“Don’t Talk Like a Slut, Shelley!” “RENT,” “Ruprecht”), several progressively liberal pins (“War is NOT the Answer,” “What Would Buddha Do”), and several random pins that had quotations or pictures which I felt were either amusing, relevant, or somehow important to me as a person (“Strand Bookstore,” “I Give Good Hugs,” and this weird sparkly diamond thing I found in the box office lost-and-found, plus many more). And now my Fag Bag has a message from Tim Miller. It reads, Greg! Queer brother! Live loud & proud, Love Tim Miller. The first thing I noticed was the overabundance of exclamation points. Tim loves his exclamation points. In his book BODY BLOWS, there are places in which he has put several one right after the other in a sort of exclamation point ménage a trois (!!!). I then noticed how he called me brother. When I read that, I felt my heart begin to warm and my soul begin to lift. Because in a way, I am his brother. And I am Kara’s brother, and KK’s, and Sina’s, and Arielle and Tony and Match and Courtney and Kyle and Kaityln and Adam and Jen and Amanda and Kyla and Will and Desiree and Tia – we are all a family. We are all one unit of people, of hearts, of minds, of souls. It’s All One. There’s a reason why that was our mantra. Together, we had shared so many secrets with each other, all nineteen of us – we had grown together, we had wept together, we had laughed together, we had held each other in a way that none of us had ever been held before. Ever look at someone in the eyes for an entire minute? I can now say that I have, and that I enjoyed every minute of it. I felt completely exposed, utterly naked (which is one of the reasons why I ended up getting actually naked during the show – no jokes, please). But there was a sense of absolute trust that I garnered and shared with each person who allowed me to look into them. It was phenomenal to see what each person said to me only with their eyes – I received hope from one, love from another, similitude from a third – the communal emotions whirling around the room were overwhelming. Tears were overpoweringly forthcoming. I learned so much about myself and about my seventeen ensemble members during that two-week rehearsal period. I will never forget Courtney’s birds, or Kyla’s sticky labels, or Arielle’s hemlock crown – and I certainly won’t forget taking my pants off in front of 200 people a night. And what was the point of that? What, in fact, was the point of this entire show? What, as a group, were we trying to accomplish? As I already said before, I know that by simply sharing my story with the group, I felt infinitely closer to my ensemble members than almost anyone I have met on the Muhlenberg College campus. Our intent was to bring the audience into this same world of protection, this same atmosphere of trust and understanding, and to open our hearts to them and show them that they are not alone. I cannot count the number of people who came up to us and thanked us for sharing our stories with them. Literally dozens of people approached us, either as a group or individually, and admitted to their feelings of identification, the letting down of their guard, their pure and unadulterated giving over to our world while we took a moment to give ourselves over to them and to our souls. They told us that our performance would remain in their hearts forever. So much of our lives are spent keeping secrets from ourselves and our friends. In opening ourselves up to others, we were able to help them to open themselves up to themselves and bring another level of genuineness into their lives. I surmise that this was what they were thanking us for. We changed the dynamic of the audience from one of quiet, uncertain reservation to one of eager and willing participation – the audience was becoming more and more sure of themselves as we ourselves were as well. We were proud. We were loud. I certainly have tried to live loud and proud as my brother Tim so wisely suggested. For if we don’t, who are we then? After Dan’s piece, when the eighteen of us each approached the circle and stated a negative word and then its opposite, I declared loudly, “Shame…Pride.” Without pride, what are we but shamed? Without living loud, who really gets to know you? If you keep your thoughts inside, who can you share them with? Which brings me back to my Fag Bag. My Fag Bag is a celebration of me. As I said during my performance, if you can’t love me for me, then fuck off. My Bag tells people who I am. It is a Gay Bag. It is an Acting Bag. It is a Singing Bag. It is a Liberal Bag. It is a Loud Bag. And it certainly is a Proud Bag. People used to tell me that I had too many pins and buttons and ribbons on it. I used to agree with them. But then I met Tim Miller. And I’ve learned, you can never have enough pins. You can never be too loud.
Greg Paradis 2006