All Together Now, a multimedia event series that welcomes performances by women, people of color, and the LGBT community, arrives at the Lilypad in Cambridge this month.
Among those on stage will be the Boston street performer Zayde Buti, as well as local songwriter Poor Eliza. Magician Felice Ling will debut a new set called “Just Felice,” in which she will explore her Chinese-American identity through a still predominantly white and male performance genre.
Ahead of the upcoming show, we caught up with musician Jenee Halstead, who will be partnering with friend and collaborator Mark Lipman for a special performance. The duo’s “Welcome to the Closet” will blend costumes, props, live music, and storytelling to explore topics like shame and vulnerability as they relate to coming out of the closet.
Can you tell me a little about how you came to create “Welcome to the Closet” with Mark Lipman?
Mark and I are best friends. We’ve been collaborating musically for years, singing on each other’s stuff and performing together. We’d already been talking about a lot of the things that we’re going to start to touch upon in the performance piece. We’d had a really nice walk in the Fells about a month before and had been meditating on these ideas. So when we came together we kind of wanted to do something that was a little more activist, more message-oriented than just doing only music.
As a musician, how do you think music contributes to storytelling? And how does it contribute to the story you’re telling here in particular?
I think the music we chose needed to uplift and support the foundational messages. There’s a sequence in the performance piece. We chose one cover; I don’t want to give it away, it’s actually a love song, but when we started to analyze the lyrics, it seemed absolutely perfect for the coming out of the closet experience… It’s more about what it feels like to be inside the closet. All I’ll say is that it’s Annie Lennox… The rest of the songs are original pieces. We wanted to uplift the message, and of course music is just, you know, the greatest way to communicate I think.
What makes you say that? Why do you think music is such a great way to communicate something like this story?
I think it’s a great uniter. There’s something about music that is apolitical in a way, and it can sometimes bypass that ickiness or anger that happens during conversations. I feel like it opens up the heart center. It’s a universal language. When you have music in a piece like this… touching on issues that are hard for people… it uplifts.
What do you hope people see and get out of “Welcome to the Closet”? Why is telling this story so important?
I just want people to look at the idea of shame and vulnerability a little bit differently. That we’re all going through these processes, we all have these secrets, we’re all living in the closet in some way. We’re just here to share in the experience of what it feels like to have shame around something and the freeing process of telling your story
It’s this kind of idea of living under the shadow or umbrella of shame and then walking out into the light. Mostly it’s the idea of a personal narrative in a story being a sort of key to freeing oneself and also a key to humanity with each other.
And that’s why we made the closet bigger… anything that holds someone back in their life or anything that they’re suffering under. I had this process in my own personal life. I had some things that up until very recently were really shameful, things that I had experienced as a child that I couldn’t tell anyone about. First I told my therapist, and it was no big deal, and then I told someone else. I’d been harboring and holding this stuff for so long that it really kind of defined me as a person… it held me back. Because Mark is my friend and he was a witness to this whole process, that’s why we decided to expand the closet.
How do you feel about being a part of All Together Now as a multimedia event series that makes space for women, people of color, and LGBTQ performers?
I almost can’t put words to how important that experience was for me last year to be a part of All Together Now. I feel really honored to to be a part of something that is bigger, to be a part of the conversation. I mean, I’m a white girl. And I’m not myself LGBTQ. But these are all super important things for me … I feel really honored to get to be included in the conversation.
ALL TOGETHER NOW #5: WELCOME TO THE CLOSET W/ JENEE HALSTEAD AND MARK LIPMAN, FELICE LING, POOR ELIZA, AND ZAYDE BUTI. SAT 5.27. LILYPAD, INMAN SQ., CAMBRIDGE. 9PM/$10. LILYPADINMAN.COM