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LB Art Theatre and organization orchestrate city’s first annual queer arts festival

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Izzie Hallock | Signal Tribune
Poet Alexis Rhone Fancher shares her poem “How I Lost My Virginity to Michael Cohen” to an audience on Saturday, July 7 at the Long Beach Art Theatre for the city’s first annual queer arts festival.

The month of June is LGBTQ Pride Month, however the celebrating did not end June 30.

Residents gathered on Saturday, July 7 at the Long Beach Art Theatre to take part in the city’s first annual queer arts festival, Out Loud: A Cultural Evolution.

The event featured various performances and art presentations. In an interview with the Signal Tribune, poet Alexis Rhone Fancher explained her personal story and how it led her in front of an eager audience that Saturday.

“I came out as bisexual at age 17,” Fancher said. “I’m pretty well known as an erotic poet who writes about the intersection of sex and love and power, often with a soupçon of gender fluidity.”

Although Fancher said she was not worried at all to read her poems at the festival, throughout life she has faced numerous obstacles.

“Stupid people. Sexism. Racism. Homophobia,” she listed. “Not sure I’ve overcome these obstacles, but I persevere. Writing helps.”

Fancher explained how memorable the experience of reading her poetry to an audience was.

“The event was an opportunity to embrace our exquisite diversity. I had a great time,” Fancher said. “I felt heard on a deeper level than I ever had before.”

Fancher knew from the beginning that she had to take the opportunity.

“When Dave Russo, the organizer of the festival, approached me about featuring,” she said, “I said yes immediately.”
Russo, founder of the community arts organization Out Loud, orchestrated the festival.

“The purpose of Out Loud: A Cultural Evolution,” Russo said in an interview with the Signal Tribune, “is to showcase the creative, artistic achievements of the larger ‘queer’ community.”

Much of Russo’s inspiration and motivation stemmed from his personal story.

“My self-acceptance, my comfort in my own skin, was given to me by the cultural achievements of our community. Knowing there were people out there like me, seeing their lives in art, hearing their experiences in music, poetry and literature– all these things gave me a sense of belonging and, in many ways, saved my life,” he explained. “The idea marinated in my brain for a few days and, because I was too stupid to realize it was [possible], I decided to go for it, and to share my vision with others.”

Russo worked with poet Nancy Woo in order to make his vision a reality.

“I was grateful for an opportunity to work closely with Dave, a truly generous and loving person,” Woo said. “At out first meeting, I signed on board, because I could see his heart was in it. Since that day in early May, my heart has been in it too, and I am already helping to plan and organize next year’s event.”

Woo helped Russo create the organization’s website, develop its Facebook page and reach out to media.

The major obstacle, Russo explained, was funding.

“We did a GoFundMe campaign and raised $4,000,” he said. “As it turned out, it was only about 55 percent of what we needed.”

However, Russo made it happen not only for himself, but for the Long Beach community.

“I have been going to Pride parades for years, and they play so many critically important roles,” he said. “I am hoping that Out Loud will serve as a complementary event to Pride festivals and parades. I want to emphasize, shine a spotlight on, our cultural and artistic achievements. I’ve been part of our creative community here for a while now. I have attended many events at which I realize I’m the only gay poet there. Everything everyone has to say is full of universal truth. Wouldn’t it be nice if the larger queer community, including outsiders and even our allies, got to see their lives reflected back at them?”

Russo announced that, because of the event’s popularity, “Out Loud 2019 is already being planned.”

1 Comment

One Response to “LB Art Theatre and organization orchestrate city’s first annual queer arts festival”

  1. Dave Russo on July 13th, 2018 5:23 pm

    Thank you very much for covering this event and communicating the passion we share about our community’s creative enthusiasm. I hope we help bridge some gaps, within our own queer tribe and with the general community!

    [Reply]

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