Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The History of Below the Belt Theatre

This project started in 2008, at a college of 700 students, in a Northern Wisconsin lumber town of 8,000 people. At that time, it was a documentary about queer youths’ experience in K - 12 schools called Path Out of Darkness. The screening of that documentary sat twenty people.

The following year, question boxes were scattered around my campus, collecting from the public about LGBT people, which were taken to a panel of LGBT writers and answered. This, along with contributed “coming out” stories, were collected into an informal live reading called Twenty Questions You've Always Wanted to Ask a Gay Person, which was followed by an open panel question and answer session. We expected to seat twenty people in the unadorned basement student lounge. Over forty attended that one-night reading.

It was after the success of this informal reading that we realized we needed to broaden the scope of the stories Below the Belt  was exploring. Not wanting to simply encapsulate the experience of queer youth, but women, men, and those between, of all ages, at all stages of their lives and sexual experiences. It would need a real stage, with passionate actors.

Throughout the next year, the call was put  out to writers looking for stories about their sex lives. Stories trickled in. Stories of hope, despair, love, sex, and, most of all, self. On February 20th, 2010 Below the Belt: Gender, Society, and Sex premiered on stage, performed by The Fourth Wall Theatre Troupe. The show was free and, at a college where most performances seat twenty people, we sat close to fifty people the first evening. We filled the hundred seat house our two other performances that weekend. In 2011, I had enough stories to collect into a fresh script. We filled the house every night and had standing room only; people were out into the hallway, peering over the crowds at our 2011 show.

Now, Below the Belt is branching out, seeking new stages and new voices to present its ever growing script. If you have any questions about the performing the show,  if you would like to submit writing to the script, or if you have suggestions on how to make the show more successful, I am available via e-mail at belowthebelt.theatre@gmail.com.

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