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QueerWise – under the direction of Michael Kearns
June 5, 2016 @ 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm$10
As part of Highways’ BEHOLD Festival 2016, QueerWise is a writing collective and spoken word performance group comprised of out LGBTQ seniors. Directed by Michael Kearns.
Sunday, June 5 @ 5.00pm
$10 general admission
Michael Kearns is a successful American actor, activist, writer, director, teacher, producer, and father. He is known for, among other things, being the first openly gay actor and the first openly HIV positive actor in Hollywood. For decades, Kearns has been active in the Los Angeles art and politics communities, while also maintaining a mainstream film and television career as well as a prolific career in the theatre. His activism is deeply integrated into his theatre works. The volume of work he has created is marked by an uncompromising desire to make statements while making art.
Long before coming out of the closet was considered a career move in the entertainment industry, Kearns was the first Hollywood actor on record to come out in the mid-1970s, amidst a shocking amount of homophobia. He subsequently made television history in 1991, announcing on Entertainment Tonight that he was HIV positive. Then, in 1992, as an openly HIV-impacted actor, he guested on a segment of ABC TV’s Life Goes On, playing a character with the virus. He also played Cleve Jones in the HBO adaptation of Randy Shilts’ And the Band Played On, appeared in A Mother’s Prayer, It’s My Party, and had a recurring role on Beverly Hills, 90210: a variety of shows that depicted HIV/AIDS. Prior television and film credits include Cheers, Murder, She Wrote, The Waltons, Knots Landing, General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, The Fall Guy, Kentucky Fried Movie, and Brian De Palma’s Body Double. Most recently, he starred in the 2015 short docudrama Stonewall Nation, which explores gay male culture in the 20thCentury.
His produced plays and solo pieces include The Truth Is Bad Enough, intimacies, more intimacies, Rock, Attachments, and Tell-Tale Kisses. The highly lauded intimacies projects, in which Kearns portrays a dozen culturally diverse people with HIV/AIDS, were both produced in more than a dozen cities in the U.S., England, and Australia.
Among his philanthropic accomplishments was the co-creation of Southland Theater Artists Goodwill Event (S.T.A.G.E.), which, since 1984, has raised millions of dollars for HIV/AIDS services and charities throughout Southern California. Additionally, he co-founded Artists Confronting AIDS and served as its Artistic Director for a decade.
The LA Weekly, PFLAG, the Gay and Lesbian Rights Chapter of the ACLU, National Coming Out Day, and the Victory Fund have all honored Kearns. He has received grants from the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, the Brody Foundation, and PEN Center USA West. He also received the 2002 Playwright’s Arena Award for Outstanding Contribution to Los Angeles Theater, which acknowledged three decades of work. Over the years, he has also won the Bay Area Theater Critics Award, a Drama-Logue Award, a Robby Award, Back Stage West Garland Award, Playwrights’ Arena Lifetime Achievement Award, the Robert Chesley Lifetime Achievement Award, and a S.T.A.G.E. Producers Award.
Kearns’ writings have appeared in a wide variety of publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Frontiers, LA Weekly, LA Parent, and the Advocate. He is also the author of six theatre books including T-Cells & Sympathy, Acting = Life, and The Drama of AIDS. Both T-Cells & Sympathy and Acting = Life were nominated for Lambda Literary Awards. His searing autobiography, The Truth is Bad Enough: What Became of the Happy Hustler?, was published in 2012.
Kearns attended the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago, Illinois, graduating in 1972.
In 1992, the Mayor of St. Louis, the artist’s hometown, proclaimed November 19, 1992 as “Michael Kearns Day.” In 1993, he started proceedings that resulted in, against all odds, adopting a child in 1995 as a single HIV-positive man.
He is currently the Education Director of Spoken Interludes, an arts organization that brings professional writers into high schools. He also serves as an Artistic Associate at Skylight Theatre and helms QueerWise, an organization that he founded of GLBT seniors who write and do spoken word performances throughout Los Angeles. He lives in Los Angeles.