LOUD is a New Orleans Queer Youth Theater that offers and promotes a space to explore varied and fluid performances of queerness, as well as learn theater making techniques. I recently sat down with Cameron-Mitchell Ware, co-director of LOUD, to talk about their pedagogy and what we can expect to see this season from LOUD.
Q: For our listeners who are just hearing about LOUD for the first time, tell us about what LOUD is.
CM: 2013 is when LOUD was founded. We’re a New Orleans-based queer youth Theater Company, and in those six years, Loud has put on four original productions; it’s been to conferences all over the country; and it’s an amazing space for supporting and understanding how we story tell.
And we got that process and those practices from a great person, Wendi Moore-O’Neal, who’s the daughter of the late great John O’Neill, from Free Southern Theater. So we, in that amount of time, have connected with some really great people. We’re fiscally sponsored by Alternate Roots out of Atlanta, which is a collective of artists and organizers who are dismantling oppression one great young person at a time. So we’re super grateful and super honored to be doing this work right now.
And you focus on theater and performance at LOUD. So why out of all the art forms, and I know you probably bring in lots of them, do you make theater the focal point?
CM: For us, theater is the original collaborative art form. Theater is our primary mechanism for fighting oppression and undoing all of the garbage that’s around us. We do encompass and invite and welcome dance and puppetry and speech and song and text, and a little bit of mime as well. We’re super inspired by my mime, and we’re inspired by a lot of different things.
But theater, for us, is that all-encompassing space where we get to use non-traditional art form practices within the craft. We get to have an arsenal of games and original devised understandings of how to tell our stories and narratives and that’s piggybacking off of Paulo Freire and The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Theater is that constant space of self expression.
You mention the idea of space. Having a space to explore and to feel safe in while you explore is super important, especially when you’re growing up as a teen. How have you seen LOUD be a space for growth and for community?
CM: There’s a little thing that happens as a theater practitioner and as a theater artists and as a teacher; it’s one of my greatest joys to watch. There may be someone who isn’t involved in theater or has never been introduced to performance of any kind at all. And they go through our process or one of our cohorts, and they become a completely almost fully actualized and realized person in front of our eyes. Then they become a completely different and fully realized and actualized person as a performer. So, in that way, there’s growth that goes from the individual to the room, and then into the community. And let me tell you, it’s a been the most beautiful thing to watch.
And I’m brand new. I’ve only been with LOUD for a year, but I have known past co-directors and past members, and I’ve seen so much engagement between this organization and the city. We’re present. We’re visible. We’re representation for a marginalized community within New Orleans that doesn’t always get its day.
The interconnection that’s built through and around the organization is just amazing, and I know there has been a lot of outreach. So what do you feel like LOUD would like to get loud about?
CM: Oh, my gosh, LOUD likes to get loud about so many things. I think we’d like to get louder about resistance. LOUD would like to go loud about — maybe this sounds cliche — but we’d like to get loud about love. Love and active solidarity is one of our core principles. I’m a millennial, so I feel very much like a bridge between one generation and another, but it’s about active solidarity. It’s not just about that message on Instagram, or that Facebook post. It’s about reaching out to a friend, inviting them on a bike ride, and showing up for each other in a way that feels lasting and tangible.
We want to know what’s coming up for a LOUD. What can the community expect? What should they be on the lookout for?
CM: We’ve just had our auditions for a new apprentice cohort, our last year’s cohort has now graduated to full membership. So now these new amazing young people that we just got in are going to join a group of 10, and they’ll create a brand new piece together. So expect something that we’ve never seen before. Also, we have another round of auditions for the apprenticeship coming up on Saturday, September 28 as well.
We pull in influences from everywhere — from Brechtian understandings of how to communicate theater all the way to New Orleans bounce, or the 1990s New York ballroom and drag culture scene. It’s about expecting something that can’t be expected because we don’t know until it’s in the room and ready to go with the people that were serving.
LOUD will be holding their second round of auditions for LOUD’s fall apprentice cycle on Saturday, September 28th. Any LGBTQ young people who are interested in theater, writing, performance, storytelling can come out and find out about the apprentice program. For more information, you can check out LOUD’s webpage.