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Michael Kearns: Los Feliz’s Very Own Community Activist

Michael Kearns: Los Feliz’s Very Own Community Activist

Our society speaks a lot about activism but not specifically community activism.  Community activists have a gift for engaging directly in their communities to effect change and create lasting impact. Community activists aren’t just waving protest signs or creating petitions, however. They are often much more creative than that—and even using live performance to drive their mission forward. 

Michael Kearns is a Los Feliz-based writer and a respected coach for his commitment to teaching writers at all levels of their careers. In 2011, Kearns founded QueerWise, a Spoken Word collective of senior LGBTQ writers. Each week the writers convene in Silverlake to discuss their work and collective impact. In January of 2017, QueerWise wrote and performed a full-length theater piece, Shades of Disclosure, overseen by Kearns, produced by the Skylight Theatre Company. On May 31, 2017, Kearns was honored by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti for his activism on behalf of the LGBTQ community and in Los Angeles. 

We sat down with Kearns to discuss activism and what makes his local community tick. 

How would you describe your community?

Diverse. Eclectic. Hip. Groovy. Artistic. Cool. Ambitious. Full of itself. Theatrical. 

Where do you go to find the services, or help that you need?

I look on the Internet. Yelp. 

How can more people make an impact in their communities?

Everybody has a story to tell. And they must turn that into a brand. What’s unique about you? What do you have that I don’t have? What do you have that I need? How does your story potentially make you valuable? You can’t make an impact by posing at Starbucks; or let’s say, you can’t make an informed impact. There’s so much crap on social media. It’s a jungle of egomania and it all blends together into a heap of nothingness. How do you possibly make an impact under those circumstances? You better put some thought into it beyond the color of your hair. 

Why is community important to you?

What else is there? 

How have you contributed to your local community?

By being myself. My daughter always teases me about how I know the owners of restaurants and other establishments. I cultivate those relationships. “You flirt with everyone,” she says. I guess that’s what some would call it. Or networking. Or working it. I think the greatest contribution one can make is to share your authenticity, your story. That’s real magic. 

You are a revered community activist, known for addressing important societal issues in your work--Shades of Disclosure being one of your most recent successes. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew into the role of community activist?

I did a play in 1972, provocatively titled The Dirtiest Show in Town. It was the West Coast premiere and a bunch of us cavorted around the stage, often without a stitch on. That’s activism, baby. I’m not kidding. Tom Eyen (Dreamgirls) wrote the play, a series of sketch material that addressed issues of the day: the Vietnam War, pollution (I was photographed wearing nothing but a gas mask), and the burgeoning sexual revolution. It might seem tame by today’s standards but in the early Seventies? This was revolutionary. Oh, Tom, how I love him for teaching me activism without ever saying the word. It was embedded in my consciousness and I never steered away from the notion that the theater was a place for rebels and renegades. The theater was a place to express the extraordinary. It should never be mundane or everyday. It should shock, stir, seduce, make you think, make you squirm, make you call a friend. 

What are your upcoming performances and where can we see them?

My new play, Bloodbound, is opening at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, mid-January. It is shattering, funny, painful and full of love. You should not only see it; you should support it by contributing to the Indiegogo campaign. Get involved. Give to art and artists before we’re silenced.

Many of your plays, shows, and performances have been within your local community--in Silverlake, and Los Feliz. How did you form such close relationships with local venues?

Flirting! Even at my age. 

You are a revered community activist, known for addressing important societal issues in your work--Shades of Disclosure being one of your most recent successes. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew into the role of community activist?

I did a play in 1972, provocatively titled The Dirtiest Show in Town. It was the West Coast premiere and a bunch of us cavorted around the stage, often without a stitch on. That’s activism, baby. I’m not kidding. Tom Eyen (Dreamgirls) wrote the play, a series of sketch material that addressed issues of the day: the Vietnam War, pollution (I was photographed wearing nothing but a gas mask), and the burgeoning sexual revolution. It might seem tame by today’s standards but in the early Seventies? This was revolutionary. Oh, Tom, how I love him for teaching me activism without ever saying the word. It was embedded in my consciousness and I never steered away from the notion that the theater was a place for rebels and renegades. The theater was a place to express the extraordinary. It should never be mundane or everyday. It should shock, stir, seduce, make you think, make you squirm, make you call a friend. 

What are your upcoming performances and where can we see them?

My new play, Bloodbound, is opening at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, mid-January. It is shattering, funny, painful and full of love. You should not only see it; you should support it by contributing to the Indiegogo campaign. Get involved. Give to art and artists before we’re silenced.

Many of your plays, shows, and performances have been within your local community--in Silverlake, and Los Feliz. How did you form such close relationships with local venues?

Flirting! Even at my age. 

What about The Urban Helper’s mission resonates with you?

I am impressed by the community building component. We can never have too much, or too close, of a community. Being able to get a service from someone you may know in your neighborhood is great too. Who knows, maybe you could also make new friends. 

 

Join Michael on The Urban Helper here!