Every year, Gay City – a nonprofit located on Seattle’s Capitol Hill – presents the community with unique facets of their holistic approach to health. Gay City has extended its reach to include health and wellness in the form of art and its function within the community.
This includes Gay City Arts, an artist series for the community by the community. They open applications for artists and provide performance space to meet the needs of artists to create and present their craft. This year’s season has been named Resistance, and included the variety show entitled Get Mad!, which in turn was a prime example of how art can be a vehicle for healing.
I didn’t really know what to expect when I attended the final performance of Get Mad!. The online description said it was a combination of spoken word performance art, film, and trans-media magic.
To put it harshly, the show was disappointing – not because of the quality of the performance, but because not all the performers were able to attend that night due to exactly what the show is about, mental wellness. The variety show was supposed to be performed by Kayla Rosen, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, billie rain, Vita B, and Jess Horn, and co-hosted by Anastacia-Renee. Unfortunately the only performers that were able to perform were Kayla Rosen, billie rain, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.
Although I was disheartened by the abruptness of the show ending early, I could sympathize with the reasons why. This was a show to celebrate the complexities of mental health and in a way it did that.
I thoroughly appreciated what I did see. The three poets provided honest and, at times, harrowing accounts of their experiences with “madness.” Kayla Rosen opened the show with spoken word that dealt with powerful topics such as depression and Bipolar disorder.
Next up was billie rain, who uses their art not only to deal with the pain they’ve endured but also as a way to enjoy the good in life. Their spoken word dealt with abuse, despair, and hope, and the audience was loving it.
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha followed rain and was ultimately the final performer – and, most definitely stole the show. They described their work as crazy people art, and said, “When we love ourselves it’s dirty, underground, and gorgeous.” Their poetry was beautiful, and utilized imagery to really describe the pain and beauty behind their experience. Both Piepzna-Samarasinha and rain reclaimed the word crazy and used it as a form of self-expression and appreciation.
I am guilty of using the word crazy casually, but it’s not my word to use. Sunday’s performance reminded me of the people in my life who struggle with mental health, and how cruelly the world treats them. It reminded me of how difficult everyday can be even when you’re doing something you love.
Get Mad! was a perfect part of this year’s Gay City Arts performance series Resistance. The next part of the series is entitled A Certain Type of Brilliance, and is a femme showcase which will hopefully inspire dialogue and appreciation in the same way as Get Mad!