The Journey Out Takes to the Road

May 3, 2011 in Articles, Featured

Play portrays truth about older LGBT people

The Journey Out is a play – set in a disco, a church and an AIDS support group. It is a celebration of love, of faith, of courage – of women and men who fought and struggled for their right to live openly, to live without shame, to live authentically.

The production, based on oral histories, premiered last October at the URI/Feinstein Providence campus. It was a tremendous success, bringing calls from the community to tour schools so that those who are bullied and struggling with their sexual/gender identity can realize that they are not alone and that they can thrive.

There is much humor, great joy and moments of loss in the gathered stories of the fifteen people whose lives are told on stage. Some of the people were embraced on their journey to liberation, while others lost friends and families and their faith. But for each person, the telling of their story is an inspiration and celebration of the human spirit, a way to help other members of the tribe on their journey out.

Creators Steven Pennell and Frank Toti, two Cranston Residents, undertook this journey to gather and transcribe the stories of more than 60 older lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer Rhode Island and Southern Massachusetts residents for present and future generations as an archive of information.

The project was funded by the URI Multicultural Center, the RI Council for the Humanities, and the Equity Action Fund, among others.

Pennell and Toti grew up just streets apart in Cranston, left the area for work, but also to find and accept themselves as gay men. Twenty years later, both men returned to Cranston, where they met and fell in love, beginning a life together in their 40s with the love and support of their families and friends.

Following the premiere in October 2010 and a tour of local schools in April 2011, the play will be performed at the Pride Festival in June. In addition, the story-gathering is continuing. Ultimately, the digital files, transcribed interviews and an amazing trove of memorabilia (clippings, photographs and artifacts) will become the Rhode Island and Southern Massachusetts LGBTQ Collection housed in the URI Library Archive to be available for further study and research.

The play will be presented on:

June 2-4, 8 p.m. and June 4 at 2 p.m. at Provincetown Theatre 238 Bradford Street, Provincetown MA.

June 9-11, 7:30 p.m. at URI’s Providence Campus 80 Washington Street, Providence.
For information on The Journey Out, contact Steven Pennell at 277-5206 or uri.artsandculture@gmail .com