The fifth installment of All Together Now is fast approaching. The multimedia event, curated by Hemway musician Anna Rae, is known for creating a safe space for people of color, LGBT+, women, and other minorities, and has quickly shown its potential for bringing together diverse acts from Boston and New York City. Still want to know more? We visited performers Jenee Halstead and Mark Lipman to chat about the concept behind their storytelling performance, how they’d like to inspire the audience, and the importance of community.
Millennial Noise: How did you hear about All Together Now?
Jenee: I performed last year. Anna Rae asked me to perform the first show. I did a band set. Definitely LGBTQ centered, but a little more women-centered.
Mark: I heard about it through Anna Rae. She was telling me about Crichton Atkinson. I couldn’t make it to that show. I made it to one of the first rounds. I’ve been super excited about it. I wanted to go to every single one but I was never in town. [Anna] had told me about this idea. And I was like, oh my gosh, this idea is amazing. I think it’s important to create space for people who don’t generally get the space. And it’s so ripe for artistic expression. And for powerful artistic expression because it’s an outlet for people who don’t have an outlet. So when you give that a voice, it’s really powerful.
MN: Describe your performance.
Mark: For me it’s a process. I don’t have ideas of how I’m going to feel or what we’re going to accomplish. What we’re setting up for is to have a process with the audience, but mainly with ourselves.
Jenee: The idea of it is that everybody is in the closet in some way and through storytelling, through telling our own story, we free ourselves from the closet. And the closet is like shame and fear. We both have different closet stories, we have a lot of closet stories (laughs). There’s a lot of things we wanted to cover.
Mark: We chose desire as sort of the theme. How are we in the closet because of our desires? Not just sexual desires, but definitely that being one of the main things we talk about.
Jenee: Or just desire to be seen, desire to be treated as a decent human being regardless of what happened to you in your life.
Mark: That’s what we’re asking in this show from the audience.
Jenee: I’m sure it’s going to trigger people. There’s definitely people in the audience who aren’t LGBTQ or from the music scene. There will be people who maybe don’t have a sensitivity around some of the issues. Since we’re trying to make it broad, were hoping we can bring up some of these topics without making people too uncomfortable. I’m sure there will be people who are triggered.
Mark: It’s a dialogue between us and a dialogue with the audience.
Jenee: Mark comes from an expressive healing background and I come from an energy healing background. The first week we met, we went and danced…it’s kind of everything that we’ve been exploring as friends.
MN: How long have you been performing?
Mark: Nine years something like that. [Jenee] introduced me to my partner and that was eight years ago. We’ve been playing music together for a long time. We lived together a little bit.
MN: What do you want the audience to take away from your performance?
Mark: For me, it’s very intentional to think about how our community will respond. In writing this and envisioning it, I’m pretty aware of my desire to be able to exist within a community that has called me a friend and in a way that I don’t feel paranoid about my own experiences. The community part is really important. I’m not saying I want to change the world, I want to change the way I feel in my community.
Jenee: I’m sharing my biggest shame secrets. Things that really kept me frozen for large parts of my life. Once I started talking about these things, it was so freeing. I don’t know, it was like I was able to grasp my humanity. It’s crazy I even felt ashamed about these things. I want people to take away…..that glimmer of hope that they can tell their story. Maybe it’s just to their therapist. That’s how it started with me. If there’s something they’re holding onto that’s painful. I think there’s something really freeing. The story is the key to opening the door.
Mark: You tell yourself out of the closet. Along the same lines, I want to give people the allowance to use their imagination, to imagine what it would be like to not hide. And to be able to make a space for the things that you’re hiding outside our your inner world. ‘What space is necessary?’ Asking the thing hiding inside me, what does it need to exist in a liberated way. That’s what I want people to think about. How do I put into words what space my feelings need.
Jenee: That first step is so huge to actually telling someone. I think we need this more than ever with the current climate.
MN: Is this your first time performing together?
Mark: We’ve performed a lot.
Jenee: We’ve been on stage together a lot.
Mark: This is an integration of our friendship and our stage life.
Jenee: This is the best of both worlds coming together. The rehearsals have been so fun and easy. It’s crazy how easy it happens. It’s been really fun. I’m very much invested in humanity and the healing of all people. I want to see people being their happy selves without hurting anyone else. The people who are there are vital to it [the performance].
MN: What’s your favorite part of performing?
Mark: For me, it’s creating space for myself. I’ve been giving the opportunity with a mic in front of me. What do I do with that? Do I hide? Or do I be authentic, and risk that and share something that’s creative.
Jenee: There’s only so much we can plan for. We just hope people keep an open heart.
Experience storytelling and self-discovery with Jenee and Mark during All Together Now #5, happening May 27 at the Lilypad. Tickets available here.