On December 9th, stars from film, television, and the theater gathered together at the New York Theatre Center on behalf of the IHI Therapy Center: LGBTQ Affirmative Psychotherapy Center (formerly the Institute for Human Identity) to read excerpts from "The Letter Q," compiled by Sarah Moon and James Lecesne.
"The Letter Q" is a collection of letters written by renowned LGBT artists to their younger selves, including pieces by Michael Cunningham ("The Hours"), Colman Domingo ("Passing Strange"), and Lucy Thurber ("Scarcity").
Directed by Sherri Eden Barber, with sound design by Mark Van Hare, notables including Olympia Dukakis, Wade Davis, Lea DeLaria, and more read from "The Letter Q" to an emotional audience inspired to explore their own journeys and influences.
"The event was a massive success," said Jaimie Klassel Weiner, staff therapist and outreach coordinator at IHI. "The audience expressed being moved by the show and IHI's mission. We raised much needed money; we shared our organization's history, struggle and vigor; actors and activists of all races, sexual orientations, and genders moved us with the stories of coming out, self actualization, the stories of grief and pain, of sex and longing, and of love and support, written by renowned LGBTQ writers."
Host Justin Sayre bantered back and forth with actor Lea DeLaria on stage, "taking jabs at each other, and expressing adoration for each other." Alysia Reiner and Olympia Dukakis cried while Caitlin Bailey performed a dance piece to the words of Anne Bogart. And retired professional footballer, Wade Davis, took the stage and announced nervously, "I am the only non-actor up here" and then gave an incredibly powerful reading of Linda Villarossa's letter about what it had meant to her to be a black lesbian.
IHI founder Charles Silverstein wrote his own letter from the organization to its younger self.
"We will be building a new institution, not the physical plant, rather an idea," he read. "What was it that Dumas once wrote? 'Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time had come.' We are that idea, we are building a therapeutic service as an alternative to the insulting and prejudiced treatment of LGBT people. We are going to help them live productive lives. We are building this new institution–and it will be fun–and the memories of the people, the services, yes, and the battles will live with us forever."
The event wrapped with an after party at Dempsey's pub. "You could hear people sharing their own stories," said Klassel Weiner. "People who knew each other and people who were just meeting one another, telling their tales and sharing how they connected to the pieces from the evening."
You can find out more about the IHI Therapy Center's efforts and development at their website here.
Photographs by Grace Chu (show and after party)
Photographs by Kevin Cristaldi (rehearsal and performance)