Author Performs to Bring New Understanding to Springfield

When describing Springfield, few residents talk about how gays and lesbians have to worry about losing their jobs if they come “out.” Possibly because most people don’t know that these injustices even exist.
E. Patrick Johnson, professor of Performance Studies at Northwestern University, and a handful of local sponsors hope to bring this situation to light with the coming performance of “Pouring Tea,” a one-man show that depicts the stories of black gay men in the South. These stories originate from interviews that Johnson conducted with more than 70 men when researching for his book, “Sweet Tea.”
So, you may ask, what do the stories of black gay men in the South have to do with Springfield? According to Dr. Rick Incorvati, an associate professor of English and the Executive Director of Equality Springfield, this performance could help many gay and lesbian citizens who are keeping their sexual orientation a secret to finally “find the confidence to ask others to accept them on their own terms.”
Unlike many cities in Ohio, Springfield currently has not passed any legislative protections against discrimination for gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered citizens. For many of these individuals, the fear of being rejected and discriminated against has forced them to live a “secret or double life,” Incorvati said.
“It’s very hard to find a community of like-minded people for anyone coming to terms with gender identity in Springfield,” he said.
Incorvati and many other sponsors of the performance believe that these marginalized people are not the only ones who will benefit from Johnson’s performance. Dr. Kathy Waggoner, a Mississippi native and Communication professor, says she believes the audience will learn about themselves, as well as the struggles that gay and lesbian people deal with on a daily basis.
“I’m betting we will see many of ourselves in these men’s stories. I think work like Johnson’s has tremendous potential to affect change,” she said.
Johnson will be performing “Pouring Tea” at the Springfield Center for the Arts on Tuesday, February 8 at 7 p.m. This event is sponsored by Equality Springfield, the Departments of Communication, English, History, and Theater and Dance, the Women’s Studies and Africana and Diaspora Studies Programs, the Gay Straight Alliance and the Concerned Black Students, the office of Multicultural Programs, the Faculty Endowment Fund Board, and the Student Senate’s Build a Better Wittenberg Fund.

(Lauren Harris /