In an effort to help combat violence and tell the stories of individuals within the LGBTQ community, TheatreLAB and Richmond Triangle Players have once again partnered with the Virginia Anti-Violence Project (VAVP) on the piece, “NERVE: Stories of Queer Resilience.”
Led in concept by director Melissa Rayford, the piece brings real-life stories of resilience and strength that have been collected over the last year from members of the LGBTQ community and crafted to the theatre stage.
“[The Virginia Anti-Violence Project] took lead on collecting the stories and narratives from different faces and places in Virginia,” Stacie Vecchietti, VAVP Program Director. “We collected stories online, we collected stories in person and then we transcribed everything we heard and gave it to the creative team at TheatreLAB.
“It was that group of folks that took those stories and also looked at current events that were trending nationally as well as locally and created NERVE: a collection of scripts that told stories of our community that are often silenced or made invisible.”
The original showing of NERVE: Stories of Queer Resistance in 2015 relied on a mix of electronically submitted and retold stories. This year, VAVP made a point to show up in greater frequency in the community to ensure even more authentic voices get shared.
“For the new pieces, [Stacie and I] dialogued about what was missing [or] what areas we needed to hit,” said Rayford. “A lot of the things we talked about were focused on inter-partner violence, violence in general and the silence and shame that surrounds those acts.”
VAVP works to address and end violence, with a specific focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities across Virginia. VAVP also hosts pop ups all over the city, most frequently Diversity Richmond and Side, by Side to offer support.
“We have pop-up hours where we go in different places in the Richmond metro area and Petersburg. You can walk in with no appointment and talk to us about anything in any way [support is needed],” said Vecchietti. “We are prepared to talk about how to build and construct healthy relationships.”
Rayford said they worked closely with the organization to represent members of the :GBTQ community that had been a victim of violence.
“The advocates and staff at VAVP worked closely with a creative team from TheatreLAB to make sure the voices we were hearing in NERVE kind of resonated with the people we have been working with over the past year,” she said.
Vecchietti, sees the timing of the showing of NERVE as unique, in that it also falls on “the weekend we observe one of the most influential social change agents of the 20th century,” she said, referencing Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
In an effort to make sure the stories of LGBTQ victims of violence get out there, Vecchietti said the group is taking on different perspectives.
“Lifting up and hearing [beautiful and resilient] stories so that the narratives that we’re hearing aren’t just narratives of being victims of violence but also how we exist in healthy, loving and sexy relationships feels really important,” she said.
“NERVE: Stories of Queer Resilience” will feature returning talent and stories as well as new faces and new pieces. With the tragedy that occurred in June at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, NERVE writers were delicate and deliberate in their approach to the topic.
“Myself and Chandler Hubbard, who [self-identifies as queer] and is part of the writing team, sort of wrote some of it just from our hearts and by looking at newspaper articles and headlines,” said Rayford. “Especially with the Pulse piece that we’re doing. We have a woman who works with VAVP who is Latinx and I asked her for her voice to help with that piece.
Rayford said it was very important to her to have a Latinx voice included in the piece with the shooting happening on Latin Night at the nightclub.
“I didn’t want to skip over that because that would feel very dishonest,” she said.
Rayford said the goal of the production is to raise money and support VAVP, but also spark conversation with the audience.
Following the play on both nights, a talk-back will be hosted by the cast and creative team with aims of truly connecting with the community.
“Hopefully we’ll have an opportunity to have a discussion about how NERVE came to be and how we can move the spirit of NERVE forward in communities,” said Vecchietti.
”NERVE: Stories of Queer Resilience” will be presented for a special two-performance engagement at Richmond Triangle Players located at 1300 Altamont Ave. January 15th and 22nd. General admission tickets are $20 and are available here.