Trey Morehouse, founder of Mouths of Babes, debuted his teen and young-adult theatre group in Wilmington in November during Cucalorus, with rave reviews for “The Diary Play.” It featured four teenage girls reading through their most intimate writings, divulging all the growing pains of their lives, from the mundane to the heavy-handed if not fundamental lessons that help us mature and grow.
Morehouse’s company, a collaborative effort with UNCW’s theatre department, concentrates on docu-plays—live onstage enactments of scenarios and situations taken from real-life interviews and research. The UNCW grad works from a template much like Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues” or Tectonic Theater Project‘s famed “Laramie Project.” In fact, his latest documentary play is parallel to “Laramie” in some ways. Morehouse is calling out for participants from the Port City LGBTQIA community and their allies to help flesh out the script for “Out, NC.” This go he will grow beyond the youth age group that Mouths of Babes focuses on, in order to feature folks of ages, enthnicities, races, cultures, walks of life, etc., who wish to be interviewed and share stories of growing up gay, bisexual, questioning, or a transgender in the Cape Fear region. Morehouse has secured 20 interviews thus far and is in need of more by the end of the month. His first read-through is scheduled to take place at the end of March before he will assess and revise for final production.
We interviewed Morehouse about the concept of “Out, NC,” its inspiration and what lies ahead to complete the project.
encore (e): Tell us how “Out, NC” began and why.
Trey Morehouse (TM): It really started with my personal anger with HB2. I was living in California at the time, and felt far away and quite useless to the whole situation. At the time I remember reading about a New York actor working in Raleigh who quit the play she was hired for in protest of HB2. I felt like this was the wrong response—and really only hurt the community she was trying to serve. Theatre’s greatest gift is its ability to create safe and inclusive spaces. So I wanted to make a piece about inclusivity and belonging. The idea of collecting “coming out” stories and LGBTQIA stories came out of that.
e: Naturally it has a lot of “Laramie Project” influence; why go this route? Also, why focus it on Cape Fear LGBTQIA only?
TM: “Laramie Project” is certainly the most performed and most read example of documentary theatre, so that play serves as a great example. There are many great documentary theatre examples out there. We’re using documentary theatre because we want to document coming-out stories and stories of self-acceptance—and we want those stories to be told in the voices of the people they belong to. Documentary theatre can be a great tool because there are things a person might say to an artist that they may not be comfortable saying to a journalist.
We’re focusing on our community in the Cape Fear because it’s a play for this community. We wanted to make something that could serve as a space to discuss topics of importance to this region—because what this community needs is not necessarily what Raleigh needs. It’s an open-ended project, so we may continue to gather more interviews from other regions as things progress. But, really, we’re more interested in gathering voices from this region.
e: What kinds of stories are you wanting to collect exactly? What are some questions you’re asking? Of both LGBTQIA folks and their allies?
TM: Our goal is to collect any and all stories you have to share, with the central theme being “coming out.” We have a list of questions we use as a guide, but typically we let the person we’re interviewing be our guide, or at least their story guide us. An example is: “What does coming out mean to you?” We are, in part, thinking of this play as an oral history of the LGBTQIA community in Wilmington.
e: Why include allies?
TM: Because allies are an important part of the equation and a big part of how we move forward as a community at large. I personally identify as an ally, and when I began thinking and talking about this project, I was apprehensive to do it because I didn’t identify as LGBTQ. I talked to a friend and mentor about it, and she told me I shouldn’t forget allies are an important and necessary part of the community.
e: Can you share any stories or insights you’ve collected that pique your interest most?
TM: I’ve been moved by stories of people surviving the AIDs crisis, stories of acceptance, stories of people persevering through prejudice, and much more.
e: What’s the goal for the overall play and its point of view? How do you hope it will impact audiences?
TM: We hope to create a safe space to discuss and explore issues important to the LGBTQIA community.
e: Do you have an idea of how you want the script to play out? Ideas of how you’ll weave and tell these stories?
TM: Monologues will interweave with collage moments. We’ve discussed using movement to explore certain subjects.
e: Is there a larger end goal for this project—besides debuting in ILM?
TM: After gathering stories and creating a play in Wilmington, we hope to use it as a “proof of concept” and attempt to do the same on a statewide scale. But it’s hard to give a specific timeframe on the project at large.
e: Who all is involved in the project? How are they helping?
TM: We have a core group of four actors who are all currently conducting interviews. Those actors are Matt Carter, Kat Rosner, Tony Choufani and Mickey Johnson. I’m acting as a director and general organizer. We also have other volunteers helping in various ways, including finding folks to interview.
e: How does the interview process go down exactly?
TM: We meet up somewhere comfortable and private, sometimes on UNCW campus (MoB has connections to UNCW), sometimes in one of our homes. We have some prompts for questions, and we just let our interviewee talk. It’s a guided conversation and opportunity for the interviewee to tell his/her story.
e: Do you have a timeline in mind on collecting stories, writing scripts and debuting the play?
TM: We are interviewing now and will put a temporary stop on interviews at the end of February/beginning of March. We will then devise and rehearse the play, with performances at the Cameron Art Museum set for March 28-30. We hope to have discussions and talkbacks after each show. After March performances, we may continue to conduct interviews, and will workshop the play further over the summer. We’re taking our time, because we want to make sure our play is as inclusive as it can be.