THE LONELINESS PROJECT
WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY KELLI SIMPKINS
ASSOCIATE WRITER & ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR: CAITLIN KANE
Production and rehearsal photos by Rachel Philipson from a workshop at Cornell University (2018)
The Loneliness Project (formerly Standing Underneath Night and Day) began in the summer of 2014 as an artistic response to the first comprehensive needs assessment of Chicago's LGBTQIA+ populations. That assessment revealed that LGBTQIA+ youth and seniors share many material needs and a profound sense of isolation from other LGBTQIA+ individuals and the resources that they need.
Supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a collective of eight queer artists, led by Kelli Simpkins (About Face Theatre, Tectonic Theatre Project) conducted over seventy interviews and began the process of transforming those interviews into a script. In January 2015, About Face Theatre produced a staged reading of the play at one of the city's LGBTIQA+ community centers, the Center on Halsted.
Following that initial development period, the project's artistic team dispersed leaving a smaller group of four artists (Simpkins, Al Evangelista, Caitlin Kane, and Reed Motz) to continue its development. After several years of intermittent writing retreats and weekend-long workshops, we produced a month-long workshop at Cornell University with a cast of students and local actors. That version of the production used verbatim testimony and theatrical movement to document the rich history of Chicago’s LGBTQIA+ activist communities and to make sense of their fracturing over the past 20 years. A tale of fierce activism, profound loneliness, and remarkable resilience, The Loneliness Project employed the documentary method as not only a mode of artistic creation and preservation but also as a mode of collaborative problem-solving.
The lasting intergenerational relationships that resulted from that production convinced us that an artistic process could address the persistent homophobia, transphobia, and lack of material resources that contribute to social isolation and enabled us to reimagine The Loneliness Project through a digital humanities lens. We are now raising money for a larger cohort of queer artists to collaborate with LGBTQIA+ youth and seniors to develop digital works that respond to how the global pandemic has amplified the experiences of loneliness originally at the play’s core.