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LGBTQIA+ art blog #6: Michelle Zahner

Michelle Zahner has been working in theatre and performance since 2011; she's toured fringe shows, made short films, worked in set design and stage management. She's also a playwright; her premiere playscript 'A Modern Guide to Heroism & Sidekickery' was published this year, a reviewer describing her performance in that work said "(Michelle) wears her awkwardness with an elegance"; Michelle is insanely proud of that quote. You can find Michelle at all the normal social medias: twitter, facebook, instagram. You can also check out the website she keeps meaning to update.

I’m a storyteller. Over the years for me, that’s taken many forms. I’ve worked as an actor, a writer, a set designer, and and aerial acrobat. I’ve also dipped my head into various friends' projects as an outside eye, not quite a director, but more than a cheerleader. The focus for me has always been on sharing a story with others.

The stories I tell are always outlandish, I spent most of 2018 touring the fringe circuit as a superhero who mostly fought pigeons. I like the ridiculous for two reasons; it’s easier to laugh and it’s easier to remove blame. The X-men is the classic example, everyone can be on the side of the mutants because in the ‘real world’ they don’t exist. I’ve always found it strange but people seem to find it easier to put themselves in the shoes of a mutant, or a superhero or an alien than in those of a queer person, a woman or a person of colour.

So I tell stories that spiral, that start in the ridiculous, and shift us closer and closer to reality. If I’ve done my job right, it gives an audience a chance to see a different perspective. As a queer person, I believe to find the equal footing we deserve, we need to find a way to share our perspectives. For me storytelling is the best medium. To paraphrase Neil Gaiman, paraphrasing G.K. Chesterton; Fairy tales are true, not because they tell us dragons are real, but because they tell us they can be defeated.

Which leads me to the truly excellent piece of art I’ve chosen. Drawn by artist (and friend) Atlanta PB, I have a print of this fantastic dragon on my wall. Atlanta drew it while I was performing at my first Edinburgh fringe and it will be forever tied up in that rollercoaster of emotions for me. She saw my show, I bought her art, I love the cycle of artists supporting artists. I love the dragons she draws. It reminds me of the importance of fairy tales.


As part of Pride Month 2020, Crossbeam and Waterloo Festival are presenting a blog, featuring LGBTQIA+ artists and those who hold LGBTQIA+ art dear to them.

Josh Mock, curating the series, writes:

"It is my hope that by sharing the stories of diverse artists, we can appreciate and celebrate all those who strive to use art as a vehicle for LGBTQIA+ inclusion, activism, and advocacy."
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