PRIDE & Art: Meet Kayla Barrett Denney
KAYLA BARRETT DENNEY
Artistic Director, Assistant Director, Head Stage Manager
Moxie: Happy PRIDE Month! Excited to have you with us today, it's been too long! So tell us a bit about yourself. What are you excited about right now, artistically?
Kayla: Hi! I'm Kayla Barrett Denney. I work mostly with opera, however i've worked for film, music theater and straight plays - As for what I'm excited for in the art world, I (like many) am excited to return to my craft in Earnest. COVID left a lot to be desired when it comes to art. I'm even more excited because it seems the industry is ready to be bold. I've noticed a significant uptick of artists that are excited to tell the stories most often overlooked. Whether that be LGBTQ+, BIPOC, or otherwise. I'm excited to expand audiences understanding of the beautiful humanity around us.
M: Did you have a LGBTQ mentor in the arts growing up, and if so, how do you think their mentorship impacted your own journey?
K: I didn't actually have any queer mentors growing up, in the arts or otherwise. I grew up in Rural Oklahoma and most LGBTQ people from when I was being brought up preferred to be hidden for safety reasons. I'm a little jealous of younger LGBTQ artists that have that, and I hope to be that for some gaybies of my own! LOL
M: Four Queer artists whose work needs to be celebrated and known right now - who would they be for you and why?
K: My 4- Shea Diamond: she is a black trans queer woman who has been known by those who look for that kind of thing for quite some time. She does amazing R&B and pop music that doesn't shy away from demanding change in an active and powerful way.
Lucia Lucas: She is a Trans woman who made history as the first woman to play Don G on stage. She is an incredible singer, incredible musician, and most importantly refuses to be boxed in by anything less than her talent. She is the embodiment of trans power in the opera world.
Mira Ong-Chua: She is a lesbian who is famous for working on both DC and Marvel Comics. However, I want to highlight her individual work. Many know her line art without knowing that she has an entire queer body of work that is hers and hers alone.
All the People who work for Autostraddle: This isnt an individual person, but rather a body of work made by and for queer people. I think keeping queer media independant is the only way to keep it true tp itself. Autostraddle is a queer digital magazine thats been without corparate sponsors for years and deserves more patronage, ASAP!
M: Amazing! Tons of great folx to check out - thank you! What would you say your identity brings to the table in your craft, or how has your identity shaped your art, if at all?
K: My identity in a weird way brought me to my craft. I've been doing music and theater my whole life. It allowed an escape that kept me safe while I found my identity. Now I try to use my art to provide an opportunity to tell stories about difference as honestly as possible. It has gifted me an understanding of what really makes people beautiful, as well as what ugliness we need to look at to grow. I try to bring it to the table in all my work if possible.
M: That's powerful work, Kayla. Powerful. Looking at the future generations, what would be your advice to LGBTQ artists who are just now celebrating their first Pride month?
K: The advice I would give to fresh out of the closet artists is to let yourself guide your art. Now that may seem like a no-brainer, but oftentimes we are bogged down by theory, learned beliefs about what art should be, and fear of stigma. Take all of that and remove it from your art, as best you can. If you can truly master following your own voice, your art will elevate to heights you can't imagine.
M: What do you look forward to next on stage as we begin to reopen theatres across the country?
K: I'm not looking forward to any specific shows over others. What I am most excited to see on stage is how much everyone is hungry to make art in an honest way. I fully believe we are about to see a stage renaissance born from the frustration we all felt. I'm so excited to see everyone take that frustration and turn it into "superbatteries" for their coming works.
Want to keep up with Kayla's work? Be sure to keep up with her on Instagram by following @kaydeezy0716 !