Artist and poet Teighlor McGee on speculative poetry/theater and being a voice for their communities
What is your involvement with Controlled Burn?
I am a performing artist featuring my original work.
What motivates your work as an artist?
I want to use my abilities of creative expression to bring to life my personal narratives in ways that defy genre expectations. I strongly believe in marginalized folks creating their own work to reach and heal their communities and through my artistic endeavors I hope to be a voice for my communities.
For Controlled Burn, what is your piece about?
I classify my piece as speculative poetry/theater—it is a performance of four separate monologues that together craft a story that discusses race, gender, disability, and familial ties and the ways in which these ideas intersect with identity politics and transcend the confinements of time. I classify this work as speculative due to the way in which the pieces [together] as a single entity take place in both the past and the present, in addition to the intentionally dystopian elements in parts of the work. The audience is brought the task of speculating about the narrator throughout the piece. Are they a time traveler? Are they intended to be the same person in each of the time measures? Are they human or a spirit guide? This piece is meant to evoke these types of questions and bring to life the experience of living with multiple intersecting identities in a way that does not stick to one specific genre or style.
Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production?
I’ve been a performing artist since I was 16, having started as an actor and then primarily a performance poet. Previously I worked for Patrick’s Cabaret as a Classroom Assistant with their Teaching Artistry program. I mostly do features, workshops and various poetry slams.
What social issues are important to you and how do they inform the art you create?
I am a disability rights advocate and founder of the Black Disability Project @BlackDisability on Twitter, a movement to uplift black disabled lives, which I use as a platform to discuss issues that impact black disabled folks and our communities. The intersection of race and disability are the primary lens through which I create my art. I want to be a voice for my community.
What other artists or performances have inspired you over the years?
I was deeply inspired by Penumbra Theatre’s recent production of For Colored Girls. I would also cite Dominique Christina’s poem “For Emmett Till” as being an instrumental piece for me in regards to forming my style and vision. I was 16 when I watched the video of her performing this piece and since then it has been with me forever.
Are you working on any other projects or are there others you hope to work on?
I’m hoping from this will come more opportunities to perform this unique piece of work. I will be competing in the Black Arts Matter Poetry slam in Madison, WI. I also have forthcoming writing in the Shadow and Glow issue of Pussy Magic Lit magazine, and in Wear Your Voice magazine’s #BodyPositivityinColor issue.
Aside from your artistic work, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies or passions in life?
I love to read absolutely everything, books, news, magazines, etc. Constantly reading is what allows me to fuel my creativity and my writing.
Describe your pre-performance ritual if you have one.
Basically just trying not to pee myself from anxiety while rereading all of my lines.
Teighlor McGee will be performing their piece “Liberation in 4/4 Time” on Thursday, February 14 @ 7:30pm at Controlled Burn: Queer Performance for a World on Fire.