Culture Shock: Q&A with Queer Memoir

Join Friends of the High Line on April 22 for Culture Shock, the High Line's 2017 programming season kick-off. Culture Shock will bring the park to life with music, comedy, stories, and family activities from 1-6 PM. All events are free with RSVP and open to the public.

Leading up to the event, we'll be sitting down with performers contributing to the Culture Shock line-up. As we count down to April 22, be sure to check back here for more exclusive Q&As.

Queer Memoir was founded seven years ago by Brooklyn-based ex-nun and gender-queer nurse/comic/storyteller Kelli Dunham and playwright Genne Murphy. They aim to ensure that all queer stories are heard through a simple format: a queer human, a story, and people who listen.

For those unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe it?
KD: Queer Memoir is low-tech, high-touch storytelling series where folks from every corner of the LGBT communities share stories about the beautiful, horrible, amazing, sad, horrifying, and inspirational events that have shaped our lives as LGBT people. Each month, we bring together folks who are well-known in the LGBT community and beyond, and folks who have never been on a stage in their lives. We believe that we are all storytellers and that with the right kind of coaching, and (even more importantly) encouragement, we can share in a way that is both entertaining and poignant.

What kind of stories do you feel your work tells?
KD: Over the years, we've covered a wide range of themes, bringing people together to talk about everything from bathrooms, to parents, to survival, to death, to pets.

How does your work speak to the NY community?
KD: I believe our work IS the NY community while also being a representation of New York as a destination. While there are many LGBT people who are born and raised New Yorkers, many of us are immigrants, both from other countries, and from the Heartland. For decades, we've come to New York looking for the ability to live true, authentic lives while struggling to find and make a place for ourselves, struggling to be good neighbors to the folks that have made New York such an amazing place to live. Queer Memoir is the story of that work to find and make community.

Tell us a little about what you have planned for Culture Shock.
KD: Five very different storytellers will be telling five very different stories; about polyamorous white-water rafting and hiking misadventures, and how queers used outdoor space in Chelsea in recent and distant past. I'll be telling a story of my summers at the Lord's Boot Camp (actual motto: Get Dirty for God, Go Lay a Brick) which was supposed to cure me of being queer through the wonder of the great outdoors.

What makes the High Line as a venue unique or challenging to you and your work?
KD: Any outdoor venue has its own challenges, but we're looking forward to the new audiences that this event will bring for us. And in our seven-year history Queer Memoir has never really had a steady venue so we're accustomed to working outside the black box! Our storytellers have told stories in places like the Q train, Coney Island, the A train, and a random person's apartment in the past, so I know the storytellers are up to the challenge!


Culture Shock is generously supported by The India Center Foundation and by Goldman Sachs Gives, at the request of R. Martin Chavez.

Public programs on the High Line are supported, in part, with public funds from the New York City Council, under the leadership of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

High Line Families is supported, in part, with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council.

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