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The Most Important Show I Have Ever Done

By: Robert Joki

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April 11, 2009

Dear friend,

A few months ago I wrote a blog .  It was called When I Knew...and How It Saved Me.  You can check the valley24 archives if you would like.  It was a big deal to me at the time because it was a very personal piece for me to post in a public forum. I was worried about what my friends and family would think. I hoped that if I shared my story, my testimony about how I came to terms with who I am, it would help others to do the same. It turned out to be a major turning point in my life. I have never regretted publishing it.

I am very proud to let you know that the little piece of writing that started out as a blog on a local website is now being produced on stage at The Oakland Center for the Arts. My story will be featured along side the stories of nine other brave individuals. The evening will also feature original and popular music, singing, spoken word, and dance.  The performance will take place on Friday, April 17th and Saturday, April 18th, both nights at 8pm, and will serve as a fund raising event to benefit Youngstown's first gay pride festival. 

In a recent interview about the event, a reporter asked me "Do you really think that coming out of the closet saved your life."  This show is not just about coming out of the closet.  And although all of the stories are LGBT related, only about half of the performers are gay. It's hard to explain...but this production isn't about being homosexual. It's about a moment.  A realization. It's about knowledge. And finding peace. The moment I am talking about saves from people from living in fear.  From being the kind of person they don't want to be. From living hateful lives.  From being misled. And yes, in some cases, from death. The piece I am going to read is about the first instance I found myself attracted to another man...and how the timing of that event profoundly affected me.  In my personal case, it did save my life.

That being said...this is probably the most important show I've ever done. By sharing our testimonies, we are trying to raise awareness, and put a face on the gay community and its allies in the Youngstown area. At the same time, we are raising money for a good cause. 

I am not gonna lie.  I am scared out of my mind.  My hands are shaking as I draft this letter and my eyes are welling up. In one week's time, I am going to get up in front of a room full of people and speak words I have never been able to say out loud. I'm terrified. But I believe in this cause. And I believe in these people.These individuals are everyday people, reading their own words...telling the stories that changed their lives.  Some are hilarious. Some are sad.  Some will make you wanna punch a wall. But they are all very true and very real. When they knew...and how it saved them.

Once again, all proceeds from this performance will benefit Youngstown's first gay pride celebration, which is scheduled for this summer.  It is a festival that will take place in the downtown area, and it has been a long time coming. If you would like to see this show and support the Youngstown area LGBT community, you can make reservations by calling The Oakland Center for the Arts at 330 746 0404.  The theater is located at 220 West Boardman Street in downtown Youngstown, Ohio. Tickets are $15. There will be a reception at 7pm each night before the show. Seating is limited, so make your call as soon as possible. 

Performers include Nicole Zayas, Joyce Jones, Beth Farrow, Maxine Factor, Niki Jones, Ric Panning, Rick Morrow, Kelly Bancroft, Carlos Rivera, Brandon Smith, Molly Makselan, Natalia Hagan, Kerri Rickard, Kage Jonas, and more.

If you cannot make the show, but would like to make a donation to Pride Youngstown, the nonprofit group organizing the pride festival...drop me a message and I will let you know how to do so. Also, if there is anything you can do to help us get the word out about this show, we would greatly appreciate it. 

I hope to see you next weekend.
Thank you for helping us change the world.

With love,
Robert Dennick Joki


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