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This project was successfully funded on July 2, 2014

Unknown Play Project - Documentary Film

by Alexis Clements


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The Unknown Play Project involves a cross-country journey to explore shifting identities and politics among lesbians and queer women through the lens of a handful of lesbian & queer spaces. This project combines community-based play readings and documentary filmmaking. 

About the Project

Despite numerous political gains for LGBTQ individuals in the US, many spaces where lesbians and queer women gather are fading out, struggling financially, or embroiled in conflict.

For this project, we will travel to a cross-section of different spaces around the country to do community-based readings of Alexis Clements’ play UNKNOWN. While in those locations, we’ll also create video portraits of the spaces we’re visiting and tape conversations with the people we encounter, including some people who have chosen to no longer participate in those spaces.

Why this Project is Important to Me (from Alexis)

As an artist, this project not only allows me to share my play in a way that steps outside of traditional models of production and gives me the chance interact directly with communities I feel tied to in some way. It also gives me an opportunity to continue to dig into some of the questions that drove me to write the play in the first place and that have come up for me over the past few years as I’ve participated and volunteered in lesbian and queer spaces.

Some of the key questions that I’m interested in are:

* Where do lesbians and queer women gather today?

* Why is it important for lesbians and queer women to have space to gather with each other?

* Why does it continue to seem so difficult to create and maintain space for lesbians and queer women? What role do things like class, race, gender identity, ability, etc, play in those difficulties?

* What role do changing politics and identities within queer and LGBT communities play in the most recent difficulties and closing of spaces?

* How do those who don’t feel like they easily fit or identify with a given sexual or gender identity relate to and participate with these spaces? What about all the people who have always participated in and supported these spaces who are not lesbian, female, queer, or otherwise?

The above questions are not just intellectual or journalistic, they are questions I regularly ask myself as I move through communities and spaces that I encounter in my daily life, and I hear similar questions from friends, acquaintances, and in conversations online. Also, how I identify myself isn’t just a political choice, it also has to do with whether or not I will be visible to the people I want to partner with—in other words, it also has to do with love, which adds an extra layer of complexity and frustration at times.

About the Play

UNKNOWN was inspired by the 40-year-old Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn, NY. It offers a portrait of a small community of lesbians that spans four generations, and it asks how we come to know a person as something more than the role they play in our lives or the labels society applies to them. The play follows a handful of characters as their lives intersect at the Archives, and also as they try to figure out why one woman in particular decided to send an entire life's worth of private writings to a small and idiosyncratic archive tucked away in a Brooklyn brownstone.

About the Documentary

We will be capturing footage of the spaces we visit as we travel, and we’ll also have taped conversations with the people we encounter in these spaces to address some of the questions above, but also to hear about their experiences, struggles, successes, and the questions they carry. 

We’ll be on the road for 3-4 weeks in August of this year, in addition to shooting prior to and following that trip.

Confirmed locations (as of May 15, 2014):

Lesbian Herstory Archives, Brooklyn, NY / WOW Cafe Theater, New York, NY / Feminist Art Gallery, Toronto, Canada / Lesbian Connection (magazine) Offices, Lansing, Michigan / Wild Iris Bookstore, Gainesville, Florida

Ongoing planning happening for locations in these cities (list likely to change somewhat as planning continues):

Northhampton, Massachusetts / San Francisco/Oakland, California / Albuquerque, New Mexico / Oklahoma City, Oklahoma / And possibly others

Who is Part of the Project?

Alexis Clements - Director/Producer

Jeanette Sears - Cinematographer

Sarah Nakano - Production Assistant

Kelly Wydryk - Consulting Producer

(learn more about the crew here)


Please Support this Project

We cannot succeed without your help. We need at least $10,000 to get on the road. Additional funds will allow us to visit more locations and to bring better equipment with us. Raising grant money for a project like this is challenging at best, and that is why we’re asking for help from you.

This project takes place within queer and feminist communities and is led by a director and crew who are queer and feminist. But in order to pull this off we need help from both inside AND outside those communities. 

What Your Money is Paying For

Each dollar you contirbute to this project will go directly toward paying for the costs of traveling to and shooting at the various locations that are part of this documentary. Direct costs include:

* equipment (camera, sound, lighting - this is the bulk of our costs)

* gas & tolls

* food

* camping/lodging (we're going to try to keep costs way down by camping out and staying with hosts at every possible opportunity, but we do still need some funds for lodging along the journey)

* insurance fees 

All funds in excess of the minimum will be used to visit more spaces and buy better equipment. Every penny will be put to use on this project, no matter how much we raise.

Thank You!!! 

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NOTE: This project will strive to be broadly inclusive, as issues affecting lesbians and queer people are not solely focused on sexuality, but also include gender identity, race and ethnicity, class, ability, age, and numerous other individual characteristics and experiences. Further, very few spaces where lesbians and queer women gather are comprised solely of lesbian and queer women. For decades, trans and gender-nonconforming individuals, straight women, and men of all sexualities, have participated in and helped to maintain, or other otherwise helped to support these spaces. All of this represents some of the complexity of defining and maintaining any space for any group of people, but particularly lesbian and queer spaces that espouse feminist or radical politics.

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