The Open Letters to the Men of Craigslist are stories – letters, if you will – about gender, bipolarity, trauma and sexuality.
Why write stories about hook ups, Craigslist and mental health? Why perform them? Why create installation from them? Because I:
- …believe in work that raises tensions between judgments, perceptions and experience to open transformative conversations.
- …believe in telling our stories even if they are sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes sad, sometimes frightening, sometimes joyful because they create a space to engage about a topic, in this case sexuality, in a way that rejects easy answers.
- …believe nothing is too “private,” “taboo,” or “embarrassing” to be told.
- …am choosing to tell stories that have multitudes in the same sense Walt Whitman used the word.
- …seek to trouble pat answers, to broaden what is polite conversation, and to place experiences many people have back on the map.
These are true stories, but some details have been omitted or changed to protect others’ privacy. These audio letters are #NSFW. All images from the installation are PG-13 or so.
This project has been through various iterations. Presently they are located on Patreon. Stay tuned for expansion plans for another installation or performance.
Other Performance Work
Other Than Tragedy
50 – 60 minute solo
What does it mean to live a legacy of mental illness and suicide? And what is to be done once it is no longer avoidable. I’ve spent years wrestling with this legacy; not only is there the heartbreaking limitations of past and present treatment, the heartbreaking prejudice towards people sick in this way, there is also deep connection for me. I’m not the only one, and it became more and more important to me to not merely reveal the illnesses of these women, but also their strengths, their lives, their obsessions, as near as I could know them.
“As a whole, Other than Tragedy shows the brave, spirited heart of an artist and woman. For one hour, she is alive. Johnson is a powerful act.” – Michelle Storm
“I suspect that Alison’s soft-spoken observations on family, on love and on going on in spite of life will ring true with everyone.” – Rob Callahan
“I was inspired and riveted by this personal and beautifully-crafted telling of family mental illness. Speaking up where there was silence, shining a light on a subject our culture keeps invisible and shameful, this show captures and conveys a brave life journey.” – Max Gries
Because the Voices
Tapping below the calcified language about my Great-Aunt’s suicide lies the realization that it wasn’t always inevitable. Best of all, I discover how much I had in common with Grandma’s baby sister. We both read endlessly, we both volunteered incessently, and we both fell ill in college, so ill our grades suffered.
Alma: Inmate or Artist?
When my grandmother’s aunt Alma was a patient at St. Peter State Hospital the 1937 movie North of the Rio Grande was shown to patients. In the movie, a character says: “Around cowboys he’s known as a musician, but around musicians he’s known as a cowboy.” Back in 1930 Alma and other patients’ relationship to the head of household in the census was inmate. This piece begs the question of what it means for Alma to have likely been known as an artist among inmates and an inmate among artists.
I produced and performed in this Minnesota Fringe Festival show featuring pieces in resistance to sexual violence. The show format included performers from multiple genres: two novelists; a memoirist; storytellers from different traditions; a journalist and playwright; and a spoken work artist.
Words in Shades of Gray
Founded and produced this reading series at 42nd Ave Station in North Minneapolis. The series was a stylistic mash up of writers, spoken word artists and storytellers who dove into shades of gray as defined by each performer. Performers included Bryan Thao Worra, Reginald Edmund, and Lightsey Darst.
Betweeen: An Intergenerational Salon
Between was a feminist reading series that paired women writers from different generations, and was hosted in a women’s bookstore.
Past Performance Credits
- Northfield Artist Guild
- 7th Street Entry
- Story Arts of MN/Northstar Storytellers Tellabration