Sebastian Cummings is a Philadelphia-based queer actor, musician and performance artist who develops high-concept, musically-intensive live productions.
Currently engaged in a Kickstarter campaign, Cummings' latest artistic endeavor is a multimedia musical titled "Showbiz: Active Terrorism." The show follows the character of Sebastian on his journey from a new performer in Philadelphia to an international entertainer with mainstream recognition and everything that comes with this framework of identity as a queer person of color.
The Huffington Post chatted with Cummings this week about "Showbiz: Active Terrorism" and his overarching goals with the production.
The Huffington Post: What is your concept and vision for "Showbiz"?
Sebastian Cummings: "Showbiz" is part live musical, part film à clef, if you will. The show follows the character "Sebastian" from his start as a Philadelphia unknown to an internationally recognized entertainer of the pop culture variety. The world of the show imagines pop culture as a brainwashing mechanism used to distract the public from the political happenings that negatively affect their lives, while benefiting the rich and creating separation among the public based on stereotypes of race, sexual orientation, gender and religious beliefs. It imagines the media's purpose as a way to keep your attention where it's wanted (away from what really matters).
Sebastian is, of course, a queer, black character, which is something we haven't seen go mainstream before and this show imagines the expectations thrust upon him by the media given that this role is unpaved for public consumption. Once Sebastian reaches global status, a series of events unfold to lead him to want to create thought-provoking work as opposed to the sex-alcohol-vanity infused work of his peers. Living in the Matrix that we live in, the media makes him out to be a terrorist, to discredit him completely and keep the public from beginning a revolution of sorts.
How do you aim to use this show to inform a conversation that elevates the voices and talents of queer people of color and other marginalized groups?
The show directly confronts the issue of how different races, genders and sexual orientations are represented in the media and the lack of diversity in the roles offered to those who don't fall within the white, heteronormative world that is continuously thrust upon us. But, it does so with humor. This imagined world is much like the one in which we live, but uses exaggerated characters and circumstances to lighten these subjects -- the discussion of which is often met with resistance -- to create an important discussion while still entertaining. Sebastian is an animated jokester with friends that seem to be pulled directly from a sitcom à la Broad City. They are funny and ridiculous, in the way the average person reimagines and exaggerates their group of friends and their escapades when storytelling.
My overall aim is to make these labels of "queer" and "person of color" not matter by simply existing. The show discusses these issues, but without making this a "problem play." My goal is to be the change I want to see. The word of entertainment needs diversity in the stories being told, so I'm telling mine and I hope it inspires others to tell theirs.
Want to see more from Sebastian Cummings? Head here to visit the artist's Kickstarter for "Showbiz."