The Biggest Quake brings together eight San Francisco artists with varied backgrounds in writing, performance art, music, public health, science and AIDS activism. In preparation for these three evenings, the eight artists created brand new essays and performance works in collaboration with one another. The location, Metropolitan Community Church, was ground zero for hundreds of memorial services during the peak of the AIDS years. The work promises to be funny, touching, harrowing, historical and controversial. The artists spent hours having conversations as a group and individually, deepening their understanding of the AIDS epidemic. The variety of voices here creates a dialogue that goes across generational, gender, and cultural lines. The purpose of this project is to generate new stories and thinking about AIDS and to spark a resurgence of artists making work about the epidemic, in terms of history, where we are now, and the future imaginary.
The Biggest Quake was made possible in part by a grant from The Creative Work Fund, a program of the Walter and Elise Haas Fund supported by generous grants from the William Flora Hewlett Foundation and the James Irvine Foundation. The Queer Cultural Center, the San Francisco Arts Commission, the California Arts Council and the Zellerbach Family Foundation provided additional support.
Mark Abramson was a Midwestern farm boy who joined the great gay migration to San Francisco in the 1970s. His writing has appeared in the gay press as far back as Christopher Street, Fag Rag, Gay Sunshine and Mouth of the Dragon. Like the central character in his best-selling “Beach Reading” series, Mark Abramson grew up in Minnesota and worked as a waiter in the Castro, but Mark is better known as a bartender and co-producer of “Men Behind Bars,” an annual AIDS benefit and the huge dance parties on San Francisco piers called “Pier Pressure” and “High Tea.”
Justin Chin’s third book of poetry, Gutted, received the Publishing Triangle’s 2007 Thom Gunn Award for Poetry, and was a finalist in the Lambda Literary Awards, and the Assoc. for Asian American Studies Book Awards. His other books of poetry are Bite Hard, and Harmless Medicine, a 2002 Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Awards finalist. He is also the author of three collections of essays: Burden of Ashes, Mongrel: Essays, Diatribes & Pranks, and Attack of the Man-Eating Lotus Blossoms; and most recently, the short story collection, 98 Wounds.
Brontez Purnell is a zinester, writer, dancer and musician, who now lives in California. Brontez was originally from Triana, Alabama, then moving to Huntsville, Alabama, and then to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he released Schlepp Fanzine while still living at home. He then relocated on his own to Oakland, California, where he released his next zine, Fag School. He is also the mastermind behind the band The Younger Lovers and is an ex-member of queer electro band Gravy Train!!!! Brontez has written for various publications, including the on-line edition of Jigsaw, and has also written a column called “She’s Over It” for Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll. He has read his work at Lit Quake in San Francisco. He is currently working on his first novella “Johnny, Would You Love Me If My Dick Were Bigger? (Diary of an American Waiter Bored at Work).
Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a “cultural sexologist” because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues, her overarching interest is in cultural impacts (gender, shame, access to education, etc.) on sexuality. Queen has worked at Good Vibrations (www.goodvibes.com), the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old this year, since 1990. She serves as Staff Sexologist and Chief Cultural Officer. She is also the founding director (with her partner Robert Morgan Lawrence) of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco (www.sexandculture.org), and is a frequent lecturer at colleges and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine, the Boston Dig, and at SFGate’s City Brights bloggers page. For more: carolqueen.com.
Kirk Read (curator) is the author of the coming out memoir How I Learned to Snap and created the solo shows This is the Thing and Computer Face. He has toured with the Queen’s English, Sister Spit and twice with the Sex Workers Art Show. He is passionate about the intersection of art and public health. Over the years he has produced over 250 nights of performance and literature, including events addressing crystal meth, barebacking, computer addiction, sex work and HIV/AIDS from the perspective of artists and writers who create work from lived experience. He helped organize the Gay Men’s Sex Summit and the first two national Gay Men’s Health Summits in Boulder. He worked as a phlebotomist and HIV counselor at St. James Infirmary, San Francisco’s free clinic for sex workers. At St. James, he also started a support group for male sex workers. He cohosted the long running queer open mic K’vetsh with Tara Jepsen and cohosts Smack Dab with Larry-bob Roberts, a queer open mic on third Wednesdays at Magnet. He started Army of Lovers, an organization that curates queer art events. He started Formerly Known As, a festival of male sex worker performance, now in its fourth year. He believes in the power of art to shape and guide social movements.
Julia Serano is an Oakland, California-based writer, performer, and activist. Julia is the author of Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity (Seal Press, 2007), a collection of personal essays that reveal how misogyny frames popular assumptions about femininity and shapes many of the myths and misconceptions people have about transsexual women. Her other writings have appeared in anthologies (including Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape, Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation and Word Warriors: 30 Leaders in the Women’s Spoken Word Movement) and in feminist, queer, pop culture and literary magazines and websites such as Bitch Magazine, AlterNet.org, Out, Feministing.com, make/shift and Clamor. In recent years, Julia has gained notoriety in transgender, queer, and feminist circles for her unique insights into gender, and her writings have been used as teaching materials in queer and gender studies courses across North America.
K.M. Soehnlein is the author of three novels: The World of Normal Boys, winner of the Lambda Award for Gay Men’s Fiction; its sequel, Robin and Ruby; and You Can Say You Knew Me When. His fiction has been translated into Czech, Italian and Chinese. He’s currently working on a novel set in New York City in the late 1980s and early ’90s, against the backdrop of the AIDS activist protest movement. His writing is included in the anthologies Who’s Yer Daddy? Gay Writers Celebrate Their Mentors and Forerunners; Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys; and Love, Castro Street. He has written for The Village Voice, Out, San Francisco Magazine, 7×7 and other publications. He was born in New York, grew up in New Jersey and has lived in San Francisco since the early ’90s. He teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at the University of San Francisco. He lives with his husband, Kevin Clarke, in SoMa. http://kmsoehnlein.com
Ed Wolf has been working continuously in the HIV/AIDS epidemic since 1983, as chronicled in the award-winning documentary “We Were Here.” He has developed HIV-related curriculum and trainings for a large number of national and international organizations and institutions, including the California State Office of AIDS, the Shanti Project of San Francisco, UCSF AIDS Health Project and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles. He’s facilitated trainings for counselors working in clinical trials in Lima, Peru as well as South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. His stories and articles have appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Christopher Street, the James White Review and Prentice Hall’s Discovering Literature. Ed has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and was awarded the HIV National Educator of Year Award from the body.com.