Pictured from left to right: Quinn O'Briant, Louisa Merchant, Paula Novelle Davis, Intellect Allison, and Yeme Jeaneé / Photo by Katie Burkholder

Storytime Cabaret Fosters Intimacy in the LGBTQ Community

A brand-new LGBTQ event is launching in Atlanta this month. Storytime Cabaret is Atlanta’s newest storytelling and live performance event, where queer performers from a myriad of disciplines will share their talents in an intimate, yet socially distanced, space. The event is coproduced and emceed by Louisa Merchant and Quinn O’Briant, who both have a long history of running shows like Cliterati, the 20-year-old queer feminist open mic. Merchant, who first had the idea for Storytime Cabaret, is a reality storyteller, which inspired her concept for the event.

“I was interested in having a regular, recurring event that highlighted queer storytellers and also have drag and burlesque and other performance genres,” she told Georgia Voice. “The idea is to have it at a variety of venues with a variety of performers.”

The launch of Storytime Cabaret happens on May 22 at Heck House, a venue in Scottdale designed to platform local artists. About four years ago, owner Paula Novelle Davis gutted an old, overgrown house to create a functional and community-focused space for artists to host workshops and performances and make money. The eclectic outdoor space will be the backdrop for the six performances of the night.

Nikki Roberts and Jazzhands will be telling personal stories, something fellow storyteller Merchant finds crucial to creating genuine, connective community.

“[Storytelling] is an opportunity to have intimacy, which is central to cabaret,” she said. “You really get to know who people are, what they’ve been through, what their struggles are, and it’s easy to connect intimately on that level. Especially post-COVID when we’ve all been living in isolation, to come out in a socially distanced, outdoor environment and share that connection is really important.”

Guests will also enjoy performances from aerialist performers The Flying Seraphim, drag king Al Schlong, burlesque dancer Yeme Jeaneè, and musician Intellect Allison. Jeaneè and Allison, who are partners, opened up to Georgia Voice about the self-expression and acceptance associated with performance that they hope to share with their audience on the 22nd.

“For all communities, especially the LGBTQ community, performance is expression,” Jeaneè said. “This is a community that didn’t always have freedom of expression, so when we have music and art of any kind, it gives us a space to be without judgment, ridicule, or criticism. When we have events like these that are open to the community, it allows us space to let go. We can’t always truly be ourselves, so the arts allow ourselves to have a space to say, ‘Hey, this is me!’”

“Performance is also about experience options,” Allison added. “Over time, we base our life on what society says. A lot of what society says isn’t what we go through in our community. So, it’s important for everybody to know that being free to be your true self is an option.”

While Storytime Cabaret will be a recurring experience — Merchant and O’Briant plan to host six to 12 shows a year — each show will be one-of-a-kind.

“We want to create a different experience every time: a different set of performers, different audience, different place,” O’Briant said. While future plans are still fluid, the pair hope to host a show for SAGE — an advocacy group for LGBTQ elders — featuring performers who are 65 and older, as well as a BDSM-themed event. To keep an eye out for future events, follow Storytime Cabaret on Instagram and Facebook @storytimecabaret.

Doors open at 7:30pm, and the show begins at 8:30pm. Guests are encouraged to bring their own food and drinks; masks are required when walking around the venue, but not necessary when seated. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at bit.ly/launchtoheck — spots are limited, so get your tickets ASAP. Heck House is located at 3498 E. Ponce de Leon Ave.
For more information, visit heck.house.