If we want to get better at having difficult conversations, we have to practice.
That idea is at the heart of “AKA Fathers/Sons,” a piece created by Harry Waters Jr, his son Jordon Waters, and Kevin “Kaoz” Moore.
The show, which they call a “performative conversation,” was developed out of their own conversations on sexuality, sex and masculinity.
“It’s about our remembering or revisiting the tension or dynamics of a conversation we had, or wish we had, or could have had with our fathers,” said Waters, sitting at a table at Bedlam Theatre before rehearsal.
“Historically, anything revolving around sexuality and particular sexual identity is not something we have a way of discussing in our communities because it’s taboo, traumatic,” Waters said, “but it’s so present, how could we not talk about it?”
When asked why the focus of the show is on men of color in particular, Waters — who teaches at Macalester College — replies, “I have witnessed more white students and colleagues who have had some conversation with their parents about sexuality, but in about 99 percent of families of color, it’s not a part of our experience.
“There are uncles and aunts in every family that no one talks about, and those people are not allowed to talk to the children because of ‘what might happen.’ We tend to embrace these things because we respect our elders, but sometimes our elders need a new lens.”
The show includes dance by Jordon Waters, and spoken word by Moore. Some evenings include a D.J. The audience also gets to play a part. “AKA: Fathers/Sons” has been in development for years, with performances at Queertopia, Trans Youth Support Network, Kulture Klub, and elsewhere.
Moore, who is an HIV educator in addition to rapper and playwright, says too often youth are getting their information about sex and sexuality on the streets or from pornography.
“Porn is so prevalent, that kids don’t have the conversations anymore, they just watch a video,” said Moore. “Sex becomes objectified and there’s no explanation or exploration of what it means. It becomes an act devoid of connection to our humanity, aggressive and impersonal.”
Moore says having support systems in place makes people less likely to put themselves at risk. Those support systems are founded in honest conversation.
The trio also explore generational differences. Harry Waters Jr says his 86-year-old father is only just now willing to recognize Waters’ partner of 14 years. But Harry’s son Jordon embraces his father’s sexuality, and is proud to be sharing the stage with him.
“Growing up with a gay father, the teasing never affected me,” said Waters. “At least I knew where my father was! And now with the younger generation there’s a gender blur – everything’s queer.”
Jordon points out that “AKA: Fathers/Sons” is not offering any answers, just presenting possibilities.
“We hope to provide inspiration to bridge those gaps, to have those conversations,” added Moore.
“How do we know how to do this unless we practice?” said Waters Jr. “There’s no solution, there’s just what’s next. Ultimately we’d like for this show to travel, because there are so many communities that would benefit from an opportunity like this.”