the anne lister playA Play for Everyone

Hailing from the northern islands of Scotland, Mei Wilshire brings a special warmth to the stages of northern England, as she now serves as producer of HLGBT Performing Arts York.

Working with collaborators  Philip Tebble, and Edwina Sykes, Mei’s group showcases the very best talent locally in theatre, poetry, spoken, word, dance, music and even art installations.

“Our works are paramount to the LGBT community as we consistently challenge the status quo expectations of the performing arts by reflecting diversity on unprecedented scale in the city of York that is founded on tradition and conservatism,” says Wilshire.  “We are ultimately a stage for a minority group in which our ethos allows freedom in the expression of the performing arts.”

Each production takes about two month’s preparation, depending on the show.

The last one was The Secret Diaries of Anne Lister, highlighting the life of the lesbian diarist whose journals have added a new dimension to the history of women’s sexuality. The play had special significance for Wilshire, as she learned more about Lister’s background and the lack of recognition Lister endured because she was gay.  York’s St.  John University asked HLGBT to produce this play again in February a part of LGBT History month.  HLGBT Performing Arts is working with York & Leeds based artists to create a play about the life and times of established lesbian women from the 1800s and the Lister work is part of that effort.  Lister’s biographer Helena Whitbread will also be attending the play in February to give a short talk about Anne.

Wilshire said what makes her productions different from others is that she integrates both heterosexual and homosexual art and does not see artificial limits. She hopes her productions bring a greater awareness of the LGBT community, the richness of its diversity and how successful working relationships with all people can be created and sustained, particularly through the arts.

“We are, to a great extent, creating new and sometimes controversial performance art in the city of York, and with this will come criticism but it will also lessen the intensity and stigma that is prevalent in the LGBT community today,” says Wilshire.  ” We think  our productions sensitize audiences and critics.”