Storytellers are charged with revealing truth to their audience.
Whether the narrative is fact or fiction, through storytelling we see our human journey through a new lens.
We’ve asked local storytelling event She is FIERCE to join us at the opening party for A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes to share the stories that live in their fashion.
Among those storytellers is Allyson Lee Brown. A native of New Orleans, Allyson recently received her MFA in Acting from the UW School of Drama. She is also a proud graduate of the illustrious Spelman College where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Drama. In addition to performing on stage. Allyson acts as a mentor and teacher, encouraging youth to tap into their greatness through deep exploration of the arts.
See Allyson live at the A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes opening party May 10.
Interview with Allyson Lee Brown
What attracts you to storytelling as a medium?
Stories are ancestral. Familial. Sacred. Divine. The words capture both power and pain, wisdom and weariness, happiness and heartache.
I love to explore the grounds in between all of these things. I'd like to think that storytelling is a part of my purpose. Ever since I was little, I loved to tell stories to my family and anyone else I could grab a hold of. Being an only child, that was my source of entertainment. I never really was a TV person because I got lost in books, plays, and imaginative play all the time. I found peace in both the stories I read and the ones I created.
During my college years majoring in Drama, I realized that the stories and characters I was playing were more meaningful and powerful than what I was making them. There was always someone in the audience who was moved by the play or the performance because the words resonated with them or because they saw themselves in the characters. That stuck with me. I realized that sharing a story could change a life. Sharing a story could heal someone. Sharing a story could allow those who are often looked over to be seen.
What artists are inspiring your work currently?
Artists that are currently inspiring my work are Dominique Morisseau and Valerie Curtis-Newton. These black women artists are dynamic in every way. They are putting the narratives of black people — especially black women — at the forefront and being unapologetic about sharing our truths. That is what I strive to do in my own work as I have embraced my authenticity, my ability, and my power in all that I do.
Through Dominique's brilliant plays and Valerie's masterful direction, I have been inspired to use my work to expound upon my truths and to provide healing and joy to those who receive it.
A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes is themed around six archetypes: Thespian, Mother Earth, Explorer, Enchantress, Sage, and Heroine. Which archetype do you most identify with and why?
All of these archetypes move me and are relatable in every way, but the one I identify with the most would have to be the Thespian. The Thespian is full of imagination and life, but also wears a mask at times. She shares with the world the parts of her that she wants to be seen, but she does not conform. The Thespian is multi-faceted, unpredictable, humorous, empathetic, and versatile. I'd like to think we are similar in those ways.
The exhibition tells the story of these archetypes through fashion. What’s one thing you feel fashion does well? How would you like to see fashion evolve in the future?
One thing I think fashion does well is give people the freedom to express themselves in any way possible. There is a look for everyone. And as we grow and go through the many phases of life, our clothes change with us.
I find that people are exploring themselves and fashion at younger ages, which is a beautiful thing. I am quickly reminded of the freedom my parents allowed me growing up to express myself through fashion. I would wear clear and pink plastic princess heels, a tutu, and a tiara to a restaurant or wherever else we were going for the day. That was freedom. That was expression of self. I love that about fashion.
I would like to see fashion continue to evolve outside of the box. People think something is crazy or ugly until someone with celebrity status wears it. I would like to see that change. And there are people out there who are expressing themselves in ways that are seen as taboo or "over-the-top" without caring about social acceptance. I want to support those who wish to do that, to break the barrier and do you boo!
Thanks to Allyson for sharing her thoughts with us. You can see her live at the opening party for A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes May 10 at MoPOP.