In 2009, Kevin Thornton's one-man show Sex, Dreams & Self Control played to packed houses. Named Nashville Scene's 'Best One-Man Show' in 2010, Thornton took his performances nationwide, landing himself a spot on NPR's All Things Considered.
After nearly 4 years since touring nationally, Thornton decided to revive his show one a series of limited performances at OutCentral.
In a time where the country is sharply divided and gay marriage is quickly gaining ground, Thornton feels like a revisit to the material is appropriate. "The show is about my journey to self acceptance. I grew up in a very fundamentalist Christian setting. It was a long painful process to admit that I was gay. Even though the world has changed so much since those days, I'm still amazed how many people are having a difficult time coming out. There are so many communities, especially religious ones, where being gay is quite difficult."
We chatted with Thornton about his artistic beginnings, the journey Sex, Dreams & Self Control has taken him on and what the future brings.
What role did theatre and the arts play in your childhood and upbringing?
I've never not been on stage. I was little baby Jesus in a church play. Legend has it I screamed through the entire thing and ruined it. From there, I was in every school play.
As I'm sure is the case for many artists, theatre and music were fulfilling a need for approval of some sort. That's a realization I had early on as an adult and had to do a little self therapy to detach my self worth from art. But I embrace all that. No matter how it all started this is where I am. It's been a life time of work there's no stopping now!
Tell us about your evolution as an artist.
Alongside my involvement in the theatre, I also began playing in rock bands early on. When I was wrapping up my undergraduate in Theatre Performance I had a difficult time deciding whether I should continue on to graduate school or attempt to get a recording contract. In the end, rock 'n' roll won out and I came to Nashville.
Theatre kept knocking on my door though. I've worked professionally here in Nashville numerous times and even did a brief stint in a "Repertory at Sea" cruise ship show. We went to over 20 countries- it was incredible. I like where I am with it all today. I've found a way to blend all the mediums together and make it my own.
What has your journey been with Sex, Dreams & Self Control?
When my recording contract fell apart in 2008, I unexpectedly had a huge burst of creativity and started writing about my experience of coming out of the closet in an extremely religious community. About midway through that process, I realized it would make a pretty great monologue. I wrote several songs to go with it, transforming it into a one-man musical of sorts. It ran for a couple months at Bongo After Hours. It was very well received. The Nashville Scene said it was "darkly funny" and later named it "Best One-Man Show" in 2010. From there I toured it nationally for well over a year.
What are your artistic goals for 2014?
I've spent the last several summers doing a circuit of Fringe Festivals- basically theatre and comedy festivals for new experimental works- so I plan to do that again. I'm spending this winter working on new material for that, and also doing this brief revival of Sex, Dreams and Self Control now. As I've been rehearsing the last few days I didn't realize what I was getting into. This show is a beast! It's been nearly 5 years, so even though I'm the author it still feels like I'm learning someone else's script.
What do you think of Nashville as a theatre town?
For being a town so over saturated with live entertainment, I've always been impressed with the demand for theatre here. In the past decade, I've been in numerous paid productions. I would love to see the fringe festival scene really take off here.
Sex, Dreams & Self Control
Saturdays in February 1, 8, 15, & 22 at 8pm; Sunday 23rd at 3pm
OutCentral (1709 Church St)
$10 in advance, $15 at the the door
Tickets available here
Purchase advance tickets for the February 8 show and receive a free download of the show's soundtrack.