Monte J. Wolfe
Brave Soul Collective
On Monday December 13, Brave Soul Collective (a Washington, DC based
theater/performance and social activist group) will commence for its yearly anniversary
by presenting an eclectically charged performance; celebrating past and present Brave
Soul Artists and their works. I had a chance to catch up with Monte J. Wolfe, who
spearheaded this vision for the collective, and here is what Monte shared...
Where are you from and where do you currently reside?
I’m originally from Racine, Wisconsin & I currently
reside in Washington, DC where I’ve lived since 1995
when I came here to attend Howard University.
What started you on your path in the arts?
I’d have to say in one way or another I’ve been
fascinated, inspired by, and involved in the arts since
I was a child. My parents both played a LOT of music around me as a child and it’s always been what I’ve
loved the most. From the music, I ventured into musical theatre in junior high school, and then by the time I went
to college I was clear about who I was…an artist.
Brave Soul Collective was founded in 2006 by you, Erik Chambers, and Tim'm T. West. What was the purpose
of bringing this collective together?
We all had some things that we felt needed to be addressed as black gay men, people living with HIV, and
as artists. We felt that it would be very dynamic and groundbreaking for the three of us to speak openly
about what our experiences were, without fear, guilt, or shame. We felt that it was important for us as i
ndividuals to speak TRUTHFULLY about EVERYTHING. By that time, there had been a lot of discussion
around the topic of being black and gay that either focused on one of two extremes: the (stereotypical)
effeminate black gay man or the black man on the ‘down low’. Since neither of those descriptions
accurately fit who any of us felt we were we decided to tell our own stories—in our own words.
There is A LOT more to the story of how Brave Soul Collective came forth for me personally, which can be
found on the Brave Soul website under the ORIGINS tab;
(At this link): http://www.
How has this collective helped you and other individuals?
Brave Soul Collective is about my life. That is how it started for me personally and ever since its creation
in 2006, it has shaped and informed the person I have been, and continue to become. Focusing on the
element of truth for me personally has unearthed so many opportunities for me to not only heal, but to
also live my life as an artist and a ‘spiritual being having a human experience’ (as I call it). As it pertains
to other individuals, I can only go by what I’ve been told and what I’ve seen. I have witnessed other
people-from ALL walks of life find liberation in being open & honest about who and what they are-whatever
that may be-‘good’, ‘bad’ and everything in between. I do know that each time I host an event, facilitate a
workshop, or produce a performance I grow, heal and become even more fearless than I ever imagined
I could be.
What works do you strive to do? and why?
Since theatre and music are my two primary artistic weapons of choice, the majority of what Brave Soul
Collective does comes from that perspective. Whether it’s a full out production of a stageplay, or a staged
reading of new work, or multi-faceted artistic production, pretty much everything we do is performance based.
We do also facilitate workshops, and host monthly discussion gatherings here in the DC metro area that
focus on a vast realm of topics, usually whatever is the discussion topic of the month on our website.
Why the need for Brave Soul Collective? and why is it important to you? and to the world?One thing I always choose to do is speak from first person/personal experience. I feel the need for Brave
What can one experience at a Brave Soul Collective event?
They can experience a whole host of things. They can plan to laugh, think, to feel something, maybe cry,
maybe just sit and observe. Any and all of those things have happened at past discussion gatherings and performances. The most important thing I can say someone needs to bring with them should they attend
anything we do is an open heart and mind. I don’t say that because we’re some kind of ‘strange, oddball’
bunch, but because I am very clear that I am NOT in control of what happens. As much as I have my ideas
of what I’d like to accomplish and how I’d like things to go, I have been reminded REPEATEDLY that I have
nothing but intentions (all of which are rooted in things of a loving, healing, positive nature) and my goals are
much more likely to be achieved when I focus on those rather than trying to manipulate what happens and/or
how it all unfolds.
A typical Brave Soul audience consists of?
A ‘typical’ audience (if there is such a thing) will definitely consist of black gay men from all different walks of
life and age ranges. We’ve also had heterosexual men attend our performances and gatherings as well. There
are also plenty of women that attend our discussion gatherings and performances which I encourage because
NONE of us live in a world where there is only one kind of person or gender. In one way or another we all wind
up encountering and interacting with a wealth of different kinds of people, so I feel it’s important for our
audiences to reflect that.
How is the work transformative for the spectator and for the performers? Any personal testimonies you
would like to share?
I have to say again here that I can only go by what others have told me after being present at something
we’ve done. There have been countless instances when people have come to me after a show and said
thank you. My usual response is to thank THEM for coming, & for sharing their energy and time with us.
On several occasions at that point the said individual has either looked me directly in my eyes, held my
hand, or touched me and said…”No…thank YOU. Thank you for being so honest and sharing in the way
that you have because you’ve helped me to see things in a different way” or, “…you inspired me to get up
off my ass and DO what I know I love to do, but was afraid (for whatever reason before now) to do”. In a
sense, I think in me doing what I do, it gives others permission and COURAGE to do the something similar
that will help them in one way or another. As far as performers who’ve we’ve worked with go, I know that many
of them are inspired and transformed every time we do something mainly because they keep coming back
to work with me whenever I call them! Lots of my friends and fellow artists come to me with work that is
AMAZING, which needs to be heard and experienced by the masses & anytime I’m able to play any kind
of part in assisting them in making that happen, I’m blessed and happy to do so.
Name one book that transformed how you saw the world and your place in it.
One book that has been of the most importance to me is “Conversations With God” by Neale Donald Walsch.
The books in that series helped to facilitate a MAJOR shift in how I viewed and came to understand my
relationship with, and connection to God. Those books enabled me to ALWAYS LOVE, and NEVER FEAR
the God of my understanding.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Iyanla Vanzant and all of her books here as well because I’d have to say
that it was reading “Acts of Faith” in 1995 that started me on the spiritual path that led me to First Sunday
(the gathering I attend where the inspiration for Brave Soul Collective came forth).
What is your plan in the next 5 years for the collective?
I plan to continue producing Brave Soul performances, & in turn continuing to assist other talented individuals
in getting their work out to those who need to be exposed to it the most. I would love to do some kind of Brave
Soul youth outreach as well so that we can start reaching children & teenagers at a younger age in order to
assist them in moving through some of the experiences they face. It is my primary intention to turn Brave
Soul Collective into a ‘brand’ of sorts in order to create other spaces and platforms to affect personal,
spiritual, artistic growth and change, as well as continued mental, emotional health & wellness.
How long will you continue to do this work, even if you don't achieve the celebrity notarierty? This
question, again is asking, why do you tirelessly pursue work that doesn't have a huge pay off financially?
I’ll do this work as long as there is breath in my body. I’m very clear about why I do what I do. While it is
my intention to make a living as an artist and Artistic Director/Founder of Brave Soul Collective, the reward
I get from all of the work I’ve been involved with means more to me than any amount of money.
I can’t take the money with me when I transition. The worth & value I’ve gotten and continue to get from
doing this work however, I’ll carry with me into the spirit realm whenever my work is done here, since it is
my belief that ALL of it is deeply rooted in spirit from the onset.
This is a Future Forward favorite: Name 1 guilty pleasure.
LOL…I never want to feel guilty about anything that gives me pleasure.
(FEEL FREE TO PRINT THIS EXACTLY THIS WAY….)
(PG-13 Response): eating sweets late at night while laying in my bed watching television; The Golden Girls, Roseanne, Will & Grace, The Office, etc…
(GrownMan Response): Ass watchin (men of course). At the gym, out in public, wherever. I’m a Scorpio.
YOU do the math…LOL.
The only thing I’d like to add is that somehow, some people have come to believe that Brave Soul Collective
is only ‘for’ black gay men, who are living with HIV.
THAT IS A MISCONCEPTION. I think because the organization was founded by three black gay men
who are HIV positive, people started to assume that we were only speaking to a specific group of people.
While our primary intention is always to speak from the perspective of LGBT people of color, we are not a
black gay, HIV positive
organization. I pride myself on the fact that when people who are NOT black, gay, or HIV positive attend anything we produce or host, they always feel WELCOME, at home and like they belong as much as anybody else. Part of the reason I felt the need to create the organization in the first place was because I got so tired of feeling isolated and not feeling like who I am wasn’t entirely accepted or welcomed. Therefore, the only way to combat that kind of energy and those kinds of ideas is with energy of a different kind. We all have a LOT more in common than we do different about us. Pain is PAIN, love is LOVE, healing is HEALING…however and wherever it happens.
Thank you for the opportunity to be profiled.
Monte J. Wolfe
WHAT: Brave Soul Collective presents: Personifications
WHEN: Monday December 13th, 2010 at 8pm
WHERE: The Warehouse Theater
645 New York Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20001 US
COST: $15 (in advance)/ $20 (at the door-CASH ONLY)
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