Quinn Marcus grew up in the south, attended a high school full of close-minded classmates, and has known she was gay since age six. In Marcus’ attempt to cope, she had boyfriends, visited a therapist, and watched The L Word on low volume while her family wasn’t home.
That’s how Marcus, who graduated from Emerson in 2013, handled her closeted sexuality, as depicted through her character, Andie, in her short film Alone With People.
In celebration of Queer Awareness Month at Emerson, Marcus was invited back to Boston to share her “coming of gay” story with the Emerson community. Marcus, who was an interdisciplinary major while at Emerson, screened her film in the Bright Family Screening Room as part of the Bright Lights series to an audience of 100 people on Thursday night. The film is inspired by her one-woman show Chasing Ballerinas, which she performed on Wednesday night at the Semel Theater to an audience of 160. Both events were open to the Emerson community and free to attend.
Marcus said crowds have reacted to the final product differently than she anticipated, unexpectedly finding humor in her stories.
“We started screening it, and people were laughing while I was crying,” Marcus said in an interview with the Beacon. “I was so confused. Then I learned to just embrace it.”
In one scene, Andie comes out to Tess, her sister. Tess asks Andie, “But how do you know that you’re gay?” to which Andie replies, “Well, how do you know that you’re straight? It’s the same thing.” They banter back and forth, as Andie tries to make Tess understand. In the Bright Family Screening Room, the audience laughed at Tess’ lack of understanding, despite the increasing frustration in Andie’s expression.
Marcus said the audience’s laughter added to the honesty and relatability of the film.
“Real stories are funny because they’re sad,” she said. “I’m not a big fan of slapstick comedy; I like things that are so real that it’s awkward, or so sad that it’s funny.”
Sophomore visual and media arts major Sarah Haver said that when Marcus broke the fourth wall by speaking directly to the film’s audience, she made her story more relatable with her humor and honesty.
“I really liked that she would tell the audience what she was thinking at a given time,” she said, “because we’ve all had those thoughts when we’re freaking out about something.”
Tikesha Morgan, director of multicultural student affairs and GLBTQ resources, said she suggested Marcus’ film be added to the Bright Lights schedule because it provides an inside look at how difficult coming out is.
“Being a very friendly LGBT school, I don’t want us to forget that this isn’t always an easy process for everyone,” Morgan said in an interview. “It’s such a personal, inside experience of coming out; I just want to make sure that we continue to reiterate that and make sure we are not looking down on people who are not out yet.”
In a Q&A session moderated by Morgan after the screening, Marcus said that she wrote and performed Chasing Ballerinas for her directed study course during her senior year. She recounted how Drew Van Steenbergen, who graduated from Emerson in 2012 with a degree in visual and media arts, saw the performance and suggested she adapt it into a short film. Marcus and Van Steenbergen assembled a cast and crew of other Emerson students, both former and current, and filmed the movie in September 2013 at Marcus’ parents’ house in Atlanta. The film was funded by a Kickstarter campaign that raised $15,653 with 282 backers.
Sophomore Nathaniel Charles, who attended both the live performance of Chasing Ballerinas and the screening of Alone With People, said that Marcus’ story is an important one to hear for those struggling to come to terms with their own sexualities.
“I think it could definitely inspire people,” said Charles, a visual and media arts major. “It might be that final push that they need to accept who they are.”
Charles also noted that Marcus’ message does not only target members of the LGBTQ community.
“She went into the whole concept of dating and the struggles of dating,” he said. “It’s harder for a recently-out lesbian, but dating is a struggle nonetheless, no matter who you are and what you’re looking for.”
Marcus said that her intention was not to create a movie that was geared toward a particular group of people, but an honest movie about her experience growing up.
“This is my story and this is something I relate to,” she said. “I am just a person, and I went through this when I was 15. It was awkward and it was hard. But that’s why it’s relatable—because it’s not just a gay movie.”