LGBT Youth: For the Love of Theater

by Kevin Shaw | photo provided by Heather Zurowski


Every year, Playhouse on the Square scans the United States to find the most talented theatre interns (performance and technical) to come spend a year in Memphis to help produce and/or star in over 15 productions. These interns put in close to 16 hour days for very little pay—all for the love of theatre and because they know their experiences may one day catapult them to stardom. Heather Zurowski, from Oak Park, IL came here for that very reason. Focus Magazine sat down with this actress who also represents the best of Memphis’ young, creative LGBT community.

I have to admit, when I reached out to Playhouse on the Square to interview one of their LGBT acting interns, I automatically assumed I would be speaking to a gay man.
(Laughing) I completely understand! It’s funny because I believe this year may be the first time ever that Playhouse has not had any gay men in its intern class. I think for a lot of gay men, performing and being involved in theatre is one of the few places where they feel comfortable to be themselves.

Does that also ring true for you as a lesbian?
That’s an interesting question. I completely agree that the theatre is one of the first places that gay men feel “safe,” but I also think that rings true for almost everyone regardless of their sexuality. I started acting in the 3rd or 4th grade and I’ve always felt comfortable to be myself, and therefore when I realized I was gay, it was easier to be a part of the LGBT community.

You don’t feel like a fish out of water as a performer in the theatre?
It’s hard to say. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I do feel like the token “lesbian” friend within the theatre, but at the same time, I still feel accepted and loved. I’ve been in theatre practically my entire life and I’ve always been surrounded by gay men, but not very many gay women.

So what’s it like for a young, creative member of the LGBT community in Memphis in 2018?
Unfortunately, with my job, I’m really busy—I’m either doing a show or in rehearsals. When I’m not working though, I try to go out and mingle, but it’s a pretty busy life I have here. But when I do go out, it’s always a “fun gamble”— you know, the classic lesbian always waiting to see a “gay” hint from a woman they find attractive (like if they mention an ex-boyfriend or not). Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to date much here in Memphis.

You’re not spending your time to trying to recruit the bi-curious ladies you meet?
(Laughing) I know that can happen a lot within the creative community, but I have not indulged in that.

So, what made you decide to come to Memphis to perform with Playhouse on the Square?
Actually, my brother was a performance intern here three years ago and my mom mentioned how much she enjoyed traveling to Memphis to see him perform and that it might be fun for me to do the same. Plus, the season this year is absolutely incredible. It’s a great opportunity for me to build my resume and expand my connections. It’s a lot of work, but the opportunities here are really special, so it’s definitely worth it. I feel very lucky.

How much longer do you plan on being in Memphis?
Actually, I’ll be leaving at the end of May to move to Chicago to continue my theatre career there—I’m very excited to see what Chicago has in store for me!

I’m guessing maybe one or two more lesbians than Memphis. 
(Laughing) Just a few more!