|For nearly forty years, actor-writer-director-teacher-producer Michael Kearns has been a force in the Los Angeles world of art and politics, juggling a mainstream film and television career with a prolific career in the theatre. In recent years, he has concentrated on educating, directing, and producing while still accepting occasional acting jobs (indies The Bridegroom and Absolution).
Kearns teaches writing in various locations throughout Los Angeles, under several umbrellas: Education Program Director for Spoken Interludes Next, Artist in Residence at the Downtown Women's Center, Writer in Residence at Art Division, co-teacher of Solomojo with Tony Abatemarco. Kearns founded QueerWise, a collective of elder writers who are doing Spoken Word performance in L.A. in 2011.
Also with Abatemarco, Gary Grossman and Susan Krebs, Kearns created
INKubator (Katselas Theatre Company) at the Skylight Theatre, a monthly development series that has completed a successful year of programming new artist endeavors.
2011, he directed Minerva Benedict Vier’s Lucky, A Burlesque Tragedy for the Hollywood Fringe Festival and staged a number of works-in-progress (Burke Byrnes’ The Yellow House David Epstein’s Constance Palmer & Father Timothy Go To the Movies Cathy Lind Hayes’ Non-Identifying Information and Spoken Word performances including QueerWise’s Late Awakenings and the DIVAS’ Stretch Marks & Other Stories of Growth
For the sixth consecutive year at the West Hollywood Book Fair, Kearns presented the DIVAS in a new piece, Women-Centered and his group of writers, Michael Kearns & Other Queer Renegades.
He will end 2011, honoring World AIDS Day with the premier of Torch, his ninth solo show, supported in part by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Since making his Los Angeles theatrical debut in Tom Eyen’s The Dirtiest Show In Town at the Ivar Theatre in 1972—after graduating from the prestigious Goodman School of Drama—Kearns’ contributions to the Los Angeles theatre community have continued to mount. The volume of work created by Kearns is marked by an uncompromising desire to make statements while making art. Whether as a solo performer-writer of socially relevant monologues or the director of a Christmas show for downtown’s mentally ill population, Kearns’ activism is integrated into his theatre outings. For nearly four decades, he has determinedly woven challenging issues in a tapestry of work that is undeniably powerful in its impassioned depiction of the human condition.
In 2008, he received the STAGE Producers Award for his contributions to the AIDS community, spanning more than 25 years. In 2007, Kearns was honored by the LA Weekly as the “Queen of Angels” for his luminous track record in L.A.’s theatre history. He received a 2005 Robert Chesley Playwrighting Award for Lifetime Achievement and also received the prestigious Playwrights’ Arena Award for Outstanding Contribution to Los Angeles Theatre in 2002.
Affirming his stature as one of the L.A.’s most respected artists, the City of Los Angeles awarded Kearns with a COLA Fellowship to create a new work, Make Love Not War, which premiered in 2005. The COLA exhibition and performances “represent a non-thematic cross section of very current work by some of Los Angeles’ best artists,” according to Noel Korten, Curator and Director of Exhibitions of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery.
His two widely-lauded solo theatrepieces, intimacies and more intimacies, in which he portrays a dozen culturally diverse people with HIV/AIDS, have been produced in America: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Eugene, Minneapolis, Santa Barbara, San Antonio, Austin, San Diego, St. Louis, Tucson, Phoenix, Washington D.C., New York City, San Diego, Hartford, New Haven, Northhampton. And abroad: Sydney (Australia), Liverpool, London, and Manchester (England).
In addition to other solo performance pieces (including The Truth Is Bad Enough Rock, Attachments, Rock, Tell Tale Kisses, Once Upon A Tim In South Africa) Kearns has written several full-length plays: Myron, Mijo, Robert's Memorial, Who’s Afraid of Edward Albee?, Blessings, Barriers, and the lyrics for Homeless, A Street Opera. His play, complications, was turned into a film called Nine Lives, which he co-scripted with Dean Howell. He is the author of six theatre books (including T-Cells & Sympathy , Acting = Life and The Drama Of AIDS); Kearns has also contributed to a number of magazines and newspapers (L.A. Parent, INLA Magazine, L.A. Weekly, and Scotland’s New Linear Perspectves among them) and appeared in the anthologies, What I Would Tell Her and Gay L.A..
Kearns directed and co-produced the Artists Confronting AIDS’ landmark productions of AIDS/US in 1986 and AIDS/US II in 1990. He co-founded the S.T.A.G.E. (Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event) benefit, now in its 25nd year. He served as Artistic Director of Celebration Theatre for their 1986—87 season and of Artists Confronting AIDS for a decade, from 1984—1994. In 2005—2006, Kearns was the Artistic Directorof Space At Fountain’s End where he curated and produced eighteen months of artistic expression including theatre, performance, jazz, fine art, photography, and poetry.
Past directing credits also include the Los Angeles premieres of Robert Chesley's Night Sweat and Jerker, Rebecca Ranson's Warren, Eric Bentley’s Round Two, Clark Carlton’s Self Help, Syd Rushing’s We Are One, Melanie DuPuy’s Heroine and Doug Holsclaw's Life Of The Party. Throughout ’04 and ’05, Kearns directed a series of Precious Chong’s Porcelain Penelope Shows that played in several Los Angeles venues, landing Off-Broadway. In 2006, he directed the Off Broadway production of Lan Tran’s Elevator Sex the twentieth anniversary production of Jerker, and the premiere of The Tina Dance, a “reality show on stage.”
Recent revivals of James Carroll Pickett’s Dream Man were directed by Kearns: at the Skylight Theatre in Los Angeles (2006), Madrid’s DT Espacio Escenico as part of the Festival Version Original (2005), the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival (2007), Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival (2010).
As an actor, he has appeared in Jerker (Los Angeles, San Diego, Des Moines) and originated the role of Christopher, on stage and on video, in Pickett's Dream Man (which has played New York City, San Francisco, Des Moines, L.A., Portland, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Edinburgh, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, and London).
Long before coming out of the closet was considered a career move in the entertainment industry, Kearns was the first Hollywood actor on record to come out in the mid-seventies, amidst a shocking amount of homophobia. He subsequently made television history in 1992, coming out as an openly HIV-impacted actor on Entertainment Tonight, and immediately guested on a segment of ABC-TV's Life Goes On in which he played a character who had the virus. He played Cleve Jones in the HBO adaptation of Randy Shilts' And The Band Played On, appeared in A Mother's Prayer, Randall Kleiser’s It’s My Party and had a recurring role on Beverly Hills 91210: a variety of shows that depicted HIV/AIDS.
Other television and film credits include Cheers, Murder She Wrote, The Waltons, Knots Landing, General Hospital, Days Of Our Lives, The Fall Guy, A River Made To Drown In, Kentucky Fried Movie and Brian DePalma's Body Double. Earlier forays into experimental video included EZTV productions included playing Verlaine in Rimbaud in L.A. and a supporting role in Dorothy and Alan on Norma Place.
In 1993, Kearns fulfilled a dream, playing the title role in Charles Ludlam's Camille at Highways in Santa Monica, garnering unprecedented rave reviews from the Los Angeles critics. "An actor giving the performance of his life," said the Los Angeles Times. In addition to winning a Drama-Logue Award and a Robby Award, he was nominated by the prestigious Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle for Lead Performance. The artist has received numerous acting awards, including the 1999 Garland Award for his critically-acclaimed performance in Robert Harders’ Bill and Eddie.
As a humanitarian, he has been honored by the L.A. Weekly, PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), the Gay and Lesbian Rights Chapter of the ACLU, National Coming Out Day and the Victory Fund. On November 19, 1992, the Mayor of St. Louis, the artist's hometown, proclaimed "Michael Kearns Day." He has received grants from the Cultural Affairs Department of Los Angeles, the Brody Foundation, PEN Center USA West, and Poets & Writers.
Kearns has several projects in pre-production including two solo shows he’s directing: Alan Aymie’s A Child Left Behind and David Trudell’s Off Color Off Balance In Heat. Kearns is one of ten L.A. playwright who has been chosen by Playwright’s Arena’s Jon Lawrence Rivera to create a Flash Theatre piece in 2012.
In 1995, against all odds, Kearns adopted an African-American child as a single HIV-positive man. He presently lives in Los Angeles with his daughter, Katherine, who turned seventeen in August of 2011, and attends the nearby Idyllwild Arts Academy studying filmmaking.
His long-anticipated autobiography, The Truth Is Bad Enough. will be published at the beginning of 2012.