On The Dark Side of the Moon With Troy Rockett
Since that quiet night on
the bench, when you
brought your body close
enough for me to know
we had crossed the
distance from friendship
to another thing and the
sky brightened, while the moon raised its head to look upon lovers more
clearly, and I knew,
the night would always
remind me of you
-An excerpt from “A Moon Memory of You” by Troy Rockett
In Tarot, the moon symbolizes mystery, the unknown, and the unknowable. In folklore and history, the moon serves as a guide for travelers journeying from the mortal world into the unknown. LezWritesBTQ playwright Troy Rockett returns again and again to the moon across artistic disciplines. He recalls the first time that he became entranced by the moon as a kid, “I had this book, it’s a fictional book with a chorus throughout and it’s called Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter. And it explores the navigational patterns for people before slavery was abolished. So, I’ve always had the sky as a reference.” While the moon began as a historical beacon for Rockett, it transformed into a symbol of community care. Raised in Long Beach, California, Rockett is a transmasculine artist who grew up in a matriarchal family and the ever-watching nature of the moon became a symbol for the witnessing that happened in his family. “The women took care of each other in my life. You needed to know what everybody was going through and the emotional state people were in. All this happened through storytelling.” Rockett stands witness to his community and as a writer and performer he explores what it means to truly take care and see one another. After receiving a dual master’s degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, Rockett deepened his roots as an actor and poet in the Bay Area, and discovered playwriting through poetry and performance where questions about witnessing and community care followed him.
Rockett’s short play, Under the Same Moon, developed in the LezWritesBTQ program, is one part of a series of plays that untangle the relationship between love, technology, and personal autonomy. Set in Kenya, Mary teaches math at a university while she cares for her ailing father. After meeting Jo, an American photographer with a mysterious link to her family, Mary must make a choice between a relationship with her father and her own freedom. In this play, as well as the other pieces of his play cycle, Rockett takes a telescope to love and history, “I feel like when I was a younger queer going into the world the idea of the nuclear family and romantic love was a distraction from my political agency. And so I'm still trying to figure out: can you have both?’ The Under the Same Moon trilogy imagines a dystopian version of love under the controls of a strictly regulated dystopian universe and in another universe, gives us a glimpse of the world of the lovers and imagines what love could be.
The process of imagining what love might look like in different universes involves a rewiring of our most primal relationships, the ways we come to know and understand each other, and ultimately, our history. This endeavor is undertaken by writers like Zadie Smith. Rockett, who has read the entirety of Smith’s work, is entranced by the way Smith joyfully entangles the microscopic decisions of modern day characters with the snares of history. As Rockett describes, “I'm coming from this place where we've survived a flood and destruction and now there's this new world. What I appreciate about her is she shines a light on worlds that we would not know, right?” Smith, born to a Jamaican mother and English father illuminates the complexities of race in Northwest London through incorporating the narratives of characters who were left out of history. “[Smith] was not supposed to exist in history as she does. [As an inter-racial marriage] her parents' relationship was not supposed to exist in history as it were, you know. But she is in a way writing herself into the history books where I don't think she's seen herself, you know, her, with all of her identities, growing up in the places that she grew up.”
Across artistic disciplines, Rockett’s joy in the exploration of uncovering the unknown is rooted in community and collaboration. “I do see my being an artist as a way where I'm constantly in conversation with the larger and more personal conversation. I love exploring what this world doesn’t want you to interrogate.” As a playwright chasing poetic alternative universes in Under the Same Moon and as an actor exploring queer history in projects like “Leaving the Blues” by Jewelle Gomez which brings visibility to Alberta Hunter’s contribution to the Jazz and Blues world as a Lesbian artist, Rockett asks us to interrogate what it means to witness each other within the echoes of history.
Troy Rockett collaborates with queer and trans storytellers and has participated in works: Jewelle Gomez’s Leaving the Blues, Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko’s plays Waafrika 123 as lead actor and They/Them as a supporting actor, stage reading of The Messiah Complex written by Nia Witherspoon with dramaturgy by Cherríe Moraga, and has acted alongside D'Lo. Rockett’s acting breakthrough came when casted as Alex in Oakland's only Queer and Trans web series, Dyke Central, which was later accepted into film festivals internationally and is now available on Amazon prime. Since Dyke Central, Rockett continues to be roused by the power of storytelling. Discovering performance first through poetry, Rockett, a Black Trans Adoptee, used the genre to empower hirself . “Through writing there is a constant inner and outer dialogue with the horrors and joys of my identity and the world around me; a necessary kind of mental mending.” Rockett recently participated in the Kearny Street Workshop, is a VONA/Voices Fellow and Astraea Lesbian Writers’ grant recipient. Hir poems are included in Best New African Poets Anthology, Chorus: A Literary Mixtape, Sinister Wisdom 106: The Lesbian Body, CALYX, Q-Zine, and Bay area based projects, Bay Area Generations and Nomadic Press’ Get Lit. S/he holds a joint MA degree in Creative Writing and Literature.
Hannah Meyer, 3GT’s Marketing Associate, is a director and dramaturg of new work with a background in marketing and public relations. In the Bay Area, she has worked with Magic Theatre, Playwrights Foundation, and SF Playhouse. Hannah is also a writer whose work has appeared in Points in Case, The Well Mannered Grump, The Baram House, The Haven and elsewhere. Her essay, which explores the politics of comedy in Rachel Bloom's banned song, "Period Sex," will be published later this year with Taylor & Francis. Hannah is passionate about the intersections between art, activism, and scholarship.