Jeffrey Higgins: A Deafening Sound is an apt title for the anguish and turmoil that singer and pianist Jeffrey Higgins went through after being fired as a singer in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC for being a gay, married man. Higgins was outed to his pastor by a family that had seen him with his husband at a public theatrical venue.
This traumatic event was covered widely by the press. Dignity/Washington – a faith community for LGBT Catholics – helped to empower Mr. Higgins by getting him on a media campaign to present his case to the public.
Mr. Higgins has survived the trauma that put a stop to his musical career for a period. He is now back at the top of his form, starring in a cabaret show he wrote about the experience entitled Jeffrey Higgins: A Deafening Sound, which he will direct and perform at the Rainbow Theatre Project on November 23 and November 24 at 7:30 PM.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Higgins by telephone.
David Friscic: What was your main motivation for writing and assembling this piece?
Jeffrey Higgins: I was fired three years ago for being gay. A family came forward and saw my husband and me in public. The people who saw us did all sorts of research on Facebook and googled all sorts of information on my husband and me. I stopped singing and was depressed for a while. I have a degree in Music from Catholic University and this was a part of my life.
I assume that this was a very traumatic period in your life.
It was very traumatic and my husband, friends and family were very supportive of me. I got in touch with Dignity and they set up media training and interviews. I was interviewed by the metro section of the Washington Post and by the Washington Blade. Dignity/Washington protested in front of the church. Dignity was very supportive and empowering. I tell this story in my show.
Was working on your show therapeutic for you? If so, how?
When Rainbow first approached me about doing this I was terrified, but then, I felt empowered and it felt therapeutic. I’m glad that I decided to do it.
What theatrical elements are in the show?
I sing all the songs myself. I wrote a script so it flows as one story. I have a pianist who is also my music director, a bassist and a drummer. I play the piano for two of the songs.
What type of songs do you sing?
The song list consists of pop, jazz, a hymn and modern musical theatre. The song “On Our Own” fits perfectly into the story I wanted to tell. It is a dynamic piece. The Kander and Ebb song “But the World Goes ‘Round” includes the words that are the title of my show –namely, “A Deafening Sound.” I also have included Kander and Ebb’s “The Skin of our Teeth”.
Is the show interspersed with personal narrative?
I start with some background about myself and I continue with my dark period and then I continue to progress with my empowerment.
Are you still a practicing Catholic?
I am not a practicing Catholic at this point in time because I do not feel welcome.
After all you have been through, do you have any feelings about other gay men or women who choose to stay in the Catholic Church?
I feel that it is up to the individual to make his or her own choice.
Do you blame the current political climate/Presidential administration for setting a tone that might be construed as detrimental to the LGBTQ community?
When a leader is bullying, then it is reasonable to think that the LQBTQ community could be bullied. I feel that the Rainbow Theatre Project has been very helpful to me in this climate of increasing intolerance. Music is enormously important to me and so are the lyrics. I feel empowered musically.
Do you enjoy being back in the world of Music?
It was scary at first and I wasn’t sure. Now – to be doing something I truly enjoy again is something that means a lot to me.
Do you believe that music has the power to change lives?
I intend to keep singing and playing my piano regularly. My friends have really helped me. I do, also, concern myself with solidarity and solidifying my energies on other pursuits as well.
I think music can change hearts. Being away from music for so long was hard. I credit my musical training and my musical experience for leading me to a better place in my life where I can now perform this show for the Rainbow Theatre Project.
Jeffrey Higgins: A Deafening Sound plays at the Rainbow Theatre Project performing at the DCAC – 2438 18th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets go online.