Topics ranging from Steven Cadwell’s childhood in rural Vermont in the ’50s to his work as an AIDS activist in the ’80s are focal points in his latest work “Wild & Precious.” The one-man show also touches on his experience coming out as gay. Through Cadwell’s personal experiences, the show manages to explore societal changes over the past 50 years.
Cadwell, a UT alumnus, takes the audience through his life in “Wild & Precious,” a performance made up of poetry, songs and stories.
Cadwell has brought “Wild & Precious” to the stage in Boston and to universities such as Smith College and Brown University. The next stop on his tour is UT. Bringing the show to life, however, came with a set of issues familiar to any stage show — writing, rehearsing, performing — but, for Cadwell, there were other struggles as well.
“[It] was really challenging to go back and relive moments that were traumatic,” Cadwell said. “Now, this is what I ask of my clients everyday, [and] it takes courage to go into memories that we would rather avoid and defend against in order to integrate the full range of who we are, not just seal it away in a closet, if you will. And that’s really the whole metaphor of the piece.”
As challenging as it was, through confronting and bringing his own struggles to the surface, Cadwell feels that he’s grown through the process. He believes that confronting shame is essential to become “oneself.”
“Ultimately, I feel stronger — as everyone does when we go into a safe place and are able to explore the fullness of who we are without judgement,” Cadwell said.
Cadwell will bring his story and his show to the School of Social Work’s Utopia Theatre as part of an ongoing week of events exploring LGBT issues. The series of events, which began Wednesday, features panels, discussions and sessions analyzing LGBT issues from the past and present.
Bringing “Wild & Precious” to campus has been something he’s wanted to do for a while.
“I’m excited to come back [to UT] and bring more of what I’ve learned, but also bring back home my gratitude,” Cadwell said.
According to Jennifer Luna-Idunate, director of the DiNitto Center for Career Services, this week of events on campus was built around “Wild & Precious” and began with Cadwell wanting to bring his show to the School of Social Work.
Several other alumni are listed as discussion and panel guests on the schedule for the week.
“It’s just a really good way to reconnect them back to the school, and alumni love coming back and giving back to the students and to the School,” Luna-Idunate said.
Cadwell feels that Austin is a fitting place to bring “Wild & Precious” and hopes the show can leave its own mark on the city.
“I mean, the slogan ‘Keep Austin Weird’ is for me, core to that affirmation of difference and diversity, which is core to what I see liberated, social living is,” Cadwell said. “So I’m glad to bring a little more of my weird to Austin’s weird and have a wonderful, wild and precious, weird time!”