Q&A with Ali Hoefnagel About Gender Chaos, Queer Art, and Their Show ‘You Can Call Me Al’

Next week, the Community Supported Art series presents You Can Call Me Al at the New Hazlett Theater on the Northside. I asked storytelling and artist Ali Hoefnagel to talk with us about their performance.

You Can Call Me Al is a long-form story about growing up, getting gay, coming out, living with mental illness, and uncovering family secrets. By letting go of shame, they reveal what it means to be fully queer and fully vulnerable.

The show runs Thursday February 7 and Friday February 8, 2019. Tickets start at $25.00Ali Hoefnagel

Your Name: Ali Hoefnagel
Your Age: 33
Your Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs

How do you describe your identity? I recently saw a tweet that said “I hate when non-binary people are referred to as ‘gender neutral’. I am gender chaotic and you will respect that.” I feel very gender chaotic these days.

Please tell us about your very first impression of Pittsburgh: It’s so green! And hilly! Seriously, coming from Chicago, Pittsburgh feels like Fern Gully. It’s so wonderful to have such immediate access to green space. Also, everyone moves much slower here. It’s a pace I can get behind.

What Pittsburgh creators – writers, musicians, poets, etc – have influenced your work? Is there anyone with whom you’d like to collaborate? I have not been in Pittsburgh very long, so I am still meeting and learning about creators here, but I feel inspired by the street artwork by Darrell Kinsel and I am lucky that I get to collaborate with Bekezela Mguni. I’ve been listening to Rachel Lynne’s music a lot. Ginger Brooks Takahashi performed a piece called Breathe recently that I really loved. Also, all of the Pittsburgh based visual artists who make work with Just Seeds are so great.

Please tell us about the first LGBTQ person that you knew and what impact they had on your life. My best friend since 6th grade and I came out to each other, at the same time, when we were 16. This, after trying to date each other for years. Finally we were both like “nope”. We were only out to each other for the longest time. We would drive around for hours listening to Cher and Madonna and Tracy Chapman and Sleater-Kinney. We would sneak episodes of Queer of Folk in my parent’s basement and fantasise about our own lives on Liberty Avenue. It meant everything that I didn’t have to be alone in all of that at that time in my life. Also, we were having way more fun than anybody else.

Your show is part of a Community Supported Art Performance series through the New Hazlett Theater. How did a 60 minute storytelling show by a local queer artist find its way into this mix? When you’re thinking about curating a season, you can often get stuck on trying to make all of the plays fit together and stay in conversation with each other. It can be stifling. The nice thing about the CSA series is that it has such a varied offering of performances, I feel like there is room for all kinds of things. My show doesn’t feel out of place next to large musical acts and puppet shows and dance and opera. To me, it feels grounding. You get the wonderful spectacle of performance in a lot of the other CSA shows this year and you get a more intimate experience with mine. They can all live together. Also, queer folks show up for other queer folks in this city. Especially when queer artists make new work. It’s like we are all hungry to be in the same room together so we show up and support. I wanted to throw another opportunity for that into the mix.

You mention the show being “unapologetically queer” in other media interviews. What does that phrase mean to you? How does it manifest in your lived daily life and your art? Our society is unequivocally designed for straight/white/cis/male/able- bodied folks and I’m not really interested in making more art for that gaze. Queerness asks us to live with intention. It celebrates our abilities to morph and change and respond to the world around us. Queerness give us so much, it feels right to honor it by lifting it up everyday in everything we do. Also, f*ck the state.

Tell us about your collaboration with Gray Buchanan? I know Gray from when they were an ensemble member with Dreams of Hope, where I work. They are such a dope musician. A lot of this show is about being young and queer and so I knew I wanted to collaborate with younger queer folks to put it up. I feel really excited about what we made together.

What’s next for you? I don’t know! This show took a lot out of me so I may just chill for awhile.

I recently saw a tweet that said “I hate when non-binary people are referred to as ‘gender neutral’. I am gender chaotic and you will respect that.” I feel very gender chaotic these days.

Where can folx in Pittsburgh find queer art spaces? I think you just need to keep your finger on the pulse, you know? It feels like queer art spaces are roving, transient, and often impermanent. I think it’s about keeping your eye on the queer artists you are drawn to and following them to whatever space they find themselves in. They won’t steer you wrong.

What is your love song for LGBTQ youth? Oh wow, what an interesting question! Just one? I love “Deeper” by THEESatisfaction. Also “Parentheses” by The Blow and “Get Up” by Sleater-Kinney. People think “Get Up” is a creepy song, but I always found it super motivating.

Who are some of the younger openly LGBTQ artists that our readers should be aware of, but might not know about? All of the young artists that make up Dreams of Hope’s youth ensemble are good to know. Come see their plays!

Where can readers find you on social media? Instagram – @chucknoblet (kisses if you get the reference).

Thank you, Ali!


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