Marie Tattiana Aqeel
A Letter to My Ex, the musical
Updated: May 29, 2019
Queer pop singer-songwriter Be Steadwell wrote a musical about her real-life struggles to find self love.
"The piece is presented through a series of letters to an ex. Each letter coupled with a song. Each moment, a reflection on the process of grieving the loss of love and learning to move on. A letter to my ex explores self love, addiction, twerking, sex, life and death through the lens of a heartbroken queer black woman."
It's a love story set in a gorgeous DC Summer, resonating with enchanted choral voices, and brimming with real stories of falling and failing in love. I played the part of Be- a musician struggling to trust in her own power, in love. On stage, Be is accompanied by (her) Ex, a string of New Girls, a choir and dancers who assist in bringing her inner truth to life. There are a few opportunities for members of the audience to participate as well!
I think I’ve found my calling and it’s right back where I started: music in the theater. Now I can see why giving live concerts never felt so fulfilling to me. They were sometimes sweet, especially when I initiated them, but theater is a sacred ritual. In theater, I can be transformed AS the audience is also. We all go together. I see what Be meant when she said that she wanted to tell a full story arch through music, instead of telling just a bit of one story with a group of songs here and there in a setlist. So she wrote this musical.
My year started with her show. I played her, got to use my body in song and acting and even a little dance. It was a bit of a hard storyline to live through everyday for several days, but the ensemble that I got to be part of made it worth the journey. This is true of the both runs of the show, in DC and Oakland, CA. It was across these two cities that I experienced my most excruciating break-up, so playing ALTMX in these places allowed me to see how far I’ve come. For something that used to take up so much of my physical, emotional, and mental currency, I was importantly greeted by warmth in areas that I used to isolate from. I felt hard times there, but now I know myself, and I was able to offer more potent heart-food under a wound that has since closed. I fought, cried, bled, and healed myself, and now I know love better. I began to know love as soon as I stopped being a tap for someone else’s emotional trauma&pain syndrome. When I decided that my love for self was more important than pleasing any one person, I changed. What I have is more valuable than waiting for someone to change so that I can give it to them. And it damn sure is too valuable to change to fit someone else’s idea of what my love should be like. Mama’s reaction to my being a gay teen taught me that first lesson. I’ve had very healthy relationships since my heart was broken.
ALTMX is playing in the DC area again in September, 2019: https://www.besteadwell.com/the-musical
In an intimate theatrical setting, this show will unearth your memories of love and loss, connecting them to the human experience that we all share. Bring tissues! Bring a friend!
I'm not playing in it this time, but I've swapped roles with my friend, Shayna Small. She's an equally talented and brilliant artist, and I'm excited to see her in this role. I'll be playing her old role in Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower: the Opera.