Different Stars: A Reckoning with Time, Trauma, and Circumstance, a new livestream song cycle, premieres on Saturday, August 15, 7 p.m. ET. Written by Bronx-based queer composer Karl Saint Lucy, the show explores what’s on the other side of queer intimacy gone awry. Saint Lucy explores how these emotions collide during the time spent alone in quarantine. The lead character, James, opens a box of artifacts from his first breakup, after months of self-isolation during COVID-19, and is forced to reckon with memories that haunt him.
Co-produced by Saint Lucy and ChamberQUEER, the world premiere will be live-streamed on YouTube Live and stars James Jackson, Jr. (Pulitzer Prize-winning A Strange Loop at Playwrights Horizons), Danielle Buonaiuto, Victoria Huston- Elem, and Karl Saint Lucy, with direction by Raquel Cion and costumes by David Quinn.
Conceived after the life-changing aftermath of Saint Lucy’s first-ever breakup, Different Stars is a subset of more than 40 songs written in grief. For this condensed, 40-minute version, twelve of the songs are set in the present day during the events of the pandemic. They become a reckoning with time, trauma, and circumstance. In a performance twist, Saint Lucy decided to play the role of his ex for this production.
The songs, composed and written by Saint Lucy (including the works of William Shakespeare), represent a unique queer and personal journey from trauma to hopefulness, with stylistic influence from Leonard Bernstein, Rufus Wainwright, Joni Mitchell, and Joan as Policewoman.
James (played by James Jackson, Jr.), unsatisfied at how he’s spent his time in quarantine, opens a heretofore unopened box of artifacts from his ended relationship with Renaud. As James pieces through the items, the three other characters appear in his memory: Renaud (played by Saint Lucy), and the lesbian couple Lauren and Olympia (played by Danielle Buonaiuto and Victoria Huston-Elem). They challenge and support him, and ultimately help James to develop a new outlook on a relationship that’s kept him from fully participating in life for the better part of a decade.
“I think there’s a sense in which Different Stars challenges Shakespeare’s notion of love as transcendental, unshakable and sacred,” says Saint Lucy, “but the songs also linger on this question ̶ what could’ve been possible if we’d met under different stars?”
A lot of the star imagery in the song cycle is borrowed from Shakespeare — love as a northern star in Sonnet 116 . . . Romeo and Juliet as ‘star-crossed’ lovers. “The belief that our passions and our lives are informed by the stars under which we are born was prevalent in Shakespeare’s day, and this belief holds a special place in queer culture today,” adds Saint Lucy.
The title, “Different Stars,” also takes its name from the second verse of the song “Orion’s Belt.”
When you were my brother under different stars / I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear / Don’t you dare forget / You are in the cards I’m dealt / You and your Orion’s Belt.
Saint Lucy notes that playing the role of his ex has been both healing and challenging. “It’s weird playing Renaud, right? Because at the time, I thought he was kind of a monster,” says Saint Lucy. “For a long time after our breakup, I didn’t know how to sympathize with him. I couldn’t write songs from his perspective. But now, I’m glad to be in a place where I can step outside of my own, personal role in the real-life narrative and sing from the other side of it. It helps that, in this conception, all the characters exist in James’ memory — Renaud can show up for James in a way that’s meaningful to him in this moment. It’s also healing for me to inhabit that role, so many years after the real events, and see that we were both flawed. In the end, what exists of him for me now is what lives on in my memory.”
The performance benefits QORDS (Queer Oriented Radical Days of Summer), a music-centered LGBTQ youth camp that focuses on Queer and Transgender youth of color (ages 12-17) in the American South. For more information and to donate, click here.
Different Stars: A Reckoning with Time, Trauma and Circumstance
Saturday, August 15
7 p.m. ET