Globally recognized as Hollywood’s first openly gay actor, followed by an announcement on Entertainment Tonight as the first actor in Hollywood to come out as HIV-positive, Michael Kearns has been a provocative and impassioned voice on the cultural and artistic landscape of America and beyond for fifty years. In addition to teaching private and group writing classes, Kearns is presently an Artistic Associate at the esteemed Skylight Theatre in Los Angeles, Artist-in-Residence at Housing Works, and Artistic Director of QueerWise, a Spoken Word Collective he founded in 2011.
Based in Los Angeles, he has achieved success in the theater (acting, writing, directing, and producing) that boldly speaks to social issues (including but not limited to AIDS, racial inequality, homelessness, mass incarceration) while a passion for social justice has undeniably driven his teaching career and his activism.
Reinvention is the key to the longevity of all artists; one of the most valued lessons Kearns has employed in his tumultuous but sturdy career is the art of reinvention: from gay actor to respected spokesperson to renowned activist to celebrated writer to writing teacher with a devoted following. He may not have a star on Hollywood Boulevard but his contributions, both artistic and humanitarian, have been acknowledged wholeheartedly. The Entertainment AIDS Alliance presented him with their Visionary Award in 2018; the prior year, Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council applauded Kearns as “a trailblazer” with an award for his contributions to the LGBTQ community. The activist-artist has received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Robert Chesley Foundation, S.T.A.G.E. (Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event), Playwright’s Arena, the L.A. Weekly, and Celebration Theatre for decades of producing quality work that has captured the zeitgeist of his generation.
In 2021, he will be honored by the Skylight Theatre for his largess in nurturing his artist-contemporaries and he, along with longtime collaborators Dale Raoul and Ray Thompson, was honored by Housing Works with one of their Volunteer Of The Year Awards. In addition to numerous acknowledgments for his theatre work, Kearns has received grants from the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, the California Arts Council, Poets & Writers, and the Brody Foundation. The Victory Fund, the Los Angeles chapter of the ACLU, and Parents & Friends of Gays were the first to award his community service. He was given the Key to the City by the Mayor of Des Moines after several appearances there and the Mayor of St. Louis proclaimed “Michael Kearns Day” in honor of multiple performances in his hometown.