Kearns didn’t invent Spoken Word Performance but he has certainly spun his own expressive modalities into the discipline, infusing the art form with a welcoming, intimate, and woke sensibility. Beginning with the revolutionary AIDS/US in 1983, Kearns works with the storytellers as they write to specific prompts, geared to a theme, and then he arranges the puzzle pieces into a mosaic of language that becomes a performance piece, taking their work from the page to the stage.
Even after teaching acting for well over a decade, having amassed a list of students numbering in the triple digits, teaching writing was not something that ever occurred to Michael Kearns. When he began directing a number of solo performers in the Nineties, delving into the dramaturgy of their pieces, an organic sense of being capable of teaching actors the art of writing emerged. During the Twenty-First Century, it is teaching writing to a wide variety of populations in disparate locations that have informed Kearns’ career. Beginning on Skid Row, he worked at Lamp Community and then spent ten years as Artist-in-Residence at the Downtown Women’s Center, creating more than a dozen performance pieces that the D.I.V.A.S. (Dames Invested in Very Authentic Storytelling) performed throughout the city including several appearances at the West Hollywood Book Fair.
Kearns is the West Coast Educational Program Director of Spoken Interludes Next, an arts organization which focuses on populations that don’t receive the attention they deserve in terms of honing their writing skills. He has overseen programs that offer high school students an eight-week session in Short Story writing, for more than a dozen years. As the Artist-in-Residence at Housing Works, Kearns has been teaching a class—Writing Works, open to HW clients (individuals experiencing homelessness) and the general public—that is a free flowing weekly session in which the participants write about everything from their childhoods to the current political climate in America.
The multi-faceted teacher has worked with dozens of writers, from novices to working professionals—from women who had been living on the streets, eating out of garbage cans, to erudite college grads from East Coast schools—amassing a roster of writing students from every social strata, ethnicity, size, age, shape, and sexual identity.
Kearns is available for private coaching (on Zoom and in person if you live in L.A. or environs) and offers group classes on a rolling basis at STUDIO MKLA.