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Alumni Spotlight: Josie Kearns '01

Alumni Wednesday, 31 May 2023

Today, we’re celebrating Roycemore’s 2023 Distinguished Alumni, Josie Kearns ‘01. Josie is a gender consultant and theatre artist who specializes in transgender, queer, and intersex issues.

Roycemore offered Josie a place to explore a variety of different interests. She was a participant in “literally every extracurricular offered,” (Yearbook, Student Government, Soccer, Theater, Scholastic Bowl, Math Team, Palio, Community Service, Chess, and Football, according to her senior year yearbook) but found a special love for drama and theatre thanks to the encouragement of teachers like Michelle Mueller, who directed the first plays that Josie remembers feeling like hers. She was also a yearbook editor for three years and cites that experience as her first chance to project manage and be in charge of others. Yearbook offered her a sense of confidence and ownership, especially when she and the staff stepped up to do work on a Sunday (accompanied, of course, by their sponsor Mrs. Byrnes, a football game on the TV, and some pizza) to meet their deadlines.

Josie’s work falls into two broad categories: educator and artist. These paths intertwine in both content and timing; she booked her first big gig as a dramaturg at the same time she accepted a job as the Gender Program Coordinator at Lurie Children’s Hospital. The job at Lurie was an inflection point for her career as an educator, and she’s now completed over 200 trainings with schools, businesses, and nonprofits. In these trainings, she believes that her role is to “help people who are eager to do a better job” interacting with their trans and queer community, whether they’re supportive already or are not yet sure how they feel. “After all,” she laughs, “84% of Americans believe they’ve never met a trans person, and most of them are wrong.” 

The overarching theme of Josie’s work as both an artist and educator is introducing trans stories to people who need to hear them. Her artistic practice is primarily as a dramaturg, a field of theatre arts that she describes as “Overseeing the development of new work for the stage, sort of like being an editor. I offer an outside view and make sure that the right messages are coming across.” She creates stories from the ground up, develops new work, reinvents old work, and tells queer stories. “The work that needs to exist isn’t out there on large-scale stages,” she says, and her current focus after working in theatre for her entire adult life, is bringing the queer and trans stories she helps craft to the world’s biggest stages. 

Josie decided to pursue a career in theatre on the day of her graduation from Roycemore. She recounts that day fondly, “I knew I could do it, I could identify what I wanted to see, do, be in the world, and make it happen.” Without the support, care, and love that she found at Roycemore, and without the financial support she received as an Eisner Scholar, she wouldn’t have believed that at all. Her message for current Roycemore students is simple: look for the place you want to be in the world, remember what you can do for the world, and trust that you can make it happen.

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