"No Place Like Home": Ali Forney Center and a Thousand Judys Provide Shelter for LGBT Youth

By Justin Sayre
13 Jun 2014

Justin Sayre
Justin Sayre
Photo by Chasi Annexy

As part of Playbill.com's 30 Days of Pride, creator and host of The Meeting Justin Sayre shares the story of when his love for performing began, as well as the inspiration for his annual event, Night of a Thousand Judys, celebrating both Judy Garland and his community.


Home can be a hard thing to define. It doesn't need to be a structure or a specific place; it could be a sense of belonging, the feeling of being understood. A space in a person's life where they are accepted for exactly who and what they are without reservation, a space to be loved and a space to be free.

I found my version of home, when I was 12 years old, in a musical review at Wilkes University as part of the summer Encore Music Camp. In a filled auditorium, I was to go out and sing a solo. As I nervously walked out on stage, everything went dark, the lights literally went out, the power cut out and I was stuck, center stage, with no song to sing and nothing to do, but wait. So I started to make jokes. "Well this is what happens in Not for Profit Theater. We can't pay the light bill." And the audience laughed, so I kept going. When the lights did finally come back on, I made one last joke, sang my song and walked off stage to thankful and glorious applause. It was this time, talking to people in the dark, that I knew where I was meant to be. It was this time that I had found my home.

My story is not that original. Ask any person in any audition waiting room, about the time they "knew," when "the bug" bit them, and they will tell you something similar. A time, a moment, a feeling that let them know that the stage, was their home, the place they were meant to be. Ask them further and you'll find out that maybe they didn't feel like they belonged, that maybe they were a little too different, a little too fat or shy or gay or awkward or edgy, a thousand adjectives that set them apart from other people and led them in that distance right to the stage door.

If you're lucky.