Featured THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED Artist: Graeme Monahan-Rial

In what way/s are you involved with THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED?

I’m performing a monologue piece called Trascendente, written by
Dr. Alex Iantaffi.

Why is it important to tell the stories in THE NAKED I?

I grew up in a small, Southern town, where if things didn’t conform to the normative, one didn’t talk about them. My hometown was racially divided along railroad tracks. We didn’t discuss that, or racism, or sexism, or anything else that was “uncomfortable” for those served by the structure. Such discussions were placed in the back of the closet with clothes from another season and left to rot. We should talk about heterosexism and cissexism, about the lives that gender nonconforming individuals lead, about the love they find, about the structural barriers they face. The Naked I is a fantastic way to do this.

What aspects of your identity do you hope to express through your involvement with THE NAKED I?

More than anything, I hope I do Alex’s work justice; Alex wrote a very powerful piece, and it’s super-exciting to have been chosen to relay it. Alex’s words resonate with me; I am a transmasculine individual who wants to use his privilege to overthrow these power structures, who doesn’t wish to hide his invisible disabilities from the world but doesn’t wish to be defined by them, and who doesn’t wish to lead a normal life, because even on my most normative days, I’m far from normal.

Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production?

I’m a little bit nervous, because I haven’t done anything theatrical in a while. I play the violin, but this is not the violin.  I sing, and a very small bit of Alex’s piece involves my singing, but I haven’t done anything theatrical since February of 2003, when I was The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could for Furman University’s production of The Vagina Monologues.

What social issues are important to you and how do they inform your work?

Wow. There are so many! I really want to see an end to sexism and racism, and I try to use my white male privilege (because, even if one is trans, one still has privilege; a lack of privilege in one area does not undo privilege in another) to dismantle those structures, so the parts of Alex’s piece that spoke of doing that resonated strongly with me.

What other artists or shows have inspired you?

I’ve seen Ani DiFranco something like eight times, and she’s a strong source of inspiration in my life. She lives her beliefs; she was courted by record labels and chose, instead, to create her own. I saw Mykel Pennington in a one-woman show called The Pink Unicorn a few months ago, and she was amazing, as she also blew me away in the last two productions of The Naked I that I have seen. I’m also surrounded by trans people fighting for justice and just trying to live their lives.

What is your favorite hangout spot and why?

I adore breweries; even if I can’t get anyone to go with me, I’ll take a book and sample a flight. All the better if there’s live music. I recently gave up caffeine (ouch!), so I try to stay away from coffee shops, but Hard Times Cafe is one of my favorite spots in the cities, and I haven’t been there recently or often enough.

When not involved in this production, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies?

I play and write music.  I take my dog to the dog park.  I hang out with friends.  I cuddle my cats. I go to the gym, although I messed up my left rotator cuff the other day being overenthusiastic with the shoulder presses. Damned testosterone…

Tell us about your pets, real or imaginary.

I have a black Lab mix named Zappa who was part of the 4th Precinct Shutdown and accompanied us to put decorations on the awful fence they put up around that area. He’s very energetic and likes running around on the Mississippi River in the wintertime. When I met my wife, she already had Thelma and Louise, two cats she’s kind enough to share with me. Thelma can detect my migraines before they happen and Weezy is really good at whining a lot.

What other projects are you working on or hope to work on?

I’m hoping to get through this without making an ass of myself (lol), but if I do, I hope to work with Claire and 20% on other projects.

Featured THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED Artist: Molly Payne

In what way/s are you involved with THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED?

I’m both a performer and author.

Why is it important to tell the stories in THE NAKED I?

With my piece in particular, I want to make someone feel less alone in their relationship struggles being trans/queer, and that it’s alright to be gentle and forgiving with the choices we make to combat loneliness, and make do with our bodies.

What aspects of your identity do you hope to express through your involvement with THE NAKED I?

Most of my life is not lived in a queer space. The Naked I provides a refreshing chance for me to give a strong voice to my queer/trans identity in a very unapologetic manner.

Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production?

I have never acted or written professionally before. My artistic outlet has always been musical in nature; so I am a bit nervous about sharing such an intimate piece of myself with strangers and friends. I am sure it will go fine though; nice to stretch boundaries and all of that.

What social issues are important to you and how do they inform your work?

Probably the Black Lives Matter movement is the one I pay the most attention to these days, and the importance of not letting the short attention span of the American media hurt the important work people are doing. Regarding the queer community more specifically I think it is deeply important for us to explore and pay attention to our interactions with each other. I hope we can remember to treat one another, and ourselves with greater intention and remember that we are all just trying to make it work out here.

What other artists or shows have inspired you?

I always fall back on jazz artists for inspiration. Especially those artists who use/d their talents to fight for social issues including the stigma surrounding mental illness. Listening to the beautiful and unexpected harmonies created by Thelonious Monk never fail to bring me inspiration.

What is your favorite hangout spot and why?

Anyplace that serves a warm cup of coffee. Café South Side and Bob’s Java Hut are definite faves.

When not involved in this production, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies?

My day job takes up more of my time and energy than I would like it to. When I do have the time I love spending it outdoors, or playing some music.

Tell us about your pets, real or imaginary.

My 3/4 wife has a wonderful service dog named Chestnut. She is a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever and is a real sweetheart (most of the time).

What other projects are you working on or hope to work on?

I would really love to get involved with mentor/tutoring programs that are free and target queer youth, and queer adults re-entering the workforce. I am always amazed at the amount of talent the individuals in our community process, and would really like to see us help one another decrease our unemployment rate through support and informal training.

Featured THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED Artist: grey doolin

In what way/s are you involved with THE NAKED I: SELF DEFINED? 

I am directing two pieces: What Is Owed by Nikolas Martell and Misgendered, by a Friend, June 21st by Oliver Schminkey. The wonderful Logan Gilbert-Guy is performing What is Owed and the fabulous Oliver is performing their own piece.

Why is it important to tell the stories in THE NAKED I?

In a world filled with normative narratives, it’s really important that queer and trans folks see themselves reflected as much as possible. It’s also important for our narratives to take up space in the world.

What aspects of your identity do you hope to express through your involvement with THE NAKED I?

Even though I didn’t write a piece for the show, both of the pieces I’m directing resonate with my experiences as a trans- and queer-identified person. What is Owed is a powerful piece about the complexities of identity and the shortcoming of labels, language, and others’ ideas about what it means to be [insert identity here]. Misgendered is a beautiful and poignant reflection on that moment when someone close to you misgenders you—how a seemingly small thing is actually a big fucking deal.

Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production? 

In terms of theatre experience, I was part of a small group of queers in Madison, WI who wrote and produced a play comprised of a series of monologues—similar to The Naked I but smaller in scale and reach. I’m a writer and musician and photographer and creator of things.

What other artists or shows have inspired you?

I feel inspired by most people who have heart and show up in an authentic way.

What is your favorite hangout spot and why?

Right now? My bed or bathtub. No explanation needed.

When not involved in this production, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies? 

I just started a queer writing group in Minneapolis: Twin Cities Queer Writers (find us on Facebook!). I spend my time creating, meditating, honing my spiritual practice, working part-time jobs, and hanging out with people.

Tell us about your pets, real or imaginary

I am a resident of Catlandia, population: 4 (soon to be 5! Another human, thank goodness). My three cats let me squat in their apartment, which is very generous of them. They keep me around to feed them, open doors, and provide the occasional pat.

What other projects are you working on or hope to work on? 

Other than the writing group, right now I’m working on starting a service-based business for queer and trans folks. TBC.

Featured THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED Artist: Zealot Hamm

In what way/s are you involved with THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED?

I am the writer of “My Dearest Selene” and I am performing in “Thank You Zombie Lady”

Why is it important to tell the stories in THE NAKED I?

It is important for the marginalized members of the LGBT community to have an avenue to be seen and heard. Everyone has a different view of gender & sexuality and it is important for people to know that it is fluid and however they identify, it’s important to show that it is okay. The Naked I is good at showing that struggle, giving it a face, and making it relatable.

What aspects of your identity do you hope to express through your involvement with THE NAKED I?

My gender fluidity and its mysticism.

Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production?

I have been fortunate to have been in all four Naked I productions and each time I have learned so much about pacing and mood and how to express that and connect with the audience. Each time I start again, I pour that through my acting and writing. I also went to college for animation where I learned acting through pictures and the importance of timing. So when I did start to act, in terms of merging those skills, it was perfect.

What social issues are important to you and how do they inform your work?

I am really interested in how race, gender, and social equality play out in our lives. These are fundamental ties to one’s worth. I met a seven year old trans girl and I was touched by her story. Until she was able to express herself she wanted to die. I was struck at how someone, at such a young age, didn’t feel like they had a place in the world. I want to change that and create stories that boost self worth.

What other artists or shows have inspired you?

Oh gosh, so many!  My Naked I family; local artist and Star Goddess, Andrea Jenkins; Shimmer Quin Villagomez; Kevin Aviance, for the way they bend their drag; & Janet Mock.  I also like artists who modify their bodies  I really like sideshow performers like Little Bear, The Bearded Woman; Erik Sprague, aka The Lizard Man; and “Vampire Woman” Maria Jose Cristerna. I am really inspired by all things anime.

What is your favorite hangout spot and why?

I like to hang out in my head. It is the only place where I am not chased out of towns with fire and pitchforks – LOL!

When not involved in this production, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies?

I spend my time reading a lot of different metaphysics books, philosophy, and comics, and one of my hobbies is role playing games.

Tell us about your pets, real or imaginary.

My little gray familiar is a funny cat. She is the size of a kitten, even at her 10 plus years of existence. She perches on cabinets and high places like a little gray gargoyle.  Her little eyes see through to your very soul! My dragon on the other hand, Equinox, is very talkative and if you call him imaginary, he will bite you! Despite his lofty title as Dragon of the Thirty Six Flames, he enjoys Netflix and warm bonfires. Oh, and yes, the rumors are true, he really is good at baking bread.

What other projects are you working on or hope to work on?

I would love to do a power metal musical! I really like that subgenre of heavy metal and I really think it could handle my wild sensibility! Practically, I would love to create an exercise machine that would strengthen the thighs for half the price!

Featured THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED Artist: Rehema Mertinez

In what way/s are you involved with THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED? 

I am acting in a performance piece called “My Dearest Selene;” I play a character who exhibits a lot of fear. Toward the end of the piece I get to transform into a goddess-like character.

Why is it important to tell the stories in THE NAKED I?

These stories and creative pieces are important because they focus on actual things that face the GLBTQ community; these stories also bring awareness to certain important issues.

What aspects of your identity do you hope to express through your involvement with THE NAKED I?

I am a trans woman of color. I want to portray a beautiful powerful black trans goddess as my character who I want to connect with in my everyday life.

Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production? 

I have been doing theatre arts since I was a kid. I went to a high school for the performing arts, as well as being a part of several theatre companies. I have always had a passion for theatre.

What social issues are important to you and how do they inform your work?

Trans and racial equality issues are very important to me because I am a trans women of color and I believe that absolutely nobody should be treated as less than. I try to make sure that I incorporate these issues in my work by being involved in the community and doing what I can to make a difference.

What is your favorite hangout spot and why?

I love to hang out at home (I know boring!) but I get to cook and get creative when I get to make a wig or something.

 

Tell us about your pets, real or imaginary.

I have a Chihuahua named Biko and a fat chubby cat name Maltese. Biko and Maltese get along very well; they like to play fight but then the next minute they are grooming each other. They are my babies and I love them very much.

What other projects are you working on or hope to work on?

I hope to continue performing and going to auditions. I hope to be in another fantastic play soon.

Featured THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED Artist: Cherri Borey

In what way/s are you involved with THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED?

I am performing in “My Dearest Selene.”

Why is it important to tell the stories in THE NAKED I?

Empowerment through education. My hope is that these bravely told stories and shared experiences will empower those who are still questioning and encourage compassion in would-be allies. Enlightenment through art.

Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production?

My acting background is mainly within comedy–plays, sketch comedy, and stand-up. Although I’ve been on artistic hiatus for a while, I’m excited to be able to return to acting in such an awesome show.

What social issues are important to you and how do they inform your work?

My gender non-conformity and queerness attracted me to this production, but I think what really informs my performance is the commonality of human experience in its deeply held desire to be treated with dignity and respect.

When not involved in this production, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies?

I enjoy reading, listening to music , writing fiction, and playing video games.

What other projects are you working on or hope to work on?

I am currently a trombone player for the MN Freedom Band, as well as working on a novel I began during 2015’s National Novel Writing Month.

Featured THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED Artist: Shalee Coleman

In what way/s are you involved with THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED

I am excited to return to THE NAKED I to direct Do No Harm by Eddy Samara and to choreograph a dance narrative number to Cat Hammond’s catchy and triumphant song, Pretty Boy.

Why is it important to tell the stories in THE NAKED I?

I believe wholeheartedly that representation is the solution to oppression. Representation in art, media, government, you name it. When people see themselves represented on stage, they no longer feel so isolated. When people see people other than themselves represented on stage honestly, accurately, and vulnerably, empathy and understanding becomes a natural reaction. THE NAKED I gives transgender artists and non-binary/ gender non-conforming folks the chance to speak their stories in their own words. Audiences create and form a bond with people all over the spectrum of queer and trans identities. And anyone in the audience who may be questioning the identity they were assigned at birth can put language to those feelings and relate to a story they see on stage. That is unspeakably radical. I have seen people’s entire perspective change in the span of a ten minute NAKED I piece.

For example, there was a moment in Oliver Schminkey’s piece two years ago when they said that in Spanish everything and everyone is referred to in the masculine (El -o) or feminine (La -a) with no ability to refer to anyone in gender neutral terms. Oliver then said that in the love language of Spanish, “they” basically did not exist. During this section I was sitting with my partner’s mother, a Spanish language medical interpreter. She works with Spanish speakers every day to advocate for them to get the best care possible. I heard her epiphany in a sigh/gasp. I watched her realize the inherent problem with that in the moment, and try to process solutions. In that moment, I saw the power of THE NAKED I.

Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production? 

I acted all throughout college and was pretty content to be on stage performing. It was not until I studied away at the National Theater Institute in Waterford, Connecticut, that I was assigned a scene to direct. That experience sparked my love of directing. I discovered a desire to guide actors toward great performances rather than be up there myself. My first opportunity to professionally direct was with THE NAKED I: Insides Out, and I owe every professional directing opportunity I received since then to 20% and the amazing relationships I formed during this incredible show.

What social issues are important to you and how do they inform your work?

Social issues that I am most passionate about are women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, the rights of transgender people to exist and receive medical treatment and the intersections between all of these issues. I have garnered a bit of a reputation for indulging in the “hard” conversations: brawling on Facebook and calling out people for misogyny/racism/transphobia in the moment. I was the person at Christmas breakfast who asked “So, who are we all voting for?” This is a reputation that I fought hard to achieve and that I am extremely proud of. To me it is more important to let people who have faced oppression (visibly or invisibly) know that there is someone to defend them than it is to make people in power more comfortable. This streams into my work as a lot of my art has a social justice bent. More than that though, it means that my rehearsals are designed to be safe spaces. You can only ask people to perform boldly through vulnerability if you make it clear that you are there to catch them if they fall. People make mistakes sometimes; I do too, societal programming can be difficult to decode. But if you work hard to let people know that you will fight for them, you empower them to correct you when you make those mistakes. My hope is that any performer or friend of mine would feel comfortable bringing that to me. The correction, while uncomfortable, has only ever made me a more whole and empathetic human being.

What other artists or shows have inspired you?

I find myself most inspired by writers. Letting your imagination run wild is a skill that we learn to stifle while sitting in 7th grade home room. The people who hold steadfast to that skill inspire me and I could not do what I do without them. That is why most of the directing I do is new work. I relish the opportunity to pick writers brains, reaffirm them, invite them to rehearsal, and allow them agency in shaping the final product. Just another reason working on THE NAKED I is a real treat for me.

What is your favorite hangout spot and why?

I love having friends over at my place when it is clean. My apartment feels like a little hideaway complete with Hulu/Netflix, tons of books/graphic novels, and two fuzzy cats. I prefer to fill my home with friends though, because at my core I am a social being and adore sharing my space with people who love to play video games and yell at the TV during political debates.

When not involved in this production, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies? 

I am a TV junkie. That feels like an unpopular thing to say, but I am a sucker for developed characters, intriguing plot, and voracious writing. If you get me talking I will recommend at least 5 shows you SHOULD be watching along with the various internet mediums where you can procure them. Just Finished: Fargo. Currently watching: Master of None. Looking ahead to: Jessica Jones (Season TWO y’all).

Other than that I enjoy playing video, card, and board games with large groups of people or simply catching up with friends. Did you know that we are in the golden age of board games? I’m serious, games nowadays are way more fun than Monopoly. My favorites include Escape, Resistance, and Sushi Go!

Tell us about your pets, real or imaginary.

Ok, but just remember, you were the one who asked. You started this. I cannot be held responsible for monologuing about my cats when you opened the flood gates.

I am the proud co-parent to two adorable and quirky felines. The first we adopted is named Tetra after the pirate in the Zelda game Wind Waker. She is all grey with darker grey stripes and bright green eyes. She is extremely dignified and a queen. She is not a big cuddler, which makes her cuddles rare and magical. Her circadian rhythm wakes her up at about 4-5 a.m., which would be fine if she didn’t think it was really fun to pounce on my partner and my feet underneath the covers. Alas, she makes a decent alarm clock. My favorite quirk about her is when she sees prey, she makes a small guttural noise that sounds like clicking. For what reason? No idea, but I am convinced it intimidates the hell out of the ladybugs that are practically glued to our ceiling in fear.

The second cat is Clementine, who is named after the protagonist in Telltale Games’s Walking Dead series (play it, it’s so good). She also happens to be a striped ginger tabby cat, but she was named after the video game character, not the small orange, promise. Clementine has an insane amount of energy and loves face scratches and snuggling in bed at night. This is a cat who spends the majority of her time in blankets. If you are under a blanket, she is on top of you.

We got two cats because when we only had Tetra, we could tell that she would get lonely during the day when we were at work. When we got home after a long day, she would cry and cry and follow us around. A need for companionship is a trait animals and humans share. No one likes to be alone. Although Tetra and Clementine don’t snuggle up together and are often tumbling and swatting at each other, they appreciate each other’s company. Having someone that speaks your language and fundamentally gets you because they are going through the same thing is infinitely and vitally important to our survival. Tetra doesn’t cry when we come home anymore.

What other projects are you working on or hope to work on?

Currently I am open to the universe. I have a couple irons in the fire for the Fringe Festival, I’m in talks with artists for a few other projects, and have some applications out. Above all, I hope to continue to be trusted by artists to stage their stories in a way that does them justice.