THE NAKED I: RECOGNIZE/D – Featured Artist, TJ Carley

Wyatt and Teege1. In what way/s are you involved with THE NAKED I: RECOGNIZE/D? This is my third time performing in a Naked I production. I have collaborated with other artists, I’ve performed a piece another artist wrote, but this time I am performing my own story, Four Words.
 
2. Why is it important to tell the stories in THE NAKED I? Stories in The Naked I are important because they are our own stories. Real life stories, not some fabrication or over-simplification of queer lives. This show gives all of us, but specifically trans and gender-nonconforming people a chance to tell their stories.


3. What aspects of your identity do you hope to express through your involvement with THE NAKED I? 
As an older trans guy, I wanted my piece to reflect how much my life and the world around me has changed in the 10 years I have been on testosterone. This year, I’ve added “cancer survivor” to my identity, and while it’s not something I often share, I think it’s something that people, regardless of gender, can relate to.

4. Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production? Ha, Ha, that’s funny. I don’t have a background as an artist. I make my living as a scientist, but I do have a creative writing degree. The open call for The Naked I productions allowed me to submit my writing. That writing has created opportunities for me to perform. My only artistic experiences are with The Naked I.

5. What other artists or shows have inspired you? I have met many wonderful artists and directors through each Naked I production. Each cast brings it’s own unique flavor to the production. It’s a big extended family I feel fortunate to be part of.

6. When not involved in this production, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies? I love to read, write, travel, take pictures, and try to keep up with two 6 month old puppies!

7. Finish this sentence: I feel the most naked when……. I’m uncontrollably emotional.

 

THE NAKED I: RECOGNIZED performs February 2-11 at Minnsky Theatre. Click here for more information and to reserve tickets now!

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THE NAKED I: RECOGNIZE/D – Featured Artist, Ayesha Adu

thumbnail1. In what way/s are you involved with THE NAKED I: RECOGNIZE/D? I’m performing the monologue “Triad” by Sara Kerr – and my character is a biracial, queer triplet who is socially stereotyped by society and unaccepted by her grandmother.

2. Why is it important to tell the stories in THE NAKED I? It’s important to tell these stories, because they are somebody else’s stories, too. We are not alone. The more transparent we are with our own stories, the better chance we have in the fight against inequality.

3. What aspects of your identity do you hope to express through your involvement with THE NAKED I?  While I am not a triplet (I’m actually an only child), I am a biracial, queer individual and grew up with everyone having an opinion of how I should behave. I wasn’t black enough, I was too white, and I am non-politically queer.

4. Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production? I am a filmmaker and screenwriter. This is my first acting experience. I’m bringing my skills of observation to the table as I observe what my character is going through, and I, also, observe the audience’s reactions.

5. What social issues are important to you and how do they inform your work?
Equality and equanimity are very important to me. I’m still learning how these inform my work. All I can say is that the message of my feature length screenplay, Stardust, that I’m writing now is all about being yourself, being transparent and authentic. It’s through these exercises that you can believe in yourself as an equal and have the presence that demands to be respected and treated this way.

6. What other artists or shows have inspired you? I perform with the Dykes Do Drag troupe, and it’s a wonderful experience. Everyone is incredibly talented. They’re like family to me. Heather Spears, the founder and producer, says we’re misfit toys here to entertain the community. It’s Minnesota’s own Saturday Night Live. You should go!

7. When not involved in this production, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies? My hobby is filmmaking which I hope to make a living at some day… Otherwise, I spend time with good friends.

8. Finish this sentence: I feel the most naked when…….  I’m on a promising first date, or when people see or read my art for the first time.

THE NAKED I: RECOGNIZED performs February 1-11 at Minnsky Theatre. Click here for more information and to reserve tickets now!

THE NAKED I: RECOGNIZE/D – Featured Artist, Collins Hilton

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1. In what way/s are you involved with THE NAKED I: RECOGNIZE/D?  I’m the Director for Hunta Williams’ original piece titled “Gender Identity / Same Person”

2. Why is it important to tell the stories in THE NAKED I? All of the stories told in THE NAKED I (TNI) are told by and for the queer community – for once, authentic stories told by the people affected by them.

For me, watching the various pieces I feel this intense sense of comfort around the lack of ‘you’re not telling my story right’ because often the person onstage is telling their own story. Often, but not all the time. This is where I believe the magic comes in. The casting was done in such an intentional way that if the performer isn’t also the writer/creator, they have parallel identities so they can still perform authentically.

This intentionality is so important, and something I haven’t seen in other performance spaces, movies, TV, theatre, etc. I believe this is one of the small pieces that makes the stories in TNI as powerful as they are.

3. What aspects of your identity do you hope to express through your involvement with THE NAKED I? This is a complicated question, because as a director I don’t believe it’s my place to be expressing my identity in the show, but it is all over the process behind it. I’m Directing a piece in ASL, a language that I know conversationally. I’ve been working with two kick-ass interpreters (Alex and Asher) to work with my kick-ass actor, who is Deaf. Alex, Asher and I are all white non-cis folks, all supporting Hunta, a Deaf trans black man, tell his story. Of course identity is going to come up in the rehearsal room!

Gender, Language, Race, and Ability are everywhere. The intersections of my gender as a trans person, my ability to hear, and my whiteness have all come into play during this process, as have the gender, language, race, and ability of Alex, Asher and Hunta. In the rehearsal room we’ll often stop and talk about the barriers we’re having, such as Turning ASL into written English, Black ASL VS. ASL, East Coast VS. Midwest Communication Styles, etc. Once we’ve worked through it, or acknowledge that it exists, we are able to move forward. I believe that it’s everyone’s willingness to be vulnerable in the room that has made this successful.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I work with an awesome team.

4. Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production? It’s funny, my first solo-directing experience was on a project based off of The Vagina Monologues that looked very similar to TNI.

My Historically Women’s college had a history of performing The Vagina Monologues (“VagMons” as it became affectionately known) every Valentines day. My first year, group of queer students rallied to replace the production with something that told the stories of more than cisgender women, something that would better represent “the student body of Mount Holyoke”. Thus, The Student Body was born.

Every year a Director applies with a theme and is chosen to facilitate the process from submissions to performance. The first year it was about Gender and Sexuality in homage to VagMons. I was the second director and chose to create a show about Ability.

It was incredibly refreshing to create a space for authentic conversation around the performance. I’m excited for that process to come with TNI.

5. What social issues are important to you and how do they inform your work?
The representation of Queer people across industries. I want real queer people playing real queer people telling real queer stories. Why is that so difficult?

6. What other artists or shows have inspired you? I’m inspired by collaboration, by artists who can truly combine the thoughts and ideas of others to create something new and beautiful. I’ve tried to bring that to all aspects of my theatre work. I firmly believe that together we are able to create something so much greater than if any one of us had tried alone. Because of this, I’m constantly asking questions and leaning on the community around me to weigh in on things I’m working on. I am a community-driven-creator.

7. When not involved in this production, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies? Movie Pass. I want Movie Pass to pay me to be their brand ambassador. Everyone should get movie pass. I Love Movie Pass. I do not understand how they plan to turn a profit. It’s a subscription service, $11 a month, and you get to see one movie in theatres every 24 hours. That’s it. I’ve been seeing SO MANY movies I would not have seen. I’ve become a snob for certain theatres because they have those fancy reclining seats. I’m all for it. Get Movie Pass.

8. Finish this sentence: I feel the most naked when……. I let people spiritually into my life.

THE NAKED I: RECOGNIZED performs February 2-11 at Minnsky Theatre. Click here for more information and to reserve tickets now!

Featured THE TERROR FANTASTIC artist: Daniel Mauleón

00100sPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20171020142114901_COVER1. Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production? Have you been involved with 20% Theatre in the past and, if so, in what ways?

My focus in art is writing scripts for comics (and a few plays). I like to explore the juxtaposition of words and images. Often this is on the page, as opposed to a stage but there is a lot of overlap with the visual story telling of theatre. This is my first time working for 20% if you don’t consider chauffeuring Shalee to and from rehearsals.

2. How did you get into projection design, and what has it been like to specifically design for The Terror Fantastic?
 
Projection design is both new and old for me. There’s certainly a lot of overlap with comic illustration and visual storytelling that comes into the play. Plus I have a weird love for Powerpoint. However, taking what’s in my minds eye and putting it to paper or—er—projections is a different story.

My first theatre projections were for a Fringe show last summer. That required a more cartoony look and for a show I wrote. So I was mindful to not write anything out of my skillset. Terror Fantastic challenged me to stretch as a visual artist creating illustrations that were fantastical in nature but grounded in a realistic depiction.

Terror Fantastic has also given me the chance to start learning Qlab, which was another fun hurdle and I’m glad to add it to my tool belt.

 
3. Why do you feel it is important to share this story/the story(ies) of this production with the community?
 

Like all 20% Theatre productions, The Terror Fantastic is filled with layers of necessary stories for generally under represented groups. Personally, I connect to Iz’s relationship to anxiety as it’s been something I’ve been working with most of my life.

For me, anxiety can cause shame as I react irrationally to false stimulus. No matter how much I understand something logically there are times I cannot help but act on fear. All the while considering in what ways my trepidation can help me.

I see a lot of truth in the shared performance of Addison and Hillary. The way anxiety rears its ugly head, while other times can provide a sense of comfort.
 
4. What social issues are important to you and how do they inform the art you create?
 
As a writer with plenty privilege, I think it’s important to challenge the systems that center me while pushing away others. In my chosen genre of super hero narratives that often means examining portrayals of masculinity, or providing heroes that marginalized children can see themselves reflected in. 
 
7. When you’re not rehearsing for The Terror Fantastic, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies or passions in life?
 

I’m excited to open so that I can play some video games. There’s also a lot of movies out that I’m excited to see. And I guess I should spend some time writing, but I also miss my cats.

8. In The Terror Fantastic, we get to experience some of the main characters’ fantasies. What are some things you fantasize about?

I mean, being a full-time artist would be pretty great. It’s one thing to write comic books off as a taxable expense. It’d be nice to consider reading them as part of a 9-5.

Featured THE TERROR FANTASTIC artist: Jaya Robillard, Stage Manager

DSC_01471. Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of experience are you bringing to this production? Have you been involved with 20% Theatre in the past and, if so, in what ways?
I started stage managing in high school, sort of by accident. I signed up to be the assistant stage manager for my school’s musical because a few of my friends were cast, and I ended up falling in love with it. I continued stage managing through college and moved to the twin cities after graduation. This is my first 20% Theatre experience, and I’ve really enjoyed both the show itself and the rehearsal process.

2. What are your role(s) with the production?
I am the stage manager, a role for which I still haven’t come up with a good, concise explanation. Basically, my job is to make sure that everything that’s supposed to happen during the performance actually happens. During rehearsals, I write down blocking and communicate with designers about things we’ll need onstage. For performances, Scout (the ASM) and I make sure everything is set before the show, and I call each light, sound, and projection cue during the run.
 
3. Why do you feel it is important to share this story/the story(ies) of this production with the community?
Mental health problems are still really stigmatized, particularly when they don’t manifest in neat and manageable ways. Iz is a very sympathetic character despite her flaws and bad decisions, and I think it’s so valuable for people who don’t struggle with anxiety to see things from her point of view, and to understand why she behaves the way she does. For those of us who do deal with anxiety on a regular basis, it feels good to see the things we go through–particularly when those aren’t things we always feel like we can talk about openly–represented with both truth and empathy onstage. I know that working on this production has given me the opportunity to think about the way I manage my anxiety, and has served as a reminder to make kind and healthy decisions for myself. I hope it does the same for many of our audience members.

4. What social issues are important to you and how do they inform the art you create?
I think that giving marginalized voices a platform is incredibly important for combating prejudice and inequality due to race, gender, queer identity, or anything else. If you never get a chance to share your experience, how can you hope for people to understand it? Some of my favorite shows I’ve been able to work on have been shows that focus on voices we rarely get to hear. There’s an incredible energy in the room when a group of artists who don’t usually get to tell their own stories have the opportunity to do so. Most of the productions like this that I’ve worked on have been about racial minorities, and it’s been a great experience to get to do something similar with queer identity with The Terror Fantastic.
 
5. What other artists or performances have inspired you over the years?
I am a big fan of performances that take advantage of live theatre as a medium. The types of stories we can tell onstage are often similar to the ones we tell in film and television, and while they are similar mediums in many ways, I particularly love seeing a stage performance that really wouldn’t work on screen. Examining what we do and don’t accept in different mediums helps us examine the full range of what we can do with our performances. I think our willingness to suspend disbelief for live theatre opens up the possibility for unique kinds of storytelling, from non-literal movement to having multiple scenes happening at the same time. I’m fascinated by performances that push the boundaries of what we can do onstage, and of what “a play” even is.
 
6. Are you working on any other projects or are there others you hope to work on?
My next show is Cardboard Piano at Park Square Theatre, for which I’ll be ASMing. I’ve also recently joined Sandbox Theatre and am excited for future projects with them.

7. When you’re not rehearsing for The Terror Fantastic, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies or passions in life?
I’ve been trying to expand my visual art skills, mostly drawing. I’m also a big fan of puzzles (jigsaw, logic, whatever), and my roommates and I try to have movie nights when we can find an evening when we’re all home together.

Come experience Jaya’s stage manager awesomeness in The Terror Fantastic!

Featured THE TERROR FANTASTIC artist: Nicole Jost, playwright

Nicole Jost headshot 2017Meet Playwright NICOLE JOST, and then come see THE TERROR FANTASTIC!

1. Talk about your background as an artist and a playwright. Have you been involved with 20% Theatre in the past and, if so, in what ways?

This is my first show with 20%! I have to shout out Shalee Coleman (fab director) for
bringing my work to the Twin Cities. I’m so grateful to her for introducing me to this
wonderful company. As for my background, I started writing plays when I started writing The Terror Fantastic. When I think about my growing up, it’s laughably obvious that I wanted to write. Whether it’s the notebook full of ideas I kept as a little kid, the song lyrics I collected as a teenager, or the way I’ve always quoted movies and TV – all signs pointed to writing. But I didn’t realize how much I wanted it until I got the idea for this play. It was scary to call myself a playwright – that opens the door for failure. But when I finally admitted to myself that this is what I want to do, it felt really good.

2. What inspired you to write The Terror Fantastic? What can you tell us about it that we won’t know just from seeing it? 

In college, I wrote a queer fairytale play. Mostly for fun. I put it down for a couple years.
At the same time, I was experiencing panic attacks. And I started to feel like anxiety was
this monster following me around. I would have a panic attack seemingly for no reason,
sitting up in bed, at the movies with friends. The randomness really bugged me, and it
started to take on a personality, this beast-like thing following me around and messing
with me. So, I got the idea to cannibalize my sweet little fairytale play, to write a play
that occupied two worlds (real life with a monster and a fantasy space). I was involved
with a theater company called The Inkwell in DC (where I’m from), and the way they
articulated an aesthetic of pushing boundaries in theater really spoke to me. The weird
plays they described sounded like plays I wanted to see. And I thought, wait a minute, I
should be writing plays that I would want to see! That was a big part of the inspiration.

3. What aspects of your [queer] identity are you hoping to express through The Terror Fantastic?

For me, The Terror Fantastic is about being queer without being “about” being queer.
What I mean is that the protagonist experiences universal stuff – fear, lust, mental illness, self doubt – filtered through the lens of her identity as a queer woman. That was really important to me, to strike that balance of representing my queerness (through a character who is not me!) without overriding my humanity. I am queer. And a person. Both. I also wanted to talk about fear for a queer character who can’t say without a doubt that they are safe in the world. How does that real fear intersect with her mental health, how does it create boundaries around space, and how do queer people wrestle with fear?

4. Why do you feel it is important to share this story/the story(ies) of this production with the community?

When I first had readings of this play, I was incredibly moved by the people who
approached me afterwards to say, I have anxiety, and this is exactly what it feels like. I
think it’s important to say this stuff out loud, to combat the isolation that too often comes
with mental health issues. I also think it’s important to share stories of women’s
sexuality. I’d like to think that as a culture we’ve moved past the idea that men are
initiators of sex and women are receivers of that initiation, but I’m constantly reminded
that we are not. I find it really joyful to center a lusty woman in this story, even when
she’s so surrounded by so much darkness.

5. What social issues are important to you and how do they inform the art you create and/or the plays you write?

I always try to tackle social and political issues through a personal lens, shrinking the
capital “P” politics down to a person’s very real, intimate experience. All the oppression
“isms” show up in people’s daily lives, so as a playwright I can explore them through my
characters. I am a white writer, and I have been working to create three-dimensional,
believable, flawed, complicated characters of color. Not only because representation
matters, but also in the theater I am always conscious of the fact that my characters make jobs for actors. I can’t use my white privilege blind spots as excuses to write only white characters – that’s literally taking money from artists of color. Those blind spots are very real, though, so I need to do the research, listen, and remain accountable. Of course, queer experience and queer issues are very important to me, too. I guess I’m a bit of a narcissist, because even when I set out to write a cis character in an opposite-sex
relationship, they somehow end up a bit queer. Maybe on some subconscious level I
don’t really believe that non-queer people exist…

6. Are you working on any other projects or are there others you hope to work on?

I’m finishing my M.F.A. in Playwriting at San Francisco State University this May,
which means I’m juggling a whole bunch of different projects right now. I wrote a play
called Sucia that will be produced on campus this March – it’s a modern retelling of the
Cinderella story, about a young Chicana and her Ivy League dreams (spoiler alert: there’s
no prince in this Cinderella!). And I’ve got other things in the works: a vaudeville about
Betsy DeVos, a magical realist drama about a sex worker who becomes best friends with
her former client after the client’s death, a dark comedy about a woman with armpit
cancer in near-future America, and an immersive queer divorce play (in collaboration
with two other queer writers, which is so awesome!).

7. When you’re not writing awesome plays like The Terror Fantastic, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies or passions in life?

It’s fun to complain that being in grad school means I have no free time, but the truth is
that doing my homework is awesome. I took a big break between graduating from college and starting this M.F.A., so the joys of being a student are really clear to me. (Not that I don’t get stressed out and complain, too.) But outside of that, I’m an introvert, so I love spending time at home with my wife and my cat. That’s my total sweet spot. I also love to cook. I find it really calming. It uses a different part of my brain than writing does, and when I get way too full of language it helps me to do something sensory. I’m also one of those yoga people. I know, I know, it’s so boring and trendy, but I really love it. Anything that connects me to my physical body makes me happy. (And all that deep
breathing for anxiety!)

8. In The Terror Fantastic, we get to experience some of the main characters’ fantasies. What are some things you fantasize about?

I get a lot of energy from the initial spark of an idea (for anything, not just plays), and
that energy often sends me off into a fantasy about all the ideal steps leading up to an
ideal product. It’s kind of a double-edged sword, because I’ll just start work on
something and conjure up this vision of finishing it. And that vision can propel me, but it
also makes it hard to make adjustments when things change. So I have to work on being
flexible, and letting go of the fantasy a little. I’m also a teaching artist, so I run fantasy
classes in my head constantly!

Featured THE TERROR FANTASTIC artist: Kassia Lisinski, Sound Designer

IMG_20170921_2108041. Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production? Have you been involved with 20% Theatre in the past and, if so, in what ways?

I have a background in multimedia art and writing, the latter of which I have been doing since childhood. While at school at the University of Iowa, I began to move towards video and audio augmented performances of what I had written, and was quickly nabbed by the theatre department when they realized I was able and willing to focus on contributing sound to shows. I found that I really enjoyed it and am very happy to be able to work with a radical, equitable company like 20% Theatre for the first time.

2. What aspects of your [queer] identity do you hope to express through your role(s) in The Terror Fantastic?

I’m hoping that my personal experiences with identity-related anxiety, depression, and trauma– which already color my work– will find some catharsis in this production. One of the things that I’ve found so amazing about queer theatre in the cities is the openness and sense of community– it’s possible to be very vulnerable and true with work and be celebrated and supported for contributing that authenticity.

3. Why do you feel it is important to share this story/the story(ies) of this production with the community?

I suppose for the same reason as above– I’d really love to see some of the stigma of debilitating mental illness removed. It can be so isolating to be afflicted– which is really tragic because it is that sense of acceptance and support that a community provides that provides so much relief and healing to someone suffering from anxiety or another sickness.

4. What social issues are important to you and how do they inform the art you create?

Queer identity, particularly the uncompromising acceptance of all its aspects of presentation, is dear to me. I also care deeply for ecological health and the experience of natural spaces, and the ways in which those are tied to psychological wellbeing. I use a lot of natural sounds in my work with the intent of a peaceful emotional impact, while a lot of humanmade and mechanical sounds translate into anxiety and conflict.

5. What other artists or performances have inspired you over the years?

I have been very very enamored with the queer art scene here, particularly its diversity in terms of race, origin, and disability. I come from a small city in Iowa and there is very little there that is comparable. It’s been an exponential experience of learning and growing.

6. Are you working on any other projects or are there others you hope to work on?

I’m working on a one-act play right now as well as perpetually working on notes for longer stories. I also write poetry and occasionally try to get work published, but it’s something I’d like to focus more on over the long cold winter.

7. When you’re not rehearsing for The Terror Fantastic, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies or passions in life?

I work at an established theatre in their box office and administration. When not there, I spend a lot of time at home on writing, reading, bending myself into pretzel-like shapes, and lazing about with my very old cat. I’m not a super sociable person but I do also enjoy going to shows and spending time with a few much-loved friends.

8. In The Terror Fantastic, we get to experience some of the main characters’ fantasies. What are some things you fantasize about?

The destruction of capitalist-colonialism, and the ability to leave my house without anxiety jitters (these are not unrelated).