Featured Q-STAGE Artist: Hector Chavarria

hector
Who are you and what is your show called?

I’m Hector Chavarria and my Q-STAGE show is called The Big Gay Mexican Show. It will be presented during the first weekend of Q-STAGE May 13-15, 2016.

As one of our 2016 Q-STAGE Artists, can you tell us about where the idea(s) for your show came from?

Well, I have been working on Big Gay Mexican for almost two years. The reason I created this persona was because I realized that someone like me wasn’t being represented positively in the media. I decided it was about time that a bigger build, Mexican American man, who happens to be homosexual, be shown as a proud individual to be himself.

Have you been collaborating with any other artists to create this show? Who are they are how are they contributing?

This process was crazy. So, I started working with Stacy Schultz, my director/roommate, as soon as I found out I was chosen for Q-STAGE. We both decided that this should not be a one-person show and that we should have at least two actors be part of the show. I asked Jen Buckhout and Donn Saylor to be in my show giving them very little information about their characters and I’m so fortunate they still said, yes! Once I knew who was involved the story came alive in my head. I started to create characters and storylines and the final product turned out better than I expected. With my art, people around me inspire me and I’m so happy to be surrounded by so many awesome spirits. I think the BGM crew contributed more to this project than they know.

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

Being a bigger person in the gay community can be difficult. Many gay men, not all, like to fat-shame. Being Chicano in Minnesota is also challenging. I’m a minority here, whereas in El Paso, TX, I was not. The Big Gay Mexican Show, in a way, is fighting against stereotypes. I want to spread the message that being different is a good thing. Being different is beautiful.

What aspects of your queer identity do you hope to express through your Q-STAGE piece?

Although BGM deals a lot with identity, I want to bring out more the struggle I have with relationships with other gay men versus the struggle I have with myself as a gay man.

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 consider myself a performance artist. I have written and performed art pieces in various cabarets throughout Minneapolis. In my pieces I always include dance and song because I always wanted to do musical theater. When I first moved to Minneapolis and started auditioning, I began to realize that I was going to have a hard time being cast because of who I was: a big, gay Mexican. So eventually I started writing my own work because if they weren’t going to let me sing and dance then I was going to have to make my own opportunities myself! I have not been involved with 20%Theatre before but I am so grateful to be involved now. The work 20% Theatre does to celebrate queer artists is incredible. I’m so happy they exist because the artist they promote, such as myself, need to be heard!

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

Equality is important to me. I want everyone to be treated the same, to have the same rights. With my work, I tend to focus on body image and positive self-esteem, and the fact that these issues also effect men. Living in a society that focuses a lot on physical beauty is hard when you yourself do not fit in with what is considered the norm.

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

Recently, Taylor Mac, who had a one-person show at Guthrie in April, inspired me. Taylor Mac also wrote the play Hir that was produced at Mixed Blood Theatre. Taylor has a very clever way of bringing out serious issues but adding a twist of comedy and fun to them. I think that is genius. It’s a way to inform the audience but also allowing them to enjoy themselves.

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

I am in the works of starting a YouTube Channel. At first it was going to be The Big Gay Mexican Show on video but then I decided to expand myself and create another character. My new character is a cow named Vaco La Vaca. Vaco is a genderqueer cow. It’s in the early stages of production but so far Vaco is a lot of fun!

What is your favorite hangout spot and why?

I love the 19 Bar. I love the atmosphere and the people. In my opinion it’s the one gay bar in Minneapolis where I don’t feel left out.

When you’re not deep in Q-STAGE rehearsal and development, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies?

When I’m not working on art I like to go on long walks. Its one of my favorite things to do.  I also go to a lot of theater shows; I like to be surrounded by theater so I go to as much of it as possible. But mostly I like to stay home and just relax; life can get so busy that sometimes being at home can feel like paradise.

Click here for more information about The Big Gay Mexican Show and other performances in our 2016 Q-STAGE: New Works Series!

Featured Q-STAGE Artist: JamieAnn Meyers

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Who are you and what is the title of your show? When will it be running during Q-STAGE?

My name is JamieAnn Meyers and my show is titled First Person: A Life in Transition. It will be presented during the first weekend of Q-STAGE May 13-15, 2016.

As one of our 2016 Q-STAGE Artists, can you tell us about where the idea(s) for your show came from?

I’m primarily a storyteller, and have been using this medium for many years in facilitating workshops, panels and discussions around social justice issues, especially those involving the LGBTQ+ community. The next step for me was to use some of these autobiographical stories to build a show that could eventually be “taken on the road” for education and entertainment through the medium of theater. The script just blossomed from there.

Have you been collaborating with any other artists to create this show? Who are they are how are they contributing?

After the original version of the script was written, I began collaborating with my director, Shalee Coleman. Shalee is especially creative when it comes to the use of body movement to tell stories. In my Q-STAGE proposal I originally intended to do a one-person show, but Shalee eventually convinced me to make use of a Greek Chorus to make my work come more fully alive. We wanted to involve other trans and gender non-conforming artists to form this chorus and to participate in dialogue. My friends Erica Fields, Zealot Hamm, Suzi Love, Beckett Love and Pearl Noonan, all of whom have experience in the Twin Cities Theater scene, agreed to share the stage with me to bring this play to life.

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

We need a great variety of stories from the trans and gender non-conforming community to help break down stereotypical barriers that prevent people from knowing us as an incredibly beautiful and varied spectrum of individuals. Each of us has a different story, and First Person is my unvarnished truth. It’s the story of my life-long transition, a life that’s being lived “halfway up, halfway down,” in-between, and my claiming CHANGE as my identity. I want the audience to leave the show with an understanding of the complexity, struggles and joys of a trans person’s life. I want the audience to get inside my head and understand that each of us is different, that each of us struggles with many conflicting emotions. I want the story of my lifelong transition and the complexity of living “in-between” to emerge.

What aspects of your queer identity do you hope to express through your Q-STAGE piece?

The primary aspect of my queer identity that I want to emerge is that it has evolved over the entirety of my lifetime and this evolution is ongoing.  I’m what many would call a “trans elder.”  I came out in my late 50’s and am now 70 years old.  People often ask me “when did you transition?”  My answer is “from when I was a fetus, until long after my death.”  (Peoples’ memories of my life will evolve after my death as their own personal and societal contexts evolve.)  It’s been a lifetime of discovery, of peeling back the many layers of my identity and expression, and discovering the seeds that have grown into who I am today.  When I first uncovered my childhood feelings of gender difference in middle age, I realized that I was part of the transfeminine spectrum; I later identified myself in therapy as bi-gender.  When I began my social transition, I identified in the binary as female.  My recent gender confirmation surgery has finally liberated me and enabled me to come out as fluid.  I’ve also been enabled to claim my orientation as bisexual.  And the journey continues.  What identity will I claim in another five years?  I don’t know.

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 first theater experience was on stage as an actor in 20% Theatre’s production of The Naked I: Wide Open back in 2012. I performed Congruity, written by Erica Fields, a story not too unlike my own, except that back then I had begun to think that gender confirmation surgery was beyond my reach. I was greatly moved by this experience, which in effect saved my life and enabled me to open more doors and move forward in my gender journey. I realized that a more effective way for me to do advocacy work around gender identity and expression was through theater than by simply giving talks, facilitating workshops and participating in panels.  Since then I wrote and performed the piece Upside Down, Inside Out for 20%’s  The Naked I: Insides Out in 2014, and performed a variety of storytelling pieces in 20%’s “Open Stage” series and in the cabaret evening during MORPHOLOGIES: Queer Performance Festival put on by 20% Theatre, Pangea World Theatre, and RARE Productions. I also performed the trans-related monologue They Beat the Girl out of My Boy in Winona State University’s 2013 edition of the The Vagina Monologues. In that same show I wrote and performed the original version of Upside Down, Inside Out, which dealt with genitalia and the intersection of transmasculine and transfeminine identities.

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

20% Theatres’ production of The Naked I: Monologues from Beyond the Binary back in 2009 (“the first Naked I” as it is often called) touched me deeply and inspired me to approach Claire Avitabile, 20%’s Executive Director, about opportunities to pursue advocacy through theater. My work in faith-based queer advocacy brought me into contact with Peterson Toscano, a playwright and gay activist whose one-person play Transfigurations—Transgressing Gender in the Bible informed my work in First Person: A Life in Transition.

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

I hope to use my experience in working on First Person to write more short plays dealing with gender identity and expression. A book is also in the back of my mind and I think that this Q-STAGE experience will kick-start that project.

When you’re not deep in Q-STAGE rehearsal and development, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies?

My wife Peggy and I live in Winona and enjoy the atmosphere of a small city where three institutions of higher education influence the social fabric of the community. We are both retired and have fun playing golf and taking long walks together. Every Wednesday night is “date night,” which includes a meal at a local deli and a movie at our local theater.  Travel is a big part of our lives and we are often on the road with one another. Our two adult children and three grandchildren live in the Twin Cities, and “Old Blue” (our car) knows the U.S. 61 river route by heart. Queer advocacy work in secular and faith communities also occupies a chunk of my time.

Click here for more information about First Person: A Life In Transition and other performances in our 2016 Q-STAGE: New Works Series!

 

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: 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.