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: Esmé Rodríguez

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

I am a contributing author to THE NAKED I: Self-Defined; I wrote “Places!”. I will also be assisting the director of my piece and the actor with some makeup and costume tips, as well as providing a little background about drag performance.

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

It is vital to tell these stories because so many people’s experiences go unarchived, ignored, or dismissed. Sharing our stories is an empowering achievement and many times, cathartic. By telling these stories, all who are involved in THE NAKED I create opportunities for outreach, connection, and safer space for those who may be experiencing some of the same or similar emotions. Telling these stories may save someone’s life. These stories also provide educational and emotional growth opportunities for those outside of our communities who desire to be more understanding and knowledgeable allies/actionaries for transgender and gender diverse people.

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

I aim to express/expel some of the pain that I went through by not being accepted in my own community when I originally came out as trans/non-binary. Communities need to be held accountable for the cultural wounds that they inflict—even if the damage happened in an unintentional/misunderstood manner. By vocalizing my story, I let go of some of the negative residuals of the pain and I am able to move forward in new ways. I am also expressing the pride that I have taken in my integrity and self determination to be the most authentic ME that I can be—regardless of the approval of others.

 

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

Intersectional justice lies at the core of everything that is important to me as an artist and as a person.  Every person should be respected, supported, and offered equitable opportunities to succeed in life.  In order to realize this goal, we must work endlessly to break down barriers and oppressions that are upheld by white supremacy, patriarchy, colonization, and corrupt economic systems. Ideas and feelings about being a trans/non-binary person show up in all of the art that I create, from my drag performance, to costume design, to my visual art/painting.

What other artists or shows have inspired you?

Other artists who inspire me are Freddie Mercury, Eartha Kitt, Kate Bornstein, Andrea Jenkins, and all of the actors who I have had the privilege of meeting or seeing in conjunction with THE NAKED I.

What is your favorite hangout spot and why?

My favorite hangout spot is a ski hill/mountain.  I feel free when I am skiing and generally am able to share the experience with people who are important to me.  As I grow older, I tend to spend less time in the bars and clubs, unless I am performing in a show.

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

Besides skiing, I enjoy watching NFL games, painting, and directing/producing multi-dimensional drag/gender performance shows.  I am the director/producer of Esmé’s Traveling Gender Show & Tell and am invited to take the program to a variety of local and national colleges and universities.  One can find out more about this program here.

Tell us about your pets, real or imaginary.

I have a lot of stuffed animals—and I believe that they have souls.

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

Here is my artist bio:

Esmé Rodríguez, MA, PhD (ABD) is an east coast, via Portland, transplant back to Minneapolis, MN.  They are a Trans-masculine, queer-identified, Latino artist, educator, and activist. Esmé has a Master’s Degree from Boston College and they studied their PhD (ABD) at the University of Minnesota. They are also a self-taught seamstress and designer. Much of Esmé’s professional and creative work exhibits themes of transgender and gender diverse identities, the deconstructions of femininities and masculinities, and the creation of possibility spaces through engaging with work, which promotes intersectional justice. Their personal and professional goals are to form coalitions which aid in the breakdown of patriarchy, white supremacy, and colonization; meta-systems which maintain and control oppression, violence, and inequality. Esmé is currently the Social Justice & Training Specialist under the Day One Program at Cornerstone Advocacy Services.  They are also a Development and Diversity Consultant for Mental Health Connect and they were formerly the Development Manager at TransActive Gender Center in Portland, OR.

Esmé has taught Gender Studies and Latin American Literature at the university level for 12 years and is currently touring national colleges with their “Gender Show and Tell Program,” which engages in intersectional discussions surrounding the performance of diverse gender identities, and gender expressions from non-binary cultural perspectives.

Esmé is the director and producer of a variety of drag cabaret shows.  They have been chosen to perform at the 2016 International Drag Festival in Austin, TX. They also perform in a variety of state wide and national venues. Highlights of their 16 year drag and design career include regular performances in Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Amsterdam, working with Peaches Christ for the Minneapolis Premiere of “All About Evil” in 2010, as well as being chosen to work as an invited artist at The Walker Art Center in 2008 in conjunction with the international FRIDA Kahlo exhibit.