Featured Q-STAGE Artist: Nadia Honary

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As part of Q-STAGE 2017, Nadia Honary is creating a new performance piece combining video and movement – These Floating Bones – that will perform May 5 and 6 at 7:30pm, and May 7 at 2pm. For more information about this and other Q-STAGE shows, click here

As one of our 2017 Q-STAGE Artists, can you tell us about where the idea(s) for your show came from?

The inspiration for this piece has been in development for over a year. I’m very fascinated with the body’s relationship to the mind, and its relationship to the natural moving world. It’s very easy to become distracted and disconnected from the world around us as we advance in technology and strive for comfort and convenience. This disconnection prevents us from listening to our bodies, and ultimately lose a certain sense of the self. It is this reason that I chose to explore some of these themes using butoh-inspired movements and combining that with video of natural occurrences, such as water in a lake or leaves blowing in the wind. This piece is very personal for me because I am exploring my tendencies to become disassociated to my own identity. So for me, this piece is more like a journey into becoming reacquainted with this “self” through elemental inspired images and movement. My gender is fluid, my identity is liquid. I feel a connection to the idea of Noguchi Taiso which is the notion of the human body as a form of liquid, a water bag in which our bones are floating.

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

My director/collaborator, Shalee Coleman, has been an absolute dream to work with in creating this piece. She is one of the few humans who will completely understand what I’m saying and be able to take any of my ideas, no matter how large or seemingly impossible, and mold and shape it in a way that works beautifully in the piece. I feel very lucky to get to work with her. I have also had the privilege to meet with interdisciplinary artist and dancer Michael Sakamoto. His work is very deeply influenced with butoh and having the chance to talk with him and also to watch him perform has greatly inspired me to keep pushing forward with my own work.

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

Vulnerability is incredibly important in the work I create because that is what people connect to. Although it is very scary to create this kind of work, it is also a very healing process for me. I hope this piece creates a sense of healing within the community, inspiring people who witness this work to embrace the natural evolution the body experiences, and to feel the physical changes internally and externally.

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

I am taking an experimental approach to topics that are very personal to me as an always evolving queer-identified artist. I am creating a performance that indirectly addresses the evolution of the physical body and its connection to nature, very conscious of the fact that my own identity is in a constant state of transition. My journey coming to terms with my own sexual identity is an ongoing process and I am fascinated with the way society tries to box people into neat packages for the sake of convenience when gender and human identity is entirely complex and changing.

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’m a multimedia artist with over 10 years of experience in the visual arts. I’m very passionate about photography and videography. That’s why video is a huge part of this particular piece; I’m very visual and find great inspiration in movements inspired by nature. I also have several years of experience doing experimental theatre work. I love to move and as a performer, am very physically expressive. This will be my first time involved with 20% Theatre, but hopefully will not be the last.

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

The concept of gender identity and how cultural identity influences gender and sexuality very much informs the art I create. I’m half-Iranian, with half of my family still living in Iran. This means I’m still closeted to most of my extended family as Iran. I think about freedom of expression, of perception and censorship. These themes come up often in the art I create. I’m also very impacted by immigration policies and the act of inspiring fear in order to discriminate against an entire group of people, how certain words are used in conjunction with an entire region or religion in order to manipulate the way others view anyone coming from that area. I consider these specific social issues often when I create my work.

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

There are so many! I am influenced by artists that physically and intellectually challenge perspectives. M.C. Escher has aesthetically inspired my approach to installation through use of reflections and mirrors. Conceptually, I am inspired by surrealism, which is why I draw inspiration from the works of Georgia O’Keefe, Frida Kahlo, and Salvador Dali. Iranian artist Shirin Neshat’s use of video projection to transform spaces, as well as the usage of text within her work has also shaped my work. I also love the work by installation/video artist Pipilotti Rist. Local artists whom I know or have met that have shaped and inspired my work include ceramist and interdisciplinary artist, Katayoun Amjadi, photographer Wing Young Huie, and as I mentioned earlier, mover/interdisciplinary artist Michael Sakamoto.

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

I would like to eventually finish a documentary that I started on my half-Iranian identity which also focuses on my dad’s story and how he got here. I think stories on immigration and identity are important to share, especially in times like today.

What is your favorite pre or post-rehearsal snack or meal?

My favorite post-rehearsal meal is tacos! Always tacos.

What is your favorite hangout spot and why?

I love going to Caffetto cafe. The space is cozy and they have pinball machines in the basement. I also love being outside whenever the weather permits. I will walk anywhere and everywhere and hang out in the park. Specifically Powderhorn Park is very close to my heart.

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

I love spontaneous dance parties in the living room, riding bikes with my partner, and cooking with simple ingredients. I also love challenging myself by trying new things. I’m excited to mountain bike more often as the weather warms up; I just started last fall and I’m hooked!

 

Featured Q-STAGE Artist: Devin Taylor

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As part of Q-STAGE 2017, Devin Taylor has written & created and co-directed THE SMITTY COMPLEX, a brand new work that will perform May 5 and 6 at 7:30pm, and May 7 at 2pm. For more information about this and other Q-STAGE shows, click here


As one of our 2017 Q-STAGE Artists, can you tell us about where the idea(s) for your show came from?

The idea for the story itself comes from stories I used to make up and tell to my best friend. I would text her poems and limericks about an otter. These poems usually found the otter in some bizarre predicament, having lost his shoes, torn his pants, eaten too much–it was really all about the rhyme scheme. It’s hard to say where the original concept for The Smitty Complex began, but it’s possible that it was a spin off of one of these stories that took a dark and complicated turn.

That was about seven years ago. I carried the idea with me for a few years before finally deciding to write it in the form of a short story four years ago. Since then, it’s been a somewhat slow process of allowing this play to say something “Real.”

It began with a story of an otter named Smitty and a whole lot of semantics that I imagine only a few people (like myself) would actually enjoy reading or seeing performed. Ultimately, I decided that I wanted it to be accessible to an audience and to say something real about the institutionalization of identity–even if it meant dispensing with some of the stylized conventions of absurdist theatre and blurring the line between real and surreal. I really had to fight my own stubbornness on this. I knew the issue of identity was central… I just wasn’t sure how much I was willing to give or how earnest I was willing to let it be.

 

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

I am fortunate to have four veterans of The Naked I series–Courtney Stirn, Beth Mikel Ellsworth, Graeme Monahan-Rial, and Logan Gilbert-Guy–who will bring these roles to life on stage. I am also collaborating with up & coming director Bri Collins.

 

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

I don’t know that it is, to be honest. I hope that it is. Working on this story for the past four years has really helped me break down some useless and problematic walls that I’d built around myself and allowed others to build around me. I’d like to think that it holds the potential to do that for others. If nothing else, I hope that it is something people enjoy.

 

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

I have always felt at odds with the act of declaring the “authentic self”–not that such a thing does not exist, but that the act of declaring it is almost intrinsically contrary to its authenticity.

The idea of identifying one’s authentic self implies that this self is concrete and well-defined–something we can stand aside and observe, admire, and criticize. The self is to be lived and it occurs to me that maybe third-party perspective isn’t all that important. Maybe knowing yourself is less like staring at a portrait of your own image and more like the sensory act of feeling your way along the rocky bottom of the ocean in which you live, looking for that next tasty mollusc you need to sustain you.

 

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’ll confess that I’m not entirely comfortable calling myself an artist out of context. However, I have stage managed a number of productions with 20% Theatre. For the record, I’m not comfortable calling myself a stage manager, either. It’s just something I’ll do for you if you ask me nicely and I think you’re neat.

 

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

I feel a protective pull toward vulnerable individuals– or those I perceive to be so. Now more than ever, I find myself fearing for the safety, health, and fair treatment of the most vulnerable among us, for right now it is the most vulnerable who are the most under attack–

Those seeking asylum after giving up everything to escape violence and terror. Those living with few rights and little hope of protection as undocumented workers.

Those living with developmental and cognitive disabilities, whose very lives depend on the humanity of the more advantaged and who are at the mercy of those in power to recognize and value them as people without weighing the cost of their needs against their ability to contribute.

The elderly and disabled who depend on government-funded programs.

The children and animals who have no control over the destruction of their planet and its resources.

In many ways, my protagonist, Smitty, embodies this vulnerability. He is the perceived Other. He is at the mercy of an institution with unjustified power over his fate. He is an individual, and that in and of itself is a vulnerability. There is the depressing sense that even if he does clearly call-out the flaws, the hypocrisy, and the injustice around him, it will make little difference, because the institution will always prevail over the individual. It’s a frustration that seemed very personal and applicable to certain marginalized groups when I first began this story years ago. I believe it has lately become relatable to a much broader cross-section of humanity.

 

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

Actually, the first performance art I really loved was opera. I used to listen to opera records while I played, teach myself to play my favorite arias on the piano, and fall asleep listening to Verdi every night. Whenever the local college put on an opera, my dad would read me the story (in English) and then take me to see it.

I didn’t see many plays–outside of the occasional school field trip–until college. So the bulk of my exposure to theatre came from reading plays.

One of my earliest loves was Tennessee Williams. He had a way of making the ugly parts of reality beautiful, which really gave hope and vital perspective to a deeply depressed teenager. He made crass and pedestrian language lyrical. His characters taught me not just to accept imperfection in people, but to desire it.

Eugene Ionesco was another inspiration and perhaps one of the most influential. I began reading his plays during lunch in high school, just to escape reality during my least favorite time of day. The first play I directed in college was Ionesco’s A Frenzy for Two. It feels strange to say it, but the existence of work like his has been something of a life preserver.

Since coming to the Twin Cities, more than twelve years ago, I’ve seen some truly astonishing theatre. I’ve worked for large, medium, and small companies, and some of the most memorable, powerful, and visually and conceptually stunning work has come from small, nomadic theatre companies working with limited and borrowed resources.

This will to create and to reach people despite the difficulty of doing it is an inspiration–not just for creating art against the odds, but for living life against even greater odds.

I’m inspired by designers who use their talent to help others realize their visions on stage.

I’m inspired by actors who come to rehearsals bone tired with all the problems of daily life on their minds, who then put those concerns aside and delve into the physical and mental work of bringing concepts and characters to life. I’m inspired by their willingness to make themselves vulnerable in every space and then put themselves and that vulnerability on stage.

 

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

I’m actually engaged in a couple of different projects right now in which I’m helping other people tell their stories. It’s my favorite way to connect with people, learn about life beyond my own experience, and find inspiration.

Personally, I have multiple projects at varying stages of completion. I probably always will. I may one day write a show called Multiple Projects at Varying Stages of Completion.

 

Featured Q-STAGE Artist: Syniva Whitney of Gender Tender

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Who are you and what is your show called?
I’m Syniva Whitney, the choreographer, director and writer…and also one of the members of Gender Tender. Our piece in Q-STAGE is called “BENT/STRAIGHT” – performing this weekend, May 20 & 21 at 7:30pm, and Sunday, May 22 at 2pm.As one of our 2016 Q-STAGE Artists, can you tell us about where the idea(s) for your show came from?

Well, I guess I jumped down the rabbit hole of BENT/STRAIGHT by creating  fictitious versions of my co-star Will Courtney and I. They’re names are Wizard and Scout. This work has developed into its own world mixing up my interests as a dancer, a visual artist and a drag performer as well as my a love for film noir and futuristic thinking. The imaginary couple Wizard and Scout are always wrestling with the anxiety of losing their better half while also wondering who is the better half and wondering if thinking there IS a better half does that mean there’s an evil half? Or maybe there is never a whole. A whole what? They’re not sure.

This work is also certainly about navigating the world in as a non-binary person…the weirdness that happens as a so very bent person walking through a mostly straight world…that feeling of the black hole of the straight world taking up so much of your tiny island of queer space with all the barbed wire and booby traps around it but somehow something still gets in, threatening ourselves and our loved ones, seeping into our minds and souls. That sense of being outnumbered, tokenized, invisible, misunderstood…and then finding a loved one, another flame in the dark. It’s an abstract work, at times super visual and  very physical. Using abstraction and movement as language to me means honoring what we cannot explain, name or define, we’ve got to experience it to know. This is also inspired by the fact that Will and I are a real life queer couple, an alternate spin off, bizarro us. There is also compulsive urge I have to modify or mutate my own world, my home, my own body for good and bad reasons….also the urge I have to fulfill the desires of others, build their dream worlds and dream bodies. This is probably present in BENT/STRAIGHT. I think we are all wizards with the power to create change inside and outside of ourselves….I also think we are all scouts testing the terrain and preparing others for what is to come.

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

We’ve been collaborating with visual artist Madeleine Bailey. She’s a very good friend of mine, and we met while in the MFA program together at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She’s a multi-disciplinary artist, writer and mentor currently based in New York…she’s been coming here to Minneapolis for a few intensives and collaborating digitally and on the phone from the beginning of this project talking visual stuff, brainstorming and testing ideas for BENT/STRAIGHT. She’s got big beautiful ideas and I’m so inspired by that, I  love what she’s created for this work. Making the objects come to life has added a whole other dimension to the process and it’s been a lovely mind meld. Madeleine is also a fellow lover of film noir and the absurd and so we’ve had fun doing research and just getting deep into playing around with what could happen….she’s brought an amazing eye to this, I feel lucky she agreed to work with us! We get to perform with her objects throughout and there is also a light installation that we interact with and kind of build during this performance. These elements have really become a part of the heart of this work. Also, we’ve got music from Ariskany Records featured throughout. Ariskany Records aka Cary and Evan James. They are brothers and artistic collaborators and we’ve been able to use their music in a lot of our work in the past and I’m so happy they still don’t mind us using their art as a soundtrack for Gender Tender. I’m a big fan, I love the sound they create and definitely have always felt aligned with their experimental approach to making music. Check them out! Download it, you’ll like it. I love being able to dance to their sound, it makes me so glad I get to do this kind of work. And of course Will Courtney is a brilliant performer and lovely human and it’s been an amazing experience having so much time to develop the work together. Collaboration is the best.

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

Yes, I was invited by Pramila Vasudevan to be one of the facilitators and designers for Aniccha Arts upcoming durational performance called Census. It will be happening at Northern Spark this June. Will is performing in it as well. It’s been great to work with a big team of artists of all disciplines and backgrounds since this past December talking about social identity mapping, institutional structures, parades, autonomy, underrepresented communities, the idea of a critical mass and people performing murmurations. There will be a cast of a 100 people performing in a line for 9 hours! So excited to be a part of this project.

As far as Gender Tender and my own personal projects…I’m always looking forward to making new or more work, or getting to refine and research what we’ve got….I have a recent dream of writing and directing a solo work for Will, so we shall see. I keep writing. I’m always looking forward to continuing to create new things, to keep on art-ing.

What is your favorite hangout spot and why?

Currently and usually my yoga mat in the morning is a favorite spot…especially with some sunshine coming in the window. Yeah, also I like going outside and staring at trees and sky and birds and people and squirrels lots of squirrels in Loring Park. Also, I like sleeping in. I’m cool like that.

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

I’m into watching cooking shows on Netflix… especially demented ones like Cutthroat Kitchen and Chopped. I think these kinds of things should definitely replace fighting of all kinds in general. Let’s just have a cook off. Someone can win. And then we can all be friends and eat together.

Don’t miss BENT/STRAIGHT this weekend! Click here for info & tickets.

Featured Q-STAGE Artist: A.P. Looze

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Who are you and what is your Q-STAGE show called?

I’m A.P. Looze and my show is called “The Grief Experiments.”

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

My friend Floyd passed away by suicide in 2014 and almost immediately I wanted to create something about that experience. In hindsight, I realize that impulse to make something was in fact a way of avoiding the pain and the loss I was feeling. I hadn’t grown from the experience yet. I was still entrenched in it. I think I found a new energy and a new way of looking at it after having lived some life after her death. After creating some distance from the trauma of that loss, I was better able to look at it for what it was, or what my memory thinks it was—the truth keeps changing. This piece feels like a snapshot of truths I experienced in the wake of Floyd’s death.

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

Yes! Zoe Michael is directing this piece, and Lisa Brimmer is providing some voice work. I have worked with Zoe before, and I trust her instincts and thought she would be a great fit for this piece. She has provided so much shape, texture, and detailed elements to my writing and very broad stroke ideas of what I have wanted to convey. Her perspective has been so valuable.

Lisa is lending her support with some voice elements in this piece. Her voice has added such a presence, distinctive personality, and a particular dimension to the piece that allows it to open up. She has also been lending a very keen, empathetic and inquisitive perspective to the rehearsal process that feels enlivening.

Overall, I have been so grateful for both of them in this process.

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

I think this piece is rooted in telling and showing my truth—the hard, horrible, hilarious, deep, joyous mind bending truth of my grief. I hope that elements of my experience will resonate with others. My intention is not to teach a lesson about grief to the community because as universal as grief is, it is also a deeply individual experience and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. I hope it gives people an opportunity to reflect upon their own grief, our shared grief, everyone’s grief, the big griefs and the little griefs that make up our everyday lives. That is the best thing I could ask for.

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

A question I have been so interested in is: “If I existed all by myself with no one around, would I still be transgender?” I think one answer is no, because with no one to compare myself to, I couldn’t know there was any other way to be, or look or feel. But…do we know that? Is there something way deep down in the soul that would just know, “this is not the body I belong in”? Is my queerness always dependent on society, the friends I surround myself with, etc…or can it be completely separate from that and come from within?

Floyd and another friend whom I severed ties with had huge influences on how I defined my own queerness. When these people suddenly disappeared from my everyday life, I felt untethered. I thought to myself, “Is my queerness a farce?” In the midst of these losses of friendships, I also bid adieu to alcohol. I didn’t realize how much of a foundation alcohol was to my existence as a queer person until that, too, disappeared. Most gatherings of queer people that I found myself in included alcohol. Sometimes we surround ourselves with people and things that serve the purpose to cover up our own pain and suffering. I had to start asking myself what is the queerness and, bottom line, sense of self, that I cultivate on my own that are not attached to these people and this substance that are no longer in my life? I went back to the roots of my queerness, my own self-discovery of being queer as a child in order to understand and accept the validity of being queer from a gender and sexuality standpoint. I think this piece shows how grieving is heavily influenced by queerness, and queerness is heavily influenced by grieving. They go hand in hand. There is a sense of letting go that happens with being queer—letting go of the expectations we and others have of our bodies and then finding what rings the most true on our own.

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 done a variety of things on stage. I wrote for and performed in 20% Theatre’s The Naked I: Wide Open in 2012. I have collaborated with Lazer Goese on a number of occasions. I have also done a solo piece as a part of Pleasure Rebel. I was very into photography when I was in high school and earlier parts of college. My place of artistic and creative inspiration and “work”, so to speak, lands in the realm of writing. My ideas come to life through words more than anything else.

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

I think healthily expressing feelings and healing from trauma are social issues. We live in a society that idealizes intellectual thinking and action-oriented productivity that has tangible, measurable results. Where’s the space for the feelings? For listening to our inner selves and to others? There is so much pain in the queer community, the entire world. It’s an abundant amount of hurt that seems so challenging to express, uncover, understand and resolve in the midst of living in a world that has so many expectations thrust upon us that divert our attention from looking within. It’s hard to measure emotional growth. It’s hard to measure self worth and and connections to others. What does that yardstick look like? I feel lucky and privileged to have had the time to look within myself and create this piece. It has been a blessing. I want everyone to have access to the time and space and people that can help heal. It is so important to build healthy selves, healthy relationships to others, and healthy relationships to existence. This is where a lot of my energy has been located.

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

Sandra Cisneros, Mary Oliver, Jeanette Winterson, Eula Biss, Claudia Rankine and Aimee Bender stand out to me as inspirational writers. I saw Masanari Kawahara’s piece Little Boy soon after Floyd passed away and that really stuck with me. When I need to sink into images, I have turned to Francesca Woodman.

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

This piece has been such a journey. Sometimes when I sit with the material, I think of other ways of entering into it. Performance has been helpful to open up certain parts of my experience, but I keep wondering how images, dancing, and additional writing can open up even more doors. How can I see this from every angle? I keep making lists on the backs of envelopes of things I want to do that are related to this material, and things that are on a different wavelength.  It’s exciting to make lists. It’s terrifying to do them. Where does one begin?

What is your favorite hangout spot and why?

Physically? My couch. It’s so versatile! I can sit on it, lay on it, watch movies on it, write, eat, nap, think, hang out with people on it, cry, etc. It’s like this island in my apartment where everything is possible.

But really, hanging out in my imagination has been pretty great lately. I can access it any time, and in all my time being alive, I have never lost it. And, everyone has one and they can be shared! It’s magical.

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

Writing, reading, and thinking. Also, I’m learning how to juggle. Thanks, Puck.

Don’t miss A.P.’s The Grief Experiments in Set “B” of Q-STAGE: New Works Series, performing Friday & Saturday, May 20 and 21 at 7:30pm, and Sunday, May 22 at 2pm. 

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: 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.