Featured Q-STAGE Artist: Simone Bernadette Williams & Holo Lue Choy

 

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Q-STAGE Core Artists Simone Bernadette Williams & Holo Lue Choy have created a dynamic and powerful show together, titled e. Click here for more info and tickets! (Photo Credit: Blythe M. Davis)

Can you tell us about where the idea(s) for your Q-STAGE show came from?

We really wanted to create a narrative about our lives. We are both mixed race, queer, trans and struggle with eating disorders, and we don’t get to hear stories revolving around all of those identities and their intersections often enough. We wanted to make something that was so authentically us.

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

e is really important for audiences to see because it is unlike anything else. We’ve never made a piece like this, we’ve never seen a piece like this. At this point, the most targeted body in America is that of the black trans woman, and so for two black, trans femme people to come up and communicate about our lives, while we are alive, is revolutionary.


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

The main focus we’re working with is the intersectionality of our trans identities and our racial identities, and the way those co-actively affect the way we navigate the world. We want other queer and trans folx of color to see themselves, for once.

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?

Simone: I work primarily as a spoken word artist, and dabble in acting, directing, playwriting, visual art, curation, singing, songwriting, fashion design and knitting. This is my first time working with 20% as an artist, but I have attended many shows.

Holo: My training started in a conservatory dance and theatre context. Outside of this training, I’ve been heavily interested in incorporating sonic design (both live and recorded) and visual art in the form of video, lighting design, and use of architecture/space to create interdisciplinary performance works. This is my first time working with 20%, after having seen The Naked I, and last years Q-STAGE.


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

The more appropriate question would be if there were issues unimportant to us. Every piece we create, whether together or individually, is in response to the oppressive systems of hetero-normative, cis-normative, white supremacist, neo-liberal, capitalist, patriarchy. In e, we address all of these, and talk about how they affect us as artists.


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

Simone: I am a huge fan of the work that youth in our community make. Any poet who goes through TruArtSpeaks inspires me, especially executive director Tish Jones. Pillsbury House, Penumbra and Million Artist Movement are three organizations that continue to center the voices of people of color, which is important to me when looking at work.

Holo: Huge influences on my early artistic training were Kenna Camara-Cottman, Angharad Davies and the two years I spent apprenticing with Ananya Dance Theatre. More recently my work has been based in the performance art idiom, using movement as the basis. A lot of what I’m currently working with is inspired by the Judson Dance Theatre, and my experiences performing for Rosy Simas and Laurie Van Wieren.


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

Simone: I just wrapped directing a piece written by myself and three other youth called BATTLE FATIGUE through blank slate theatre company, which shines a spotlight on the school-to-prison pipeline’s intersections with blackness and mental illness. Mostly, however, I am gearing up to head to UW Madison as a member of the 11th cohort in the First Wave program next fall!

Holo: Currently e is my main focus as a creator, though performatively I’m preparing for a lot of new works. I’ll be performing in Aniccha Arts’ 3600 Cuts in June, and Fire Drill’s Bill: The Musikill in July, both at the Southern Theatre. Additionally, I’ll be performing in Rosy Simas’ Skin(s) when it tours to Illinois next Winter.

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

Simone: Ice cream. Hands down.

Holo: Fried rice seems to be a daily post-rehearsal staple.

What is your favorite hangout spot and why?

Simone: I really love hanging out at the Midtown Global Market and walking the greenway. I can get some delicious food, celebrate diversity & enjoy a beautiful walking path.

Holo: Any spot in nature is ideal. I most frequently find myself walking through the Lake Harriet Bird Sanctuary, though Cedar Lake forest is also amazing for wandering.


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?

Simone: I spend most of my time making or watching art. I love hanging out with my friends, going out dancing, knitting and reading books.

Holo: Most of my time seems to be consumed in making art. When not working on a show, I’m usually walking around nature, seeing work, or listening to music.

 

Featured Q-STAGE Artist: Sami Pfeffer

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

My piece is about the ways in which trauma and abuse, a well as others’ reactions to and judgements of those experiences, haunt survivors. The piece is also about theatrical hauntings. Who possesses whom: the audience or the actors? The play features two performers, a paranormal investigation, and lots of flashlights.

I’ve been obsessed with abuse and trauma for as long as I’ve been actively healing from my own. Which is to say I’m interested in empathy. I want to understand how empathy can be withheld because I can’t even withhold empathy from the folks who’ve been abusive to me. But they can certainly withhold it from me.

I’m also interested in the structures in our lives that teach us about empathy. Like theater. I find theater odd. We can sit six feet from an actor and believe that they’re dying in Medieval Europe, but we won’t believe their lived experiences of rape or racism. What conventions make the former reasonable and the latter suspect?

My more recent performances have happened in the context of tourism- I spent a winter working as a ghost tour guide which is a job that requires dexterous empathy because the people who embark on ghost tours can be susceptible to great amounts of cruelty for their beliefs. Personally, I’m undecided on spiritual matters, but I had to quit that job because I felt like those fucking clerics of old who sold relics by the dozen to already impoverished believers.

I intended to write a different play about that experience. This play was supposed to be more surreal, performance art instead of theater. But the spirits want what they want. And who am I to withhold empathy, especially from myself?

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

Yes! I’ve collaborated with the actors, Suzi and Beckett Love, and the co-director, Kai Greiner. I had about ⅗’s of the script finished by the first rehearsal, so we spent a few weeks devising the last ⅖’s of the play.

The piece is much stronger because of the collaboration. This is by far the most personal play I’ve ever written and at a certain point, for me, I needed it to become other. I needed the play to no longer be about me but to be about a character so that I could finish the story because otherwise, it’d go on for as long as I’m alive.

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

I hope that this story does three things: 1. Encourages folks who’ve experienced emotional abuse to believe themselves and take those abuses seriously. 2. Encourages folks who’ve perpetrated emotional abuse to believe that their behaviors can be damaging even when we don’t have very strong cultural definitions of what emotional/psychological abuse looks like. 3. Encourages community members in general to recognize that we are all capable of committing abusive acts (which are really similar to oppressive behaviors, just on different scale and with different amounts of power and privilege) and that we are all culpable because abuse is not an individual failure alone but also a communal one.

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

The biggest aspect of my queer identity that I hope to express through my Q STAGE piece is that of self-work. My queerness is less grounded in my desires, my genders, my body even, and more in how I commit myself to being in the world. For me, queerness is about finding ways to radically identify with others and dismantle the systemic barriers that our collective bodies face. As a white, educated, owning-class, size-privileged person I define some of my queerness in how I hold myself accountable to the power I inherently receive. And use, to be honest. I have yet to find a way to have power and not use power so I try to be aware of who I’m aligning myself with and who I’m aligning myself against.

Another aspect of my queer identity that I hope is expressed through my Q STAGE piece is one of survival. Like so many queer folks, I’m gaslighted every day. Our realities are ridiculed, ignored, challenged, denied, and made murky by this world. We are more likely to suffer depression and anxiety and all those medical pathologies made up to narrate our valid responses to an invalidating country.

We struggle not only to have our bodies recognized, but to have our minds declared cognizant enough to engage in the act of recognition, to recognize ourselves as ourselves. We struggle both to feel and for the right to feel. And we struggle to recall and maintain our histories because even within our own stories, some of us use our confluences of privilege and pain to overwhelm and drown out other queer voices.

In short: sometimes we gaslight each other. On a national level, gaslighting is a strategy employed by generally privileged queers in order to gain access to systemic power by performing sanctioned acts of erasure of other queer truths and identities considered more “disruptive” to dominant society. We see this in white-cis-washed films like “Stonewall” and the Gay Marriage movements which helped endear straight Americans to certain queer bodies because of perceived sameness, but did nothing to advocate for the validity of difference.

On an intimate level, gaslighting is a strategy employed by often similarly positioned queers in order to gain psychological power by performing acts of erasure towards their partners’ truths, especially those considered disruptive to the gaslighter’s dominant sense of self. I understand the urge here- having a queer self is already hard. We are continuously experiencing threats to not just our selves but to our right to have selves in the first place, and thus any request to engage in self-examination can be perceived as yet another ontological threat.

Plus, this level of self-examination requires us to also acknowledge the traumas that we collectively and individually carry within our queer bodies, and to engage with those traumas in order to avoid perpetuating them. In other words: we are asked to heal.

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?

As an artist, I’m late-blooming, less a flower than an ivy, creeping up on even me. I spent six years fallow and asleep. I dropped strong roots though and found little veins of truth to stick my tubers in. And now that I’ve got a stalk and stem, I’m pulling those truths up through my body, up into my unfurling leaves.

20% Theatre is one of the first companies I’ve branched into. I directed two pieces for The Naked I: Self-Defined.

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

I feel like I answered this above in the section about queerness which for me is inextricable from fighting against the white supremacist cis-het patriarchy of capitalism.

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

Recently: Faye Driscoll, Shá Cage, Michael Sakamoto, Rennie Harris, Eric F. Avery, Vie Boheme, Pedro Lander

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

I am working on other projects! In addition to my Q STAGE piece, I’m also creating my second installation for Northern Spark and working on a series of short films about self-empathy. As a person both dysphoric and dissociative, I struggle to spend time in my body, and my films document the revulsion and joy of my self-embrace.

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

My favorite pre AND post-rehearsal snack is grapefruit, steak, and La Croix.

What is your favorite hangout spot and why?

My favorite hangout spot is a secret little beach on the MPLS side of the Mississippi River because 1. I love the river, 2. I love being alone.

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?

When not deep in Q STAGE, I spend my time facilitating youth programs and events at Intermedia Arts, and in the few hours I have not doing either of those things, I take my dog on long runs, I walk through the alleys looking for cool trash, and I try to find moments to sit still and just be me.

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. 

The Naked I: Insides Out – Get to Know Manitou Love

This winter, 20% Theatre Company is thrilled to present the world premiere of The Naked I: Insides Out – the 3rd in a series of Naked I plays that explore queer and trans* experiences through monologues, short scenes, and spoken word poems. The show was created over the past year by selecting 25 of 119 stories submitted by community members. This newest installment of The Naked I will involve over 75 LGBTQ artists and allies – including contributing writers, directors, performers, designers, technicians and supporting staff.

You can see The Naked I: Insides Out February 13-23, 2014 at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis. Purchase tickets now!

Over the past couple of months we have conducted interviews with a variety of The Naked I: Insides Out artists.  Last but not least in this series, we asked Manitou Love what he had to say about The Naked I: Insides Out.

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What attracted you to audition for The Naked I: Insides Out?

I have wanted to get back into acting for a long time, and it goes concurrently with my desire to explore the aspects of my soul that are masculine and to reclaim masculinity as something beautiful. My name, Manitou Love, reflects this.


Have you ever acted before? If so, in what? When?

Lots of acting as a teenager (I was groomed by Central Touring Theatre in high school), and when I was 18, I was one of two leads in a film about gay youth. It’s now kind of a cult classic, and there are even bits of it on YouTube.


What is your role with the The Naked I: Insides Out? What do you like most about the piece(s) you are working on and your relationship to them (as performer)?

My role is in Body Unfolding by Charles Ely, directed by Brianna Olson-Carr. I identify with the piece, with its passion, anger, and truth.


Had you ever seen any version of The Naked I before?

Nope. I wish I had!


What about this production excites you most?

I’m amazed at the depth of trans/queer beauty, community, and talent associated with this production and am honored to be a part of it. One of the primary reasons I am an artist is because art builds community, and has the potential to change the world.


What do you hope/think audiences will take away from seeing your piece in The Naked I: Insides Out?

I hope they will understand that we are real people. As for my piece, it is our intention that we do justice to the power of Charles’ writing.


More about Manitou, the person…


What is your personal pronoun preference?

He or she.


What is your first memory of gender?

My first memory was of acting out my gender in ways that were non-conforming as a child, and wondering why it mattered.


If your gender identity was a food, what would it be?

A creamy, delicious (and healthy) organic vegan fruit smoothie.


You feel the most naked when…

I’m expressing myself on stage in front of people. (But I like being naked.)


What do you do in the world, outside of working on this production? (job/hobbies, etc.)

I am a freelance radio producer, I am outside a lot (nature is my church), I’m in the process of finishing college, and I perform as a drag queen named Delilah Lightful a/k/a Rainbow Spirit Woman, through which I radiate the light of my heart in honor of the divine feminine. I am constantly writing and I hope to publish my work as a semi-autobiography/collection of poetry and prose. My second home is in the land of father, off the southern shores of Lake Superior.


What if the concept of gender didn’t exist? How would that change your life?

Wow, if the binary gender system didn’t exist, I would have never felt the need to fit completely into one gender or another. In an old way traditional Native North American society, for example, I would have been identified as a winkte (a two-spirit medicine man), and groomed as such, with a special place of honor within my tribe. But as someone raised white middle class in a Western society, the binary is pretty solidly defined, so I had some very difficult choices to make. My journey has definitely not been easy, but it has been worth it every step of the way because my soul has embraced the lessons learned.


What is your most favorite accessory or article of clothing?

My winter coat. It is masculine and warm!


Name one of your favorite songs right now.

Every single song by Emeli Sande! She is the most amazing singer/songwriter
perhaps ever, and her music is healing the world right now. Of course, she struggles
to receive airplay in the U.S., despite having the #1 album of 2012 and 2013 in
the U.K. Choice cuts: Heaven, Wonder, Mountains, More Than Anything,
My Kind Of Love, Lifted.

The Naked I: Insides Out – Get to Know Beckett Love

This winter, 20% Theatre Company is thrilled to present the world premiere of The Naked I: Insides Out – the 3rd in a series of Naked I plays that explore queer and trans* experiences through monologues, short scenes, and spoken word poems. The show was created over the past year by selecting 25 of 119 stories submitted by community members. This newest installment of The Naked I will involve over 75 LGBTQ artists and allies – including contributing writers, directors, performers, designers, technicians and supporting staff.

You can see The Naked I: Insides Out February 13-23, 2014 at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis. Purchase tickets now!

Leading up to the run of the show, we have been featuring interviews with a variety of The Naked I: Insides Out artists.  We recently asked Beckett Love what they had to say about The Naked I: Insides Out.
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What is your role in The Naked I: Insides Out? What pieces will you be directing?  

I am a director. As is indicated by the following question, to which the answer is: What It’s Like (better known as the Intro) and Just Draggin’ Along.

What attracted you to The Naked I directing opportunity?

One day, as I was platonically scrolling through okcupid profiles, I came across a user that encouraged all viewers to come out and support said individual in their performance in a 20% production. I said I would go, and as I am a queer of my word, I went. The rest, as they say, is history.

Briefly, what is your directing background? Education? Experience?

Brief. Ok. I studied theatre in college, mostly design and tech, but I really fell in love with playwrighting and directing. I worked, for a time, at a theatre in San Diego, getting a taste of professional theatre outside of college. After taking a bit of a break to try on an odd assortment of other professions, I naturally and inevitably return now to my first love.

Had you ever seen any version of The Naked I before?

I have not! Total rookie. But I’m getting to see plenty of it this time.

What about this production and opportunity excites you most? 

Adult content, sexual situations, profanity, and potential nudity! Ok, ok, to be serious for a second. This production comes at a really interesting and transitional time in my life. I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions, searching for which box to check and which jeopardy category to fall under. There’s such a wide spectrum represented, each validated and held before the audience, saying in so many different voices: “I am human, and I will not be contained in your box!” When you grow up with only boxes, the wide open spaces are that much more exciting to explore, and that much more a shelter to feel at home in. Being a part of this queer theatre community has been affirming, comforting, and enlightening. That’s what I love about this production.

What do you hope to contribute to the show?

Honestly, one can only hope to honor the writer’s voice. I want to share my part of the larger story, without making it about me. I want the audience to see a little of themselves somewhere in the show and come away saying:”Yeah! Yeah, I’m me, and that’s beautiful!”

What have been your biggest challenges in directing for this show or with these specific pieces?

Realistically, scheduling. While most pieces have two or three actors, I have seven, and then one in the other piece. That’s the most obvious answer. Other than that, I think this whole process has been eye-opening as to the stereotyping and prejudice that happens within our own community, whether conscious of it or not. That’s what the intro really deals with. We judge, we group, we assume. For me, my goal with my actors has been to embrace all the different variations with respect and inclusiveness. My cast has done that so well. Each rehearsal, I’m more and more in love with them, and watching them together has taught me so much. We’re like a weird, awkward, funny group of uber cool nerds who have become this oddball family. We’re like the gay Brady Bunch.

More about Beckett the person…

What is your pronoun preference?

Thaaaaat’s not certain. So gender neutral at this point. They/them. Thee/thou if you want to get fancy.

If your gender identity was a food, what would it be?  

Drambuie whiskey, double, on the rocks. Wait, that’s not food, is it? Ummm, Lays potato chips. “Betcha can’t have just one!”

What do you do in the world, outside of working on this production? (job/hobbies, etc.)  

Well, I’m about to sound like a huge geek. I work in nuclear medicine. Yeah, you probably want to just ask in person. Other than that… I read, I write, I cook and frequent Trader Joe’s and farmer’s markets, I look for good happy hours in uptown. Basically copy and paste typical okcupid profile.

Beckett, you feel the most naked when…

Public restrooms. Getting carded. However, I got pulled over by a cop not too long ago for a headlight out (because the drunk drivers down the street were not as big of a threat….just sayin), and the cop kept calling me “sir” before finally looking at my license. Ensue blushing, stammering, and befuddled cop as he apologized and tried to explain why I was pulled over. Meanwhile, I’m grinning from ear to ear at his misstep, thinking, “Yeah. Yeah, you go on with your bad self. I’m listening. Ha. No, no I’m not, but keep going.” So that was a naked/revealing moment…but it was fun. Naked can definitely be fun.

What is your first memory of gender?

Very young, actually. Pete’s Dragon…you know, the movie. I wanted to be Pete. I would daydream and visualize myself like him, until one day, I realized that I was very much not Pete nor could I be him. For some reason, that was really difficult to swallow.

What is your most favorite accessory or article of clothing?

Shoes. Boots. Nothing defines the outfit more. I can get obsessed. It’s not healthy.

Name one of your favorite songs right now.

Sean Hayes, always and forever. His song Turn Around, Turn Me On….so much sexy.

The Naked I: Insides Out – Get to Know Liana Yang

This winter, 20% Theatre Company is thrilled to present the world premiere of The Naked I: Insides Out – the 3rd in a series of Naked I plays that explore queer and trans* experiences through monologues, short scenes, and spoken word poems. The show was created over the past year by selecting 25 of 119 stories submitted by community members. This newest installment of The Naked I will involve over 75 LGBTQ artists and allies – including contributing writers, directors, performers, designers, technicians and supporting staff.

You can see The Naked I: Insides Out February 13-23, 2014 at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis. Purchase tickets now!

Over the next several weeks, we will be featuring interviews from a variety of The Naked I: Insides Out artists.  We recently asked Liana Yang what she had to say about The Naked I: Insides Out.
Liana

What attracted you to audition for The Naked I: Insides Out?

I can still recall the first time I saw The Naked I: Wide Open in 2012, I felt so at home and inspired by the stories and its performers that needless to say, my life was changed forever. I auditioned because I wanted to be a part of something that had affected me so deeply and on such a personal and spiritual level, that when I am listening to, watching, or performing these stories, it feels to me like such an honor and privilege to be able to share it with the outside world; the thoughts and feelings of my internal world.

Have you ever acted before? If so, in what? When?

That’s a funny question, my knee jerk reply would be to say “no” as I have had no experience with formal training in acting.  However, when my wits overpower my senses to be more serious, I would jokingly say, “why yes, I have been acting for most of my life as the person that society wanted to cage me up into being.”

Jokes aside, I have had very little acting experience, the last acting performance that I gave was when I was in 4th grade.

What is your role in The Naked I: Insides Out? What do you like most about the piece you are working on and your relationship to it as a performer?

People who come to see the show will see me in act called “He calls me mama” written by Zealot Hamm.  On the day of the audition, it was this particular piece that resonated with me on such a personal level that I wanted so bad to have the part. What I love most about this piece is that in its own unique way, it allows the audience to see and experience the world of motherhood through the eyes of a transgendered woman.  It addresses common fears and misconceptions while still connecting the audience with the common experiences that all women share as mothers.

Had you ever seen any version of The Naked I before? If so, what were your thoughts?

Yes, I am a proud audience member of the last production, The Naked I: Wide Open. I remember arriving at the theatre on a cold winter’s night and as the show started, I was entranced by the performances and the touching stories.  I remember crying, laughing, being angry at the world, then feeling inspired and validated by the end of the night.

I never would have dreamed that I would become a part of this production. As person who believes in destiny, I believe that this was all meant to be. I hope to take this opportunity to inspire others the way I have been inspired.

What about this production excites you most?

Everything excites me about this production, seeing so many talented artists working on their pieces is really inspiring.  However, something that is especiallyimportant for me is the journey onto the stage: meeting with my director, learning about theatre, discovering new things about myself and my own potential really begs for me to keep digging deeper.

There is simply something unique, cathartic and powerful about being moved by a powerful script while in the presence of its actors or actresses. I truly believe that real life for the members of the audience can change in one night through the performing arts.

What do you hope/think audiences will take away from seeing  your piece in The Naked I: Insides Out?

I hope that the audience is able to connect with my character, I hope that they are able to connect with her enough to feel comfortable with the idea of considering her a close friend or even a family member. I hope that the audience can take home the fact individuals who fall within the TQLGB spectrum are not people with labels; they are just like everyone else.

I hope that my piece can help contribute to peoples’ acceptance of the fact that transgender families are not that much different from the average, and that the daily realities that transgender parents experience for their children such as love, care, responsibility and accountability are the same as everyone else’s.

More about Liana, the person…

What is your personal pronoun preference?

I am most definitely woman, I do prefer to be addressed with pronouns that are aligned with being one: She/her/sexy babe/Asian Unicorn are all acceptable.

What is your first memory of gender?

I think my earliest memory of gender was when I was 4 or 5 years old.  Every time I visited my auntie, she would bring me to her room and show me her new dresses. Despite feeling happy and excited for her, I also felt sad, frustrated, and confused as to why it was not okay for me to have pretty little dresses and Jelly sandals like all the other girls.

If your gender identity was a food, what would it be?

This is a hard one…I would say something like a Red Velvet cake. But I think this may be more due to the fact that red is my favorite color and that I love cakes and…feel for a slice or three as of this interview.

You feel the most naked when…

I feel most naked when close family and friends slip and identify me by the wrong gender pronoun.  Having said that, I am patient, understanding, and love them all unconditionally.

What do you do in the world, outside of working on this production?

I am a business owner along with my wife.  We are also both students and I am finishing up my master’s degree in clinical counseling.  Throughout the week, if I’m not at my office or in class, I am providing therapy for clients.

I have many hobbies, with acting as one that is currently at the top. I have a passion for training dogs, rescuing, and rehabilitating them so they can be re-homed with appropriate families.

So, if you see an Asian woman riding a tricycle with a pack of dogs attached to it at the local parks, don’t forget to wave.

What if the concept of gender didn’t exist? How would that change your life?

I think then I would have transitioned very early on in my life, most likely before the age of ten.  I come to this conclusion because I’m assuming that if the concept of gender did not exist as it does today; my parents and everyone else would have had no qualms about me putting on a pretty little blue dress and pink Jelly sandals way back when I was a little girl.

What is your most favorite accessory or article of clothing?

I love shoes and bags, I know that it’s such as typical response coming from a woman but, I’m just saying that what I wear for the day is pretty much determined by which pair of shoes I feel like wearing and or which bag I feel like carrying.

Name one of your favorite songs right now.

Songs that are on my playlist on repeat right now are…
One Way Love by Hyolyn and Hero by Family of the Year.

The Naked I: Insides Out – Get to Know Shanny Mac

This winter, 20% Theatre Company is thrilled to present the world premiere of The Naked I: Insides Out – the 3rd in a series of Naked I plays that explore queer and trans* experiences through monologues, short scenes, and spoken word poems. The show was created over the past year by selecting 25 of 119 stories submitted by community members. This newest installment of The Naked I will involve over 75 LGBTQ artists and allies – including contributing writers, directors, performers, designers, technicians and supporting staff.

You can see The Naked I: Insides Out February 13-23, 2014 at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis. Purchase tickets now!

Over the next several weeks, we will be featuring interviews from a variety of The Naked I: Insides Out artists.  We recently asked Shanny Mac what they had to say about The Naked I: Insides Out.

Shanny Mac

What is your role in The Naked I: Insides Out? What pieces will you be directing?

I have several roles in this production: Instagram photographer, karaoke event planner, and general promoter of tom foolery. In my official capacity, I am directing Fuck Stereotypes by Love, Femme and True Things I Don’t Say by Galen D. Smith.


What attracted you to The Naked I directing opportunity?

So much that I’ll just give you the highlights: theater, 20% Theatre, gender, queerness, community, Claire Avitabile, directing, Andrea Jenkins, identity, artsy folks, performers, Intermedia Arts, collaboration, Blythe Davis, storytelling.


Briefly, what is your directing background? Education? Experience?


I studied theater with a minor in being a ‘mo at Perpich Center for Arts Education, followed by an interdisciplinary arts degree from Antioch College. I also went through the filmmaking program at Minneapolis College. I’ve directed a number of plays and films over the years, most recently Mammal Stories and Paris in March.


Had you ever seen any version of The Naked I before?


I saw the second production, The Naked I: Wide Open. As soon as the Q&A started after the show my hand shot up to ask, “So, when is the next round happening?!”


What about this production and opportunity excites you most?

This changes daily, but right now I’m just really enjoying being part of this process and meeting and working with all these great artists.


What do you hope to contribute to the show?


Busby Berkeley style musical numbers.


What do you foresee as your biggest challenges in directing for this show or with these specific pieces?

You always want to be true to the work and use an authentic voice when staging personal narratives, but there is a little added pressure when the writer is in the audience. Like, right there. In the front row.


More about Shanny Mac, the person…


What is your pronoun preference?


Whatever’s clever.


If your gender identity was a food, what would it be?

Definitely sweet and salty. Like a peanut butter stuffed pretzel covered in chocolate. Ok, I just described a Take 5 candy bar, so I guess that’s what I meant.


What do you do in the world, outside of working on this production? (job/hobbies, etc.)  


I work at a nonprofit for my day job, but by night I frequent the stages of cabarets around the Twin Cities as the bon vivant with savoir-faire, the pièce de résistance with je ne sais quoi, Randy Dandy.


Shanny Mac, you feel the most naked when…


See: Tobias Funke.


What is your first memory of gender?

Asking my family to call me by a different name when I was maybe 4 or 6. No one ever called me it, but that might partly be because it wasn’t an actual name. It’s too embarrassing to say what I wanted to be called on the internets, but if you ask me in person I just might tell you.

What is your most favorite accessory or article of clothing?

Fancy hats, like a trilby or flat cap. But nothing too flashy, like a derby or a stove pipe, and never a magician’s hat.


Name one of your favorite songs right now.


Nothing that will make me sound even remotely cool or interesting. Next question…