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.

 

Featured THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED Artist: Eddy Samara

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

I’m delighted to be a writer and a performer this year.

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

Queer and trans stories are often left out entirely or pathologized. It’s so empowering to participate in a project that centers art by and for our community. It’s important for us to tell our stories—and to hear our varied voices—because our experiences are more than simple stereotypes, side notes, and statistics. Claiming our own experiences and offering them as art within our community makes more room for all of us to self-define.

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

I am an older, disabled, trans guy, so I wrote from that perspective. I hope my piece highlights the need for competent, compassionate trans healthcare that goes beyond hormone scripts. Trans folks are complex individuals with a range of medical needs and too often our health is jeopardized by ignorance, insensitivity or outright transphobia.

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

I’m passionate about culture-change and social justice. I continue to try to use my artistic expression to create connections—to humanize my experiences and create cracks in the oppressive systems of white supremacy, misogyny, and ableism. I look for HOPE—hearing other people’s experiences—in the poetry of everyday struggles for a more just and livable world.

What other artists or shows have inspired you?


I’ve been inspired by so many creative people, but my poem Do No Harm for THE NAKED I was directly inspired by the work of two artists and friends: Elaine Magree and Dazie Gregor. I saw both of them perform at The Marsh in San Francisco and was absolutely blown away at their creative questioning of identity and expression. Dazie’s show “I am a Man” was the catalyst to poetically explore my recent trans-masculine medical fiasco.

Featured THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED Artist: Devin Taylor

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

I am a contributing writer and Assistant Stage Manager.

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

I think it’s the way these stories are told through the Naked I series that is important. One thing common to all marginalized groups is the expectation that any individual can and should speak on behalf of their entire community. This restrictive way of “listening” is a passive form of oppression. It creates tension among individuals and an impulse to override the speech of others within our shared community out of fear of being misrepresented to the mainstream. The blended voices of THE NAKED I are united in message, while maintaining individuality of voice. The message of the overall production remains dialectical and constructive, while giving voice to the subjective, the personal, and the radical.

The power of performance is everything when you are trying to make people think. Not everyone integrates new information in the same way or at the same level, and people vary in their ability to adjust their way of thinking and their capacity to accept change. The multitude of stimuli afforded through the art of theatre creates a powerful means of penetrating the consciousness of all types of minds and personalities from a broad range of backgrounds and experiences.

I don’t think the significance of THE NAKED I is entirely didactic, though. From what I’ve observed in my work on the production, it has a powerful ability to create community for those looking for community. Sometimes, that is the best thing art can give.

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

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an intense fear of making noise. Even as an adult, I often have trouble communicating because I panic at the sound of my own voice. I learned to write at an early age and that became a safe way for me to privately express feelings and ideas, and to record the events and details of imaginary worlds and characters that filled my daydreams. I never thought of it as anything I would share, until much later.

Growing up, I tried my hand at most areas of the arts (music, movement, visual arts), and I developed an appreciation for theatre because it combined them all. I came to realize that it allowed writers to demonstrate their craft in a visible and audible way, like other artists—one that doesn’t just depend on the interpreter’s willingness to read and interpret text. When I went off to college and began studying writing, a beloved professor turned me on to the genre of creative nonfiction and I began to understand the power of shared personal experience.

I’m still reluctant to share deeply personal writing outside trusted writing groups—but I remember the relief and gratitude I’ve often felt upon reading or hearing that perfect piece of writing at the perfect time—the sense of connection and the vulnerability entrusted to me, the reader/listener. I also remember those moments when someone else’s perspective, born of experience vastly different from mine, made it impossible for me to go on thinking about something the way I always had. It’s my hope that I, in harmony with the astonishing work of the other NAKED I artists, might challenge, inspire, comfort, and connect people in a similar way.

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

I consider myself an advocate of neurodiversity, and while I have seen this concept increasingly tacked on to discussions of intersectionality, I think we have a long way to go toward realizing it in practice. It is a frontier that people are still largely afraid to approach due to lack of personal understanding and deeply embedded social and cultural stigma. In a similar vein, equal opportunity in education has also become a major passion of mine. It’s a big part of what keeps pulling me back into special education. I think every student deserves to go as far as they can, without being held back by the effects of poverty, language barriers, learning differences, or the fear of violence or ostracism based on some aspect of their identity.

Working toward a more inclusive feminist movement is also important to me. Acknowledging the intersections of race, class, sexuality, and gender identity is an important step, and one that projects like THE NAKED I strive to achieve.

What other artists or shows have inspired you?

There are really too many to name, and it would invariably send me off on a tangent not related to my involvement with THE NAKED I!

Thinking about collaborative productions, which encompass multiple genres, voices, and identities, Eve Ensler comes to mind. As an undergraduate, I performed in a campus production of The Vagina Monologues. It was the first time I had encountered work that
empowered and prioritized the types of voices and experiences represented in the
collection. It was the first time I’d seen them be anything but mocked or censored. You don’t easily forget the first time you don’t feel quite so ashamed and afraid to be you. You never forget the first time you feel powerful for it.

In general, I am inspired by people who create art against the odds or in reaction to personal adversity. I’m inspired by those who spend their creative and intellectual efforts in the humble act of teaching, molding, and nurturing others.

What’s your favorite hangout spot and why?

Book stores, libraries, anywhere quiet. Honestly, I love being home by myself. I love and appreciate the people in my life, but when I don’t get time with myself, I really, really miss me.

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

By day, I’m a teaching assistant in special education. By night, I’m a personal care assistant to a young woman with autism. I fit in theatre work whenever I can. I spend a good amount of time editing academic writing for friends and colleagues, and my goal is to spend more time completing my own writing projects. I devote my spare time to staying fit, volunteering, and supporting the local performing arts.

What other projects are you working on or hope to work on? 

I hope to be involved in 20% Theatre’s 2016 production of Q-STAGE in May.