Featured Q-STAGE Artist: JamieAnn Meyers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production? Have you been involved with 20% Theatre in the past and, if so, in what ways?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Featured THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED Artist: Graeme Monahan-Rial

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

I’m performing a monologue piece called Trascendente, written by
Dr. Alex Iantaffi.

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

I grew up in a small, Southern town, where if things didn’t conform to the normative, one didn’t talk about them. My hometown was racially divided along railroad tracks. We didn’t discuss that, or racism, or sexism, or anything else that was “uncomfortable” for those served by the structure. Such discussions were placed in the back of the closet with clothes from another season and left to rot. We should talk about heterosexism and cissexism, about the lives that gender nonconforming individuals lead, about the love they find, about the structural barriers they face. The Naked I is a fantastic way to do this.

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

More than anything, I hope I do Alex’s work justice; Alex wrote a very powerful piece, and it’s super-exciting to have been chosen to relay it. Alex’s words resonate with me; I am a transmasculine individual who wants to use his privilege to overthrow these power structures, who doesn’t wish to hide his invisible disabilities from the world but doesn’t wish to be defined by them, and who doesn’t wish to lead a normal life, because even on my most normative days, I’m far from normal.

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

I’m a little bit nervous, because I haven’t done anything theatrical in a while. I play the violin, but this is not the violin.  I sing, and a very small bit of Alex’s piece involves my singing, but I haven’t done anything theatrical since February of 2003, when I was The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could for Furman University’s production of The Vagina Monologues.

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

Wow. There are so many! I really want to see an end to sexism and racism, and I try to use my white male privilege (because, even if one is trans, one still has privilege; a lack of privilege in one area does not undo privilege in another) to dismantle those structures, so the parts of Alex’s piece that spoke of doing that resonated strongly with me.

What other artists or shows have inspired you?

I’ve seen Ani DiFranco something like eight times, and she’s a strong source of inspiration in my life. She lives her beliefs; she was courted by record labels and chose, instead, to create her own. I saw Mykel Pennington in a one-woman show called The Pink Unicorn a few months ago, and she was amazing, as she also blew me away in the last two productions of The Naked I that I have seen. I’m also surrounded by trans people fighting for justice and just trying to live their lives.

What is your favorite hangout spot and why?

I adore breweries; even if I can’t get anyone to go with me, I’ll take a book and sample a flight. All the better if there’s live music. I recently gave up caffeine (ouch!), so I try to stay away from coffee shops, but Hard Times Cafe is one of my favorite spots in the cities, and I haven’t been there recently or often enough.

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

I play and write music.  I take my dog to the dog park.  I hang out with friends.  I cuddle my cats. I go to the gym, although I messed up my left rotator cuff the other day being overenthusiastic with the shoulder presses. Damned testosterone…

Tell us about your pets, real or imaginary.

I have a black Lab mix named Zappa who was part of the 4th Precinct Shutdown and accompanied us to put decorations on the awful fence they put up around that area. He’s very energetic and likes running around on the Mississippi River in the wintertime. When I met my wife, she already had Thelma and Louise, two cats she’s kind enough to share with me. Thelma can detect my migraines before they happen and Weezy is really good at whining a lot.

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

I’m hoping to get through this without making an ass of myself (lol), but if I do, I hope to work with Claire and 20% on other projects.

Featured THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED Artist: Molly Payne

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

I’m both a performer and author.

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

With my piece in particular, I want to make someone feel less alone in their relationship struggles being trans/queer, and that it’s alright to be gentle and forgiving with the choices we make to combat loneliness, and make do with our bodies.

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

Most of my life is not lived in a queer space. The Naked I provides a refreshing chance for me to give a strong voice to my queer/trans identity in a very unapologetic manner.

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

I have never acted or written professionally before. My artistic outlet has always been musical in nature; so I am a bit nervous about sharing such an intimate piece of myself with strangers and friends. I am sure it will go fine though; nice to stretch boundaries and all of that.

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

Probably the Black Lives Matter movement is the one I pay the most attention to these days, and the importance of not letting the short attention span of the American media hurt the important work people are doing. Regarding the queer community more specifically I think it is deeply important for us to explore and pay attention to our interactions with each other. I hope we can remember to treat one another, and ourselves with greater intention and remember that we are all just trying to make it work out here.

What other artists or shows have inspired you?

I always fall back on jazz artists for inspiration. Especially those artists who use/d their talents to fight for social issues including the stigma surrounding mental illness. Listening to the beautiful and unexpected harmonies created by Thelonious Monk never fail to bring me inspiration.

What is your favorite hangout spot and why?

Anyplace that serves a warm cup of coffee. Café South Side and Bob’s Java Hut are definite faves.

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

My day job takes up more of my time and energy than I would like it to. When I do have the time I love spending it outdoors, or playing some music.

Tell us about your pets, real or imaginary.

My 3/4 wife has a wonderful service dog named Chestnut. She is a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever and is a real sweetheart (most of the time).

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

I would really love to get involved with mentor/tutoring programs that are free and target queer youth, and queer adults re-entering the workforce. I am always amazed at the amount of talent the individuals in our community process, and would really like to see us help one another decrease our unemployment rate through support and informal training.

Featured THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED Artist: Oliver Schminkey

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

I’m the writer and performer of the piece “Misgendered, by a Friend, June 21st.”  I was also an intern this past summer for 20%, so I was responsible for creating the promo materials for the call for submissions and really getting the word out there about this show.

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

It’s vital to tell the stories in THE NAKED I because trans and queer people are so often denied the fundamental act of telling our own stories and creating our own representations for ourselves, especially along lines of intersecting marginalized identities.  It’s important that we have spaces for us, by us, and about us; trans justice can only happen when trans people are in control of our movements, our art, and our representations.

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

For this piece, I tried really hard to focus on a really small moment, that of being misgendered.  I think there’s a tendency to feel pressured to talk about murder and homelessness and other “big” issues whenever we talk about oppression facing trans people; and I think all of those things are vitally important.  They need to be said, and I’ve said them many, many times.  However, it was my challenge to myself this time to write a piece that focused on the small things that tend to grind us down, like microaggressions and misgendering, which work in tandem with the same systems of oppression that target and police trans bodies.  This isn’t to say that microaggressions operate on the same scale as hate crimes which disproportionately harm trans women of color; it’s just to say that there are a million moments, small and large, that make up the varied lived experiences of trans people.

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

I’m a nationally touring slam poet, and I’ve competed and performed in over 15 states.  I’m also a musician and a visual artist, with numerous years of theatre experience under my belt as well.

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

This is a huge question.  I’m dedicated to putting out ethical work; this means constantly questioning the ways in which I, as a white person, have a stake in white supremacy (and actively trying to dismantle white supremacist ideology in both myself and others), although I don’t perform much work written explicitly about race.  Like I said before, I believe in letting people tell their own stories, and I would never want to take up space/take space away from people of color in order to whitesplain about race.  I’m also hugely dedicated to trans justice and queer justice, as well as disability justice.  I’m not interested in assimilationist politics; rather, I try to envision and work toward radical spaces in which we can find authenticity.  In shorter, less pretentious words, I don’t care much about “gay” marriage, but I do care about systematic reform that supports those most affected in our communities, largely disabled, working-class trans and queer people of color.  This means that my politics can never be separated from having conversations about interwoven relationships between colonialism, white supremacy, and the gender binary—even as I look toward a world in which non-binary people like myself can live sustainably. This informs my work so much because it informs my life—although I definitely don’t always succeed, in my work and my life, I try to actively fight against oppression.

What other artists or shows have inspired you?

DarkMatter, Venus DeMars, Cam Awkward-Rich, Rosanonymous, Jane Doe and the Misery Loves Co, Danez Smith, Patrick’s Cabaret, The Exchange (and everything they do), Miss Major ❤ ❤  the list goes on and on.

What’s your favorite hangout spot and why?

The Fox Egg Gallery! A ton of great events are held there, and it’s such a phenomenal 3rd space for me.

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

I’m very busy!!

Right now I’m the guest curator at the Fox Egg; in addition to the show that’s going up in mid-January featuring the Tantrum Art Collective, I’m also curating a show called “Stare Back: Queer and Trans Artists Reclaim the Gayze,” which will open for submissions shortly.  The show is going to be a space for radical redefinition as all types of queer and trans artists represent ourselves visually, fighting against the ways in which largely cis, white, gay people are the face of queer communities in mainstream media.

I’m also finishing up my first full-length book, which will include both my poetry and my visual art.  It’s called “Spoiler: The Trans Kid Dies,” and it’s about my experiences as a specifically non-binary transgender sexual assault survivor.

In addition to those things, I founded and run a weekly poetry workshop on Sundays from noon to 2 p.m. at the Fox Egg Gallery called Well-Placed Commas.  WPC is a 16+ space for writers of all levels to come write together and build community.  We just produced our first chapbook, which is available for purchase on my Etsy page, OllieSchminks.

I also co-host the Twin Cities finest queer open mic, OUTspoken! with my lovely friends Nik Martell and Paul Canada, which happens every second Wednesday at the Fox Egg Gallery.

As one of my other loves, I run the Macalester Poetry Slam and tour nationally with my poetry at colleges and other venues.  You can check out all of this and more at my website.

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: Renee Roe

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

I am performing in “My Dearest Selene” and “If It Might Be, It Must Be.”

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

The stories in The Naked I are powerful expressions of truth. In sharing these truths we can advance broader understanding of bodily autonomy, human connectedness, and personal power. So many are willing to share in our laughter but not our tears. These stories provide a necessary space for those who are willing to do both.

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

My heart centers around issues that require systems change. Historically marginalized people are often destroyed slowly by the socio-political and economic realities of the systems we as a society attempt to maintain. While not necessarily reflective of my entire interests or areas of expertise, I find myself typically drawn to matters of bodily autonomy (specifically gender, sexuality, and disability).

Understanding and partaking in community conversations surrounding these issues has given me a breadth of experience upon which to draw on in my work. Being able to have an impact on the hearts and minds of others is why I do what I do.
 
Tell us about your pets, real or imaginary.

Many years ago my heart belonged to my beloved pet Rocky. We would go for long bike rides and lounge about my childhood garden. One day we thought it would be fun if we went swimming at a local lake as she had never been there. Being an easily distracted child, I allowed Rocky to swim freely for a short while as I contemplated whether a cloud passing over looked more like a dinosaur or a cherry tree.

Tragically, I lost Rocky that day. She sank to the bottom, like a stone.

I have a kitten now. He likes to sit on people’s shoulders.

Featured THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED Artist: Atlese Robinson

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

I am directing Black Hole Queers by Jayce Koester.

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

Visibility, community engagement, and healing. The vast array of individuals that make up the Queer/Trans and Queer/Trans POC community possess a plethora of experiences, stories, and identities that should be celebrated openly, validated, and given a home. Naked I is an opportunity to shape that home in a world where we find a lot of stigma and marginalization.

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

My blackness, my fluidity, my femme-ness, and my creativity.

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

My performance background is primarily in ensemble acting and spoken word. But as a student at Augsburg College I studied playwriting and a bit of technical theatre. I’m bringing to this production a variety of tools and experience that I hope shines through in this awesome show.

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

Homelessness and education. Many Trans/Queer folks need accessible safe housing and educational institutions that support us instead of leave us behind. Ultimately, it all boils down to safety and I think Black Hole Queers is a piece that gives power to Trans/Queer folks to embrace themselves and simultaneously let it be known that we will not be discarded or disrespected.

What other artists or shows have inspired you?

Sha Cage. She’s been doing amazing work for years and I value and adore her tenacity as an artist and educator.

What is your favorite hangout spot and why?

I don’t really have one. I just prefer to be with/around the people I love.

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

Writing, drawing, playing video games, reading, cooking, and spending time with people dear to me.

Tell us about your pets, real or imaginary.

I had two parakeets when I was kid that my parent got rid of because I was not responsible. I let them out of their cage to fly around the house around Christmas and they ended up resting in our Christmas tree after exploring, but they were really cute.

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

Hopefully just performing more and completing a chapbook, maybe even being selected for the Catalyst Series at Intermedia Arts. Those are my main artistic goals for the year.

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