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: Esmé Rodríguez

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.