Featured THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED Artist: Shalee Coleman

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

I am excited to return to THE NAKED I to direct Do No Harm by Eddy Samara and to choreograph a dance narrative number to Cat Hammond’s catchy and triumphant song, Pretty Boy.

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

I believe wholeheartedly that representation is the solution to oppression. Representation in art, media, government, you name it. When people see themselves represented on stage, they no longer feel so isolated. When people see people other than themselves represented on stage honestly, accurately, and vulnerably, empathy and understanding becomes a natural reaction. THE NAKED I gives transgender artists and non-binary/ gender non-conforming folks the chance to speak their stories in their own words. Audiences create and form a bond with people all over the spectrum of queer and trans identities. And anyone in the audience who may be questioning the identity they were assigned at birth can put language to those feelings and relate to a story they see on stage. That is unspeakably radical. I have seen people’s entire perspective change in the span of a ten minute NAKED I piece.

For example, there was a moment in Oliver Schminkey’s piece two years ago when they said that in Spanish everything and everyone is referred to in the masculine (El -o) or feminine (La -a) with no ability to refer to anyone in gender neutral terms. Oliver then said that in the love language of Spanish, “they” basically did not exist. During this section I was sitting with my partner’s mother, a Spanish language medical interpreter. She works with Spanish speakers every day to advocate for them to get the best care possible. I heard her epiphany in a sigh/gasp. I watched her realize the inherent problem with that in the moment, and try to process solutions. In that moment, I saw the power of THE NAKED I.

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

I acted all throughout college and was pretty content to be on stage performing. It was not until I studied away at the National Theater Institute in Waterford, Connecticut, that I was assigned a scene to direct. That experience sparked my love of directing. I discovered a desire to guide actors toward great performances rather than be up there myself. My first opportunity to professionally direct was with THE NAKED I: Insides Out, and I owe every professional directing opportunity I received since then to 20% and the amazing relationships I formed during this incredible show.

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

Social issues that I am most passionate about are women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, the rights of transgender people to exist and receive medical treatment and the intersections between all of these issues. I have garnered a bit of a reputation for indulging in the “hard” conversations: brawling on Facebook and calling out people for misogyny/racism/transphobia in the moment. I was the person at Christmas breakfast who asked “So, who are we all voting for?” This is a reputation that I fought hard to achieve and that I am extremely proud of. To me it is more important to let people who have faced oppression (visibly or invisibly) know that there is someone to defend them than it is to make people in power more comfortable. This streams into my work as a lot of my art has a social justice bent. More than that though, it means that my rehearsals are designed to be safe spaces. You can only ask people to perform boldly through vulnerability if you make it clear that you are there to catch them if they fall. People make mistakes sometimes; I do too, societal programming can be difficult to decode. But if you work hard to let people know that you will fight for them, you empower them to correct you when you make those mistakes. My hope is that any performer or friend of mine would feel comfortable bringing that to me. The correction, while uncomfortable, has only ever made me a more whole and empathetic human being.

What other artists or shows have inspired you?

I find myself most inspired by writers. Letting your imagination run wild is a skill that we learn to stifle while sitting in 7th grade home room. The people who hold steadfast to that skill inspire me and I could not do what I do without them. That is why most of the directing I do is new work. I relish the opportunity to pick writers brains, reaffirm them, invite them to rehearsal, and allow them agency in shaping the final product. Just another reason working on THE NAKED I is a real treat for me.

What is your favorite hangout spot and why?

I love having friends over at my place when it is clean. My apartment feels like a little hideaway complete with Hulu/Netflix, tons of books/graphic novels, and two fuzzy cats. I prefer to fill my home with friends though, because at my core I am a social being and adore sharing my space with people who love to play video games and yell at the TV during political debates.

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

I am a TV junkie. That feels like an unpopular thing to say, but I am a sucker for developed characters, intriguing plot, and voracious writing. If you get me talking I will recommend at least 5 shows you SHOULD be watching along with the various internet mediums where you can procure them. Just Finished: Fargo. Currently watching: Master of None. Looking ahead to: Jessica Jones (Season TWO y’all).

Other than that I enjoy playing video, card, and board games with large groups of people or simply catching up with friends. Did you know that we are in the golden age of board games? I’m serious, games nowadays are way more fun than Monopoly. My favorites include Escape, Resistance, and Sushi Go!

Tell us about your pets, real or imaginary.

Ok, but just remember, you were the one who asked. You started this. I cannot be held responsible for monologuing about my cats when you opened the flood gates.

I am the proud co-parent to two adorable and quirky felines. The first we adopted is named Tetra after the pirate in the Zelda game Wind Waker. She is all grey with darker grey stripes and bright green eyes. She is extremely dignified and a queen. She is not a big cuddler, which makes her cuddles rare and magical. Her circadian rhythm wakes her up at about 4-5 a.m., which would be fine if she didn’t think it was really fun to pounce on my partner and my feet underneath the covers. Alas, she makes a decent alarm clock. My favorite quirk about her is when she sees prey, she makes a small guttural noise that sounds like clicking. For what reason? No idea, but I am convinced it intimidates the hell out of the ladybugs that are practically glued to our ceiling in fear.

The second cat is Clementine, who is named after the protagonist in Telltale Games’s Walking Dead series (play it, it’s so good). She also happens to be a striped ginger tabby cat, but she was named after the video game character, not the small orange, promise. Clementine has an insane amount of energy and loves face scratches and snuggling in bed at night. This is a cat who spends the majority of her time in blankets. If you are under a blanket, she is on top of you.

We got two cats because when we only had Tetra, we could tell that she would get lonely during the day when we were at work. When we got home after a long day, she would cry and cry and follow us around. A need for companionship is a trait animals and humans share. No one likes to be alone. Although Tetra and Clementine don’t snuggle up together and are often tumbling and swatting at each other, they appreciate each other’s company. Having someone that speaks your language and fundamentally gets you because they are going through the same thing is infinitely and vitally important to our survival. Tetra doesn’t cry when we come home anymore.

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

Currently I am open to the universe. I have a couple irons in the fire for the Fringe Festival, I’m in talks with artists for a few other projects, and have some applications out. Above all, I hope to continue to be trusted by artists to stage their stories in a way that does them justice.

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.


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.

Leah's Train: Director Chava Curland

Travel through three generations of adventure, grief and love. Co-presented by 20% Theatre Company Twin Cities and the Sabes Jewish Community Center, we are pleased to bring you Leah’s Train by Karen Hartman March 7-22, 2015 (all performances at the JCC).  Before and during the run of this show, we will be giving you a chance to learn a little bit more about the artists involved in our production. In this first interview, meet director Chava Curland.

Director: Chava Curland
Director: Chava Curland

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? How/when/why did you get into theatre?

My dad took me to see shows at a very young age.  We had regular tickets to CTC and when I was 10, he started taking me to see shows at the Guthrie.  I was enchanted with this make-believe world where anyone could be someone. And when a friend of mine convinced me to take acting classes in middle school, I was hooked.  While I was a teen actor at The Children’s Theater Company– though it is weird for me to think of myself as an actor for them as I only did 2 shows, small parts there–I remember thinking during a  particularly arduous technical rehearsal that the decisions the director was making, the questions he was grappling with with the designers were ones that I had ideas for, ones that I had my own answers to.  I thought, I can do this. So, I changed from an fine arts to a theater major going into Ithaca College and said “I’m a director’.  Big headed to say the least—I am highly embarrassed by what I must have been like as a know-it-all freshman in college.

Since then, my road in theater has taken me many different directions—as an actor, a mask maker and puppeteer, a dancer/movement theater artist, playwright, world traveler–but I always come back to directing and to the power of the rehearsal process. Directing is not just telling people where to move like chess pieces in space–it is excavating a story, like an archaeologist, digging deep into the dirt of the lives of the characters–its forging relationships within this micro community of a production–crew, cast, company, audience–we are a little microcosm–and it is also to be a visual artist, the painter who sees the whole canvas of the evening but must decide which strokes need to be made to reach the final image. Thats why I stay in it–to be an explorer, a painter, and part of a community all at the same time.

Have you worked with 20% Theatre Twin Cities in the past? How and in what capacity?

I last worked with 20% as an actor in Changes in Time.  I played Court.

How has this directing experience been different than working for 20% as an actor?

I get to see the full picture.  I can follow the little tendrils of my thoughts on a scene, experiment with different points of view and different arcs to the play–and certainly a lot more responsibility to the play and actors in that sense. Otherwise, I would say working with the company and the people in it isn’t that different as a director. Everyone has been so wonderful and supportive—though that was the same as an actor, too 🙂

Tell us what originally drew you to the Leah’s Train script. Why did you want to direct it?

Its deceptively simple.  You look at the words on the page and think–hmm, this seems pretty straight forward.  But when you look at the motivations behind the words and the disconnect between what people say and do, there is a whole deeper level of tension and intention that is going on.  It’s a play full of rich emotion and specific history, yet takes place in the neutral impersonal space of a train.  I saw a prime opportunity to work on a powerful, reality driven story but within a more abstract onstage world.

I also feel strong personal connection to sense of ancestry and healing of generations past in the play.  My father’s side of the family is Polish Jew and they fled during WWII to Russia, then Siberia, then Uzbekistan, and at the end of the war to Berlin before finally getting passage to NY in 1951. While Leah’s train predates WWI, the haunting echos of the past the follow Ruth on her journey I feel in my own life.

Did you have a specific vision for what the cast would look and feel like during the audition process?

I didn’t have a specific vision for the cast, but rather a sense of how they needed to function together—Hannah and Ruth needed to be powerful players together, Ben needed to have chemistry with Ruth and Hannah, Leah needed sense and Sammy sass. But beyond that, I tried not to have any preconceptions of how they would look or talk.  I wanted to be surprised, discover what could work or not based on what was coming out of the actors mouths.

Do you have any hopes about what the audience will walk away from this production knowing, feeling, thinking, etc.?

I hope they come out of this thinking about their own family and the journey that had to happen for each person to end up where they are right this moment.  Ruth says “family is made, not born”, but I think that’s false.  We can’t runaway where we come from–we can only accept it, make peace with it, and build our own lives from there.

What else do you do in the world, outside of theatre and/or working on this production?

Theater and Non Profit Admin–I work as a Company Associate for Girl Friday Productions and Communications and Outreach Coordinator for the Germanic-American Institute.  I also have fun training my dog, Ruby-Rue the Corgi-Aussie, playing very nerdy board games, salsa dancing, making masks/art creations, practicing yoga/acrobatics—and exercising (which means using the steam room) at the JCC.

What is your favorite thing about the Twin Cities?

The lakes, rivers and the bike trails—especially around late April/May when everyone is waking up from hibernation and spring fever is catching on.  I love seeing all the people, dogs and life bustling around on the Greenway and the Grand Rounds.

What is your favorite type of transportation?

Anything that lets me feel the breeze.

If you have one, tell us a little bit about your most memorable train ride?

While I don’t have a specific train ride in mind, I’d say the times when I commuted between NYC and The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in CT.  I was living in NYC, with a real nice off-Broadway literary internship, but me being the crazy-always-need-to-be-busy person I am, decided that I also wanted to Apprentice under the Droznin Russian Movement teacher at the O’Neill’s National Theater Institute.  I would leave Queens at 2:30am and take a 3-4 hour train ride (including subway and connections) up along the dark coast.  I’d see the bright city fade away to old, abandoned looking towns, then trees shoot past my window until I could see some brief silver glints of the ocean.  I would arrive in New London in the bluish- predawn light, and just as I would pull into the O’Neil grounds, the sky would go pink and a round orange sun would pop up over the horizon.

Then, I would beat up my body for 6 hours of intense acrobatic work, ride back that night and go to work the next day.  It was grueling, but those train rides, which brought a sense of peace, freedom, and possibility, were the thing that often got me through the week in the Big City.


If We Were Birds Interview: Director Lee Conrads

Through the lens of Greek tragedy, If We Were Birds presents an unflinching commentary on contemporary war and its devastating aftermath, particularly for the women who become its victims.

20% Theatre Company is excited to present this beautiful, shocking and brutal new play by Erin Shields at Nimbus Theater September 13-27, 2014.  Before and during the run of this show, we will be giving you the chance to learn a little bit more about some of the artists involved in our production. In this interview, meet director Lee Conrads.

Director - Lee Conrads
Director – Lee Conrads


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? How/when/why did you get into theatre?

I did theater all through high school, but primarily as a costume designer. My senior year I (accidentally? — I’m a little fuzzy on how it actually happened) volunteered to direct a project for my theater class. I had never thought about being a director, but it was the most fun I’d ever had. At the time I was in the throes of college application season and pretty stressed about having no clue what I wanted to do with my life. The idea that I could be a director as a profession started to percolate and I think my 17-year old self is still a little shocked that it’s actually happening.

Have you worked with 20% Theatre Twin Cities in the past? How and in what capacity?

My very first interview for a theater job when I moved to Minneapolis was with 20% Theatre –and I got the best “no” I’ve ever gotten. From my interview, I was ultimately offered an ASM-ing position for The Children’s Hour at the JCC. But then I directed two monologues for The Naked I: Insides Out last winter, and got to hang out with Rapture, Blister, Burn as the house manager last spring.  To be directing is an absolute dream-come-true!

Tell us what originally drew you to the If We Were Birds script. Why did you want to direct it?

When I first read If We Were Birds, it felt like a play I had been looking for for a long time. I am really interested in telling stories that ask us — as audiences and artists — to sit with difficult situations and complex problems to which there are no easy answers, with the hope that that exposure makes us gentler, more empathetic and compassionate humans. But I also have an almost evangelical interest in classical and historical theater. Too often when those plays get produced they are put on a pedestal of “how theater used to be;” I’m really excited about finding ways to resurrect ancient (or even just old–this is as applicable to Ibsen and Shakespeare as it is to Classical drama) stories such that they have the same effect on modern audiences as they had on the audiences they were written for, without compromising the forms of their essential Classical-ness. It is incredibly rare to find a play that does both of those things. If We Were Birds is very special.

If We Were Birds is staged through the lens of Greek tragedy. 20% Theatre Company does not generally produce classical work. What makes If We Were Birds an exception or more relevant 20%’s mission?

The most common reaction to this play from reviews I have read of other productions of this play is that it is a “contemporary take on a classical tragedy,” but I think it’s actually the opposite. One of the most classical elements of this play is the Chorus, which Shields has populated with characters whose stories are informed by the experiences of women who have been the survivors of sexual violence as a weapon of war in contemporary conflicts.  By weaving together past & present and fiction & reality, particular through the Chorus, Shields makes it impossible to write off this story as archaic. Two of the conflicts she draws on have happened within my lifetime, and likely all of them within the lifetimes of our audiences. To me this play is so clearly a classical take on a contemporary tragedy.

Did you have a specific vision for your cast during the audition process? What purpose does the chorus serve?

It was really important to me — and also really important to Shields — that the Chorus represents as broad a swath of womanhood as possible. So it was really important to me that we have as diverse a cast as possible in terms of age, race, body shape, various presentations & experiences of feminity and womanhood as possible. It was also really important to me that the cast as a whole have good chemistry and feel like a group of people who would be able to would be able to collaborate well.

20% Theatre Company produces plays with heavy subject material and/or controversial subject matter. Are there specific trigger warnings we should make audience members aware of?


The worst case scenario is that this production causes any kind of harm; I think that is most likely in a situation in which someone comes to the production without knowing what they are getting themselves into and that experience is damaging to their mental health.

There is an enacted rape as well as graphic descriptions of violence–sexual and otherwise.

Shields never condones any of these acts–in fact, the play is really an 80-minute condemnation of them–but it is important to the storytelling that we look directly at the atrocities that are being discussed and face them head on. The production isn’t going to do anything to soften that, but I absolutely don’t want anyone to come to the experience unprepared.

What do you hope the audience will walk away from this production knowing, feeling, thinking, etc.?

One of the things I am really trying to let go as an artist is the idea that my art says something and my sucess lives or dies depending on whether the audience “got it.” There is a universe in which I am an insufferably didactic director and I don’t want to live there. So yes, there are some very specific things I am trying to say with this play (though some of it is also just me screaming into the void about injustice that I feel powerless to mitigate — there are ways in which this play is very cathartic) but it is far more important for me that the audience goes through the experience with us — with Philomela — and is forced to just sit with a terrible situation with no easy answers. And I hope that that experience makes all of us — audience & artists — more compassionate, more generous human beings.

What else do you do in the world, outside of theatre and/or working on this production?

Unfortunately, I am historically terrible at having a life outside of theater; I’m working on it. I do have a desk job as a “data-entry drone” that I am grateful for because it pays my bills. I was a history major in college, as well as a theater major, so I spend a fair amount of time being an insufferable know-it-all about historical matters. And I spent the month of June teaching backpacking to elementary and middle school girls at a summer camp in North Carolina. It was a blast so I am trying to remember to make time in my life for the outdoors.

What is your favorite thing about the Twin Cities?

I’m pretty sentimental about the skyline. Especially in the winter, when I am racing around — over scheduled & hating the weather — every once in a while a catch a glimpse of the skyline and maybe a really nice sunset and think, “wow, this is actually an incredible city.”

What is your favorite type of bird?

Probably the sparrow, less because of the actual bird and more because it is the central metaphor of one of my all time favorite books (go read The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell). I think I am way more into metaphorical birds than actual birds.




Rapture, Blister, Burn – Get to Know Anya Kremenetsky

20% Theatre Company is thrilled to present Rapture, Blister, Burn by Gina Gionfriddo at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage April 26 – May 10, 2014. Over the past few weeks, we have given you the chance to learn a little bit about the artists involved in this production. In this final interview for Rapture, meet our show director, Anya Kremenetsky!


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? How/when/why did you get into theatre?  

Theater is something that’s always been part of my life…I remember my parents taking me to shows at The Children’s Theater…I was completely enchanted and wanted to be up there doing what they were doing.  I think I was in my first play at the age of six.  I started out as an actor, and became interested in directing once I realized that I had a hard time focusing only on the role I was playing.  I  wanted to be involved in all the elements of the production from start to finish, and in the creation and shaping of the show as a whole.  I studied at George Washington University in DC and the Atlantic Theater Company in NYC, and have been working in the Twin Cities as a freelance director/teaching artist since I settled back home in 2007.  Last summer I joined the History Theatre staff as Artistic Associate.

Have you worked with 20% Theatre Twin Cities in the past? How and in what capacity?

I’ve been a company member of 20% since 2008, and have worked on three productions as assistant director: Standards of Care, Perfect Pie, and Where We’re Born.

Tell us what originally drew you to the Rapture, Blister, Burn script. Why did you want to direct it?

I was drawn in right away by Gionfriddo’s dry wit…it’s my kind of humor…and if a play has me laughing in the first few pages, I’m hooked.  As I kept reading, I had this eerie feeling that she had broken into my apartment and read my journals…the characters in her play articulate things that I’ve been thinking and writing about in recent years…

I can relate very much to what they are experiencing…i.e. Catherine realizing that she’s devoted her entire life to her career, and now, facing the possibility of losing her mother…wondering if there’s some “wisdom in the natural order” – creating a new family to replace the one you lose.

These women are finding that the theories and ideals they’ve long held about how to structure their lives and build relationships don’t always work in practice.  They need to find ways to be realistic while NOT losing sight of their ideals.  I have not yet reached a point in my life where I can look back and lament the roads not taken.  I’m grateful to be in a place where I’m forging those roads and have the freedom to build the kind of life I want to live.  Sometimes that freedom can be terrifying and the pressure to make all these decisions paralyzing!  But I’m not complaining, as I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What do you hope the audience will walk away from this production knowing, feeling, thinking, etc.?

Gionfriddo crams a LOT of food for thought into this play.  It’s very dense material, which is why it’s been fascinating to dig into throughout the rehearsal process.  Every audience member will walk away with something different – moments that pop, lines that strike a nerve, kernels of wisdom they might apply to their current experience… I don’t believe this play has any set message to instill into the audience…  for me, it’s a play about questions – not answers.  I hope the audience leaves the theater with much to think about and much to laugh about.

Rapture, Blister, Burn is often called “a feminist play.” How would you describe the play? How do you feel about feminism and what it signifies today?

I don’t know what “feminist play” really means (I suppose it could mean different things to different people) and it seems like too simple a term to describe Rapture, Blister, Burn.  This is a play that explores a number of issues and choices women face in different realms:  career, relationships, family, sexuality, etc.  Gionfriddo examines these issues in the context of the feminist movement, and how it has evolved over the decades.

This play is not only about the experience of women, though – it touches on a number of universal themes:  “The grass is always greener on the other side,” what drives our life choices, how we find our unique way to happiness and fulfillment, the search for rules & theories to make all these decisions easier…   The one male character in the play experiences these things as thoroughly as the female characters do.

How do I feel about feminism? 

Interestingly, that’s something I’ve never really thought much about before starting work on this play.  Third-wave feminist writers Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards said it best:  “The presence of feminism in our lives is taken for granted. For our generation, feminism is like fluoride. We scarcely notice we have it – it’s simply in the water.”

Though I’ve taken feminism for granted, I’ve never questioned whether I am a feminist.   I was having dinner with my dad and my grandma the other day, and I was telling them about this play…they asked me if I define myself as a feminist.  I said, “I don’t see how I could have the career I have right now and NOT be a feminist.”

I’ve heard negative perceptions of feminism expressed in the news recently, with prominent women declaring themselves not to be feminists because being a feminist is “too extreme.”  I’ve never seen feminism as a negative or extreme thing – I’ve found it to be a self-evident thing.  I believe the backlash is due to a misunderstanding of what feminism is.

It’s not about putting men down or pushing men away.  There’s nothing in feminism that’s inherently anti-male.  Pro-female does not mean anti-male.

Merriam-Webster defines feminism as:  “The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.”

That’s it.  Maybe some people would feel more comfortable re-naming that belief  to some word that sounds more gender-neutral.  Continuing to refer to it as feminism, however, serves as an acknowledgement of how things used to be, an appreciation of the progress that’s been made, and a reminder of how much work there is still to be done toward women’s rights.

What else do you do in the world, outside of theatre and/or working on this production?

My entire work life is wrapped up in theater in one way or another (and this I’m grateful for.)  Sometimes it feels like theater IS my life – especially in the non-summer months…and I have to remember to find balance and not get burned out.  Once the warm weather rolls around, though – I try to be outside as much as possible.  I’ve avoided committing to fringe shows and other summer productions for that very reason.  In the summer, I want to spend my time hiking, paddleboarding, camping, rollerblading, you name it – as long as it involves fresh air.


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.

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 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…

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Nicole Wilder, Director

Nicole Wilder

20% Theatre Company’s new Communication & Development Intern, Brianna Olson-Carr, is helping us launch ARTIST INTERVIEWS for our new blog! This week, we interviewed Nicole Wilder, company member, workshop facilitator, and director! Nicole has directed and co-directed numerous plays for 20% Theatre, and is the director of our winter show, Intrigue With Faye by Kate Robin, performing January 25-Ferbruary 9 at Nimbus Theatre.

Q: How/when/why did you get into theatre?
A: I started pursuing theatre in 7th grade by way of acting. Honestly, I think I first got involved because I wasn’t really into sports but didn’t particularly like taking the bus home after school, so why not? Having rehearsals meant I was guaranteed a ride home 5 nights a week. I had always exhibited a flair for the dramatic, though (just ask my mom). So I think I fell into it pretty naturally.

Q: What drew you to directing, specifically?
A: A professor I had in graduate school, Dr. Paul Jackson, really opened my eyes to the power of directing. I realized I had things to say. I realized I could say them much louder with theatre. I realized that through the act of directing, I could live my politics in lots of ways…in the plays I picked, in my casting choices, in my rehearsal process, in the way I treat my audience…Directing became my conversation starter and a megaphone for the ideas that are important to me.

Q: How did you get involved with 20% Theatre Company?
A: I first got involved with 20% Theatre through an open call for directors, back when we were working on The Naked I: Monologues from Beyond the Binary. Although…20% had been on my radar way before then. 20% Theatre Company’s mission and my desire to work with other socially conscious artists basically pulled me back to the Twin Cities from Ohio.

Q: What drew you to Intrigue with Faye? How would you describe the play to someone who knows nothing about it?
A: So remember everything I said about being a socially conscious artist? Forget all of that for a second. What drew me to Intrigue with Faye initially was that I saw myself in both of the characters (how scary is that?). However, I personally don’t believe that’s a good enough reason to actually go through all the work of staging a play. I wouldn’t ask an audience to watch me put me on stage. I think it was my desire to make sense of these flawed characters that kept me interested in staging this production. These characters and their sick interactions are a symptom of something bigger…something we all need to talk about. These characters suffer from a lack of presence in their own lives. Constructing my concept and rehearsing this production became an exploration of that “something bigger”.

Q: Why should people come see Intrigue with Faye and/or what do you hope audiences will walk away with after seeing it?
A: People should come and see Intrigue with Faye because there is a little Kean and Lissa in all of us (the two main characters). We all suffer from a lack of presence. We all suffer from a fear that our emotions are just a little too much…that with some distance from our emotions, we’ll be better off. This production challenges that notion. Or maybe it doesn’t. Really, it’s up to you to decide. But you can’t decide unless you show up. I hope that after seeing this production, audience members will walk away a little more likely to actually look at the person they are with instead of burying themselves in their smartphone. I hope that the next time they see a beautiful sunset or a really cute kid or a hilarious typo on a billboard, they will make an effort to capture the moment with their mind instead of their camera. Looking at the world through a viewfinder so you can obsessively document your existence through Facebook or Instagram is one way to live, but it’s not the only way to live. Let’s use technology for what it’s meant for: to augment our reality, not to replace it.

Q: Talk about working with a two-person cast. What are the delights and challenges?
A: Working with a two person cast makes for a very tight team. I make a conscious choice to work collaboratively, and working collaboratively and reaching consensus tends to be easier with a smaller group. Of course, it’s also a challenge. There’s no diffusion of responsibility. Everyone has to bring their A-game all the time. Fortunately for me, I had a stellar cast and production team to work with.

Q: Do you prefer directing new plays?
A: I prefer doing new things. You can do new things with an old play, and you can also do old, boring things with a brand new script. It’s not so much the publication date that determines whether a play is old or new in my mind. That said, if I had my choice, I would create devised work all the live long day, with all sorts of people. I guess that means I prefer directing SUPER new plays.

Q: Where else have you lived/worked, and how do you think the Minneapolis theatre scene differ from elsewhere in the country?
A: I grew up in St. Cloud and attended the College of St. Benedict, so I guess I’m a local gal at heart. I earned my MA in Theatre from Miami University, which is pretty close to Cincinnati, OH. I have also studied in Athens and in Rome, and I spent a summer doing nothing but seeing theatre in the Czech Republic. I love the Minneapolis Theatre scene. I think it’s vibrant and diverse, not just because there are so many theatre makers, but because there are so many theatre watchers. Here in Minneapolis, more than in most places, we understand that to make theatre, all you really need is an actor and an audience and an idea, all in the same place at the same time. That means that as long as people keep showing up, theatre can be (and is) everywhere.

Q: What are your other interests aside from theatre/directing?
A: I also sing in a band called Spencer McGillicutty, and I’m learning to play the ukulele. I try to write every day. I love to paint. I like knowing a little bit about a lot of things. I like talking to strangers. Laughing is my favorite thing.