Featured Q-STAGE Collaborator: Anthony Michael

Part of the mission of 20% Theatre Company is to provide opportunities to new and emerging artists. Q-STAGE is the perfect vehicle to create such opportunity. So, as we get closer and closer to our second installment of the Q-STAGE New Works Series, we’d like to introduce you to a few artists you may not have met. Anthony Michael is an actor in And She Would Stand Like This: A Play in Drag.

Actor: Anthony Michael
Actor: Anthony Michael

Who are you?

My name is Anthony Michael and I am a performance artist.

What do you do, and why do you do it?

I do this because I believe it to be necessary within all the tiers of my community (local, national, international) and because I feel incomplete and unstable without it. I grew up dancing, singing in choirs, and acting in plays and competitive speaking. After seeing the Broadway tour of Chicago for my 12th birthday I decided to dedicate my life fully to the arts. I performed, wrote, sang, danced, directed (pretty much anything I could do except go to class) in high school before eventually dropping out. I moved to St. Cloud and started working for a couple of local theatres, waiting tables on the side. After a couple of years I decided to move to the Twin Cities to pursue the arts full time. Since moving here my work and ideas have begun to refine themselves into something more focused and radical. I have immersed myself in the burlesque community, performing in, producing, and hosting striptease events. I am also currently working as a choreographer, actor, and director for several different companies here in the twin cities with projects ranging from Shakespeare to ballet to devised physical work.

What made you decide to get involved with Q-STAGE?

I became interested in working with Q-STAGE after reading the posting for new works and reading more about the program and the artists that had been involved in the past. The program seemed relevant to me and my interests (queer life, theatre, NEW work, “alternative” work, human sexuality, queer visibility) while providing me an opportunity and a challenge in organizing a submission.

What Q-STAGE project are you a part of?

I am acting in Harrison Rivers’ beautiful play And She Would Stand Like This: A Play in Drag. This poetic adaptation of Euripides’ Trojan Women uses 90’s ball culture and world health crises to examine questions about health and sexuality, motherhood, drag life, and the perseverance of community. I absolutely love the play; the cast and crew are swift, hard working artists with beautiful hearts, and the text is a dream.

What frustrates you about the current state of the arts?

I am currently displeased with the stagnation the mainstream theatre world has accepted. The trickle down effect Broadway has, the security of season tickets, the acceptance of irrelevant replays, lack of diversity, disproportionate funding of the arts. That’s all one thing, right? I could go on… Not to say that I don’t love what I do, and the idyllic theatre, because I do.

What is your dream project?

My dream project is any project created by a collective of artists that is a multi-medium mix of performance that addresses issues relevant to the community, nation, or world. It is confrontational, entertaining, honest, and offers transportation but commands presence. It offers me constant fear and constant inspiration, and I am better because of it.

What is the role of the performance artist in today’s world?

I believe that a performance artist must constantly be seeking truth, and in turn offer some attempt at engaging in a dialogue with their community about their questions and findings. I believe it is our job to keep the world on their toes, keep fascism at bay, encourage humanism, represent our fellow, and provide entertainment. If politics is the head on the coin of society, the performance artist is the tail.

The Naked I: Insides Out – Get to Know Tobias K. Davis

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 few months, we will be featuring interviews from a variety of The Naked I: Insides Out artists.  We recently asked Tobias K. Davis, creator of The Naked I: Monologues From Beyond the Binary, what he had to say about The Naked I: Insides Out.

Toby and friends
Toby and friends

Toby, you were the creator and mastermind behind The Naked I: Monologues from Beyond the Binary. What prompted you to start creating that play? How and when did you do it? Where has it been produced?

In 2000, when I was in college, there was a production of The Vagina Monologues on campus. I remember thinking about what a powerful play it was for cis women, and wishing that there was a play like that for trans people that examined our experiences with our bodies and our sexuality. I remember saying to a friend, “Someone should write a trans version of The Vagina Monologues.” I didn’t think it would be me, though, since at the time I was terrified of talking or even thinking about my own body.  Playwriting is my way of facing my fears, so a few months later, when trying to decide on a project for my senior thesis in playwriting, I realized I needed to write this play, both for myself and for my trans community.

The Naked I has proven to be my most popular play to date, and has been produced all over the United States, from New York to Pennsylvania to California, and, of course, in Minneapolis. I’ve just done the casting for a new production, which I will be co-directing in Massachusetts in March.

How did your process in creating The Naked I: Monologues from Beyond the Binary differ from what 20% Theatre has done in creating The Naked I: Wide Open and The Naked I: Insides Out?

I began by gathering data via an internet survey asking trans and gender non-conforming people to share their experiences with their bodies so that I could use their answers to create monologues. I distributed paper copies of the survey at trans events. I also put out a call for submissions of pieces written by others. I selected and edited these pieces to make them more theatrical and create a cohesive play.

20% has broadened the scope of the work beyond my original vision; they call for submissions about all kinds of experiences of trans and gender non-conforming people, whereas I was originally focused on experiences of body and sexuality.  Both methods create pieces that reflect the wide range of voices and experiences in our trans community.

In what ways have you been involved in the creation of The Naked I: Insides Out?

To my delight, I got to submit one of my own pieces of writing this time around. It was a powerful experience to reflect on how my own attitude toward my body has changed in 10 years. My piece was selected to be combined with two other wonderful pieces into a single piece called Mirrors. I helped Claire and the other two authors interweave our stories to create an even more powerful new piece. It was a lot of fun!

Given that 20% Theatre is committed to making this an ongoing series of shows, where do you hope this continuing project goes? What has been left unsaid?

One of my challenges when I was first writing The Naked I: Monologues From Beyond the Binary was my desire to include every type of trans and gender non-conforming experience that I could. Of course that’s impossible, so I am grateful that this project lives on, because there are still so many voices that need to be heard!

What do you hope/think audiences might take away from seeing The Naked I: Insides Out?

In so many ways, the mainstream media paints transgender people as less than human. My hope for all of these plays is that they restore us to our rightful humanity.

Now, a little more about Toby, the person…

What is your pronoun preference?


Where do you live?

I live in Northampton, Massachusetts with my beloved partner cmoore, my dog Albee, my cats Chaucer and Milton, and my parrots Icarus and Daedalus.

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

A quiche. Something warm and comforting (and very cheesy), but not very “manly.”

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

I work at the Smith College School for Social Work as an administrator. I also recently finished a graduate degree in Social Justice Education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and I have been conducting workshops and trainings on various social justice issues. I am very involved in my church, the Haydenville Congregational Church, which is a radically inclusive UCC church. At home I am frequently found snuggling a pile of dogs (my partner is a dog trainer and runs a dog boarding business out of our home) or taking my god-child Casey to the Y for swimming and other fun classes.

What is your first memory of gender?

When I was about three, I was playing in a sandbox when an adult asked me if I was a boy or a girl. I didn’t know how to answer that question, so I just told them my name.

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

On the one hand, I would have a lot more free brain space because I wouldn’t be thinking about gender all the time or worrying about my safety or the safety of members of my community. On the other hand, gender is one of the beautiful and powerful ways in which we express ourselves. I think I would prefer a world in which there were lots and lots of options for gender, and none of them was privileged above any other.

Toby, you feel the most naked when…

I feel most naked when people objectify me and don’t see me as a real human being.

What animal best describes the concept of gender you have for yourself?

A manatee. They are so cuddly looking, goofy to look at, and seem to go about their business without being too bothered by the outside world.

Want to see Mirrors co-created by Tobias K. Davis, Sam Berliner, and TJ Carley in The Naked I: Insides Out? Purchase your tickets now!