Featured THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED Artist: Cherri Borey

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

I am performing in “My Dearest Selene.”

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

Empowerment through education. My hope is that these bravely told stories and shared experiences will empower those who are still questioning and encourage compassion in would-be allies. Enlightenment through art.

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

My acting background is mainly within comedy–plays, sketch comedy, and stand-up. Although I’ve been on artistic hiatus for a while, I’m excited to be able to return to acting in such an awesome show.

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

My gender non-conformity and queerness attracted me to this production, but I think what really informs my performance is the commonality of human experience in its deeply held desire to be treated with dignity and respect.

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

I enjoy reading, listening to music , writing fiction, and playing video games.

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

I am currently a trombone player for the MN Freedom Band, as well as working on a novel I began during 2015’s National Novel Writing Month.

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: 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 <3 <3  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: 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.

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

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

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

I am a contributing writer and Assistant Stage Manager.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What other artists or shows have inspired you?

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

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

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

What’s your favorite hangout spot and why?

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

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

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

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

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

Featured Q-STAGE Collaborator: Hannah Stein

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 finish out our second installment of the Q-STAGE New Works Series, we’d like to introduce you to one more artist you may not have met. Hannah Stein has been the production assistant for Andrea Jenkins’ piece Body Parts: Intersectionality.

Production Assistant: Hannah Stein
Production Assistant: Hannah Stein

Who are you and what do you do (in life? in the world? in the arts?)?

My name is Hannah Stein and I am from Athens, Georgia. I graduated from Lawrence University with a B.A. in Theatre Arts and moved to the Twin Cities to pursue stage work. You can often find me helping to run two cool consignment shops in uptown Minneapolis and on Grand Avenue in St Paul (My Sister’s Closet) or hanging out with my two adorable chinchillas!

Tell us about your artistic background?

The very last term of my high school senior year, my friend talked me into my first audition for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The production was so wonderful that I immersed myself in theatre once I got to college! Trying my hand at everything from light operation and set design to performance and directing, my senior project was performing in a two-person show in which I also did sound design. I also interned at American Theatre Company in Chicago, Illinois and at LOST Theatre in London, England.

Tell us a little bit about the Q-STAGE piece or pieces you are working on?

I am working with Andrea Jenkins to tell her story and demonstrate how her experiences at the crossroads of race, identity, and sexuality illuminate further questions and common goals for many people. A collage artist as well as poet, Andrea incorporates many different elements into this piece, and it has been wonderful to work with her!

What themes do you pursue in your work?

I am fascinated by cultural simultaneity, obligations within different social systems, unexpected challenges faced by Queer people, and the drama within everyday spaces.

Tell us about an artist or performance that has inspired you?

My role as a stagehand in 20% Theatre’s Rapture Blister Burn was particularly formative because I had the chance to think over the ideas within that amazing show each night. Regarding inspiring performances, I was particularly blown away by Mark Rylance’s incredible role in Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth.

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.

Featured Q-STAGE Collaborator: Emily Weiss

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. Emily Weiss is a Production Assistant for The Escape Machines.

Production Assistant: Emily Weiss
Production Asst: Emily Weiss

Who are you and what do you do (in life? in the world? in the arts?)?

I am Emily Weiss. I work for the MN National Guard as an outreach coordinator by day, and by night I work as a (starving) artist. I teach yoga and meditation classes, paint, write poetry, sing and every once in a while, act.

Why do you do what you do?

I have always been attracted to art. It makes sense to me, a way for me to express all of the emotion and feelings I have about the world around me.

Tell us about your artistic background?

I started off on stage – singing and acting, and quickly realized my artistic tastes went much further than just performances. I started writing poetry shortly after my sweet 16th, and preformed it on stage for the first time around 17. I was continually searching for my next project, and it wasn’t long until I turned to the paintbrush. Art has always been what I turn to for comfort, and I continue to discover my authentic self in my search for my next project.

What themes do you pursue in your work?

I tend to follow themes about invisibility in my work. My experiences in life have often made me feel invisible for one reason or another, and as such, I turned to art to help create an area where I felt that I was seen. My paintings are all abstract arts, dedicated to making something out of chaos and there is always an underlying theme of love in my works, regardless of what they might be.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

My grandmother is the one who first inspired me to pick up a brush and she is an incredible painter. I remember her telling me that anyone could paint, but not everyone does. I am continually showing her my work and her approval is my greatest award.

What are three things you can’t live without?

I can’t live without love, my dog and my brushes. Paint can be made from anything…I’ve been known to crush berries, and use makeup as paint or ink, but good brushes can’t be replaced.

The Naked I: Insides Out – Get to Know Manitou 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!

Over the past couple of months we have conducted interviews with a variety of The Naked I: Insides Out artists.  Last but not least in this series, we asked Manitou Love what he had to say about The Naked I: Insides Out.


What attracted you to audition for The Naked I: Insides Out?

I have wanted to get back into acting for a long time, and it goes concurrently with my desire to explore the aspects of my soul that are masculine and to reclaim masculinity as something beautiful. My name, Manitou Love, reflects this.

Have you ever acted before? If so, in what? When?

Lots of acting as a teenager (I was groomed by Central Touring Theatre in high school), and when I was 18, I was one of two leads in a film about gay youth. It’s now kind of a cult classic, and there are even bits of it on YouTube.

What is your role with the The Naked I: Insides Out? What do you like most about the piece(s) you are working on and your relationship to them (as performer)?

My role is in Body Unfolding by Charles Ely, directed by Brianna Olson-Carr. I identify with the piece, with its passion, anger, and truth.

Had you ever seen any version of The Naked I before?

Nope. I wish I had!

What about this production excites you most?

I’m amazed at the depth of trans/queer beauty, community, and talent associated with this production and am honored to be a part of it. One of the primary reasons I am an artist is because art builds community, and has the potential to change the world.

What do you hope/think audiences will take away from seeing your piece in The Naked I: Insides Out?

I hope they will understand that we are real people. As for my piece, it is our intention that we do justice to the power of Charles’ writing.

More about Manitou, the person…

What is your personal pronoun preference?

He or she.

What is your first memory of gender?

My first memory was of acting out my gender in ways that were non-conforming as a child, and wondering why it mattered.

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

A creamy, delicious (and healthy) organic vegan fruit smoothie.

You feel the most naked when…

I’m expressing myself on stage in front of people. (But I like being naked.)

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

I am a freelance radio producer, I am outside a lot (nature is my church), I’m in the process of finishing college, and I perform as a drag queen named Delilah Lightful a/k/a Rainbow Spirit Woman, through which I radiate the light of my heart in honor of the divine feminine. I am constantly writing and I hope to publish my work as a semi-autobiography/collection of poetry and prose. My second home is in the land of father, off the southern shores of Lake Superior.

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

Wow, if the binary gender system didn’t exist, I would have never felt the need to fit completely into one gender or another. In an old way traditional Native North American society, for example, I would have been identified as a winkte (a two-spirit medicine man), and groomed as such, with a special place of honor within my tribe. But as someone raised white middle class in a Western society, the binary is pretty solidly defined, so I had some very difficult choices to make. My journey has definitely not been easy, but it has been worth it every step of the way because my soul has embraced the lessons learned.

What is your most favorite accessory or article of clothing?

My winter coat. It is masculine and warm!

Name one of your favorite songs right now.

Every single song by Emeli Sande! She is the most amazing singer/songwriter
perhaps ever, and her music is healing the world right now. Of course, she struggles
to receive airplay in the U.S., despite having the #1 album of 2012 and 2013 in
the U.K. Choice cuts: Heaven, Wonder, Mountains, More Than Anything,
My Kind Of Love, Lifted.