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: Jesse Pollock-Foote

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

I am performing a piece written by someone and directed by another. (Specifically, Pretty Little Princex by Nico Swenson.)

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

This is a strong reason why it’s important to tell these stories, and why I wanted to be a part of this. Not all creators feel comfortable performing the pieces they create. I want to participate because we all have valuable stories to tell. Stories are how we learn and grow as individuals and as a collective community and society. Having heard these pieces, I feel blessed to be a part of this story telling. All are beautiful, unique, raw, and will open the eyes of many.

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.