The Naked I: Insides Out – Get to Know Liana Yang

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 Liana Yang what she had to say about The Naked I: Insides Out.

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

I can still recall the first time I saw The Naked I: Wide Open in 2012, I felt so at home and inspired by the stories and its performers that needless to say, my life was changed forever. I auditioned because I wanted to be a part of something that had affected me so deeply and on such a personal and spiritual level, that when I am listening to, watching, or performing these stories, it feels to me like such an honor and privilege to be able to share it with the outside world; the thoughts and feelings of my internal world.

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

That’s a funny question, my knee jerk reply would be to say “no” as I have had no experience with formal training in acting.  However, when my wits overpower my senses to be more serious, I would jokingly say, “why yes, I have been acting for most of my life as the person that society wanted to cage me up into being.”

Jokes aside, I have had very little acting experience, the last acting performance that I gave was when I was in 4th grade.

What is your role in The Naked I: Insides Out? What do you like most about the piece you are working on and your relationship to it as a performer?

People who come to see the show will see me in act called “He calls me mama” written by Zealot Hamm.  On the day of the audition, it was this particular piece that resonated with me on such a personal level that I wanted so bad to have the part. What I love most about this piece is that in its own unique way, it allows the audience to see and experience the world of motherhood through the eyes of a transgendered woman.  It addresses common fears and misconceptions while still connecting the audience with the common experiences that all women share as mothers.

Had you ever seen any version of The Naked I before? If so, what were your thoughts?

Yes, I am a proud audience member of the last production, The Naked I: Wide Open. I remember arriving at the theatre on a cold winter’s night and as the show started, I was entranced by the performances and the touching stories.  I remember crying, laughing, being angry at the world, then feeling inspired and validated by the end of the night.

I never would have dreamed that I would become a part of this production. As person who believes in destiny, I believe that this was all meant to be. I hope to take this opportunity to inspire others the way I have been inspired.

What about this production excites you most?

Everything excites me about this production, seeing so many talented artists working on their pieces is really inspiring.  However, something that is especiallyimportant for me is the journey onto the stage: meeting with my director, learning about theatre, discovering new things about myself and my own potential really begs for me to keep digging deeper.

There is simply something unique, cathartic and powerful about being moved by a powerful script while in the presence of its actors or actresses. I truly believe that real life for the members of the audience can change in one night through the performing arts.

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

I hope that the audience is able to connect with my character, I hope that they are able to connect with her enough to feel comfortable with the idea of considering her a close friend or even a family member. I hope that the audience can take home the fact individuals who fall within the TQLGB spectrum are not people with labels; they are just like everyone else.

I hope that my piece can help contribute to peoples’ acceptance of the fact that transgender families are not that much different from the average, and that the daily realities that transgender parents experience for their children such as love, care, responsibility and accountability are the same as everyone else’s.

More about Liana, the person…

What is your personal pronoun preference?

I am most definitely woman, I do prefer to be addressed with pronouns that are aligned with being one: She/her/sexy babe/Asian Unicorn are all acceptable.

What is your first memory of gender?

I think my earliest memory of gender was when I was 4 or 5 years old.  Every time I visited my auntie, she would bring me to her room and show me her new dresses. Despite feeling happy and excited for her, I also felt sad, frustrated, and confused as to why it was not okay for me to have pretty little dresses and Jelly sandals like all the other girls.

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

This is a hard one…I would say something like a Red Velvet cake. But I think this may be more due to the fact that red is my favorite color and that I love cakes and…feel for a slice or three as of this interview.

You feel the most naked when…

I feel most naked when close family and friends slip and identify me by the wrong gender pronoun.  Having said that, I am patient, understanding, and love them all unconditionally.

What do you do in the world, outside of working on this production?

I am a business owner along with my wife.  We are also both students and I am finishing up my master’s degree in clinical counseling.  Throughout the week, if I’m not at my office or in class, I am providing therapy for clients.

I have many hobbies, with acting as one that is currently at the top. I have a passion for training dogs, rescuing, and rehabilitating them so they can be re-homed with appropriate families.

So, if you see an Asian woman riding a tricycle with a pack of dogs attached to it at the local parks, don’t forget to wave.

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

I think then I would have transitioned very early on in my life, most likely before the age of ten.  I come to this conclusion because I’m assuming that if the concept of gender did not exist as it does today; my parents and everyone else would have had no qualms about me putting on a pretty little blue dress and pink Jelly sandals way back when I was a little girl.

What is your most favorite accessory or article of clothing?

I love shoes and bags, I know that it’s such as typical response coming from a woman but, I’m just saying that what I wear for the day is pretty much determined by which pair of shoes I feel like wearing and or which bag I feel like carrying.

Name one of your favorite songs right now.

Songs that are on my playlist on repeat right now are…
One Way Love by Hyolyn and Hero by Family of the Year.