1. In what way/s are you involved with THE NAKED I: RECOGNIZE/D? I’m the Director for Hunta Williams’ original piece titled “Gender Identity / Same Person”
2. Why is it important to tell the stories in THE NAKED I? All of the stories told in THE NAKED I (TNI) are told by and for the queer community – for once, authentic stories told by the people affected by them.
For me, watching the various pieces I feel this intense sense of comfort around the lack of ‘you’re not telling my story right’ because often the person onstage is telling their own story. Often, but not all the time. This is where I believe the magic comes in. The casting was done in such an intentional way that if the performer isn’t also the writer/creator, they have parallel identities so they can still perform authentically.
This intentionality is so important, and something I haven’t seen in other performance spaces, movies, TV, theatre, etc. I believe this is one of the small pieces that makes the stories in TNI as powerful as they are.
3. What aspects of your identity do you hope to express through your involvement with THE NAKED I? This is a complicated question, because as a director I don’t believe it’s my place to be expressing my identity in the show, but it is all over the process behind it. I’m Directing a piece in ASL, a language that I know conversationally. I’ve been working with two kick-ass interpreters (Alex and Asher) to work with my kick-ass actor, who is Deaf. Alex, Asher and I are all white non-cis folks, all supporting Hunta, a Deaf trans black man, tell his story. Of course identity is going to come up in the rehearsal room!
Gender, Language, Race, and Ability are everywhere. The intersections of my gender as a trans person, my ability to hear, and my whiteness have all come into play during this process, as have the gender, language, race, and ability of Alex, Asher and Hunta. In the rehearsal room we’ll often stop and talk about the barriers we’re having, such as Turning ASL into written English, Black ASL VS. ASL, East Coast VS. Midwest Communication Styles, etc. Once we’ve worked through it, or acknowledge that it exists, we are able to move forward. I believe that it’s everyone’s willingness to be vulnerable in the room that has made this successful.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I work with an awesome team.
4. Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production? It’s funny, my first solo-directing experience was on a project based off of The Vagina Monologues that looked very similar to TNI.
My Historically Women’s college had a history of performing The Vagina Monologues (“VagMons” as it became affectionately known) every Valentines day. My first year, group of queer students rallied to replace the production with something that told the stories of more than cisgender women, something that would better represent “the student body of Mount Holyoke”. Thus, The Student Body was born.
Every year a Director applies with a theme and is chosen to facilitate the process from submissions to performance. The first year it was about Gender and Sexuality in homage to VagMons. I was the second director and chose to create a show about Ability.
It was incredibly refreshing to create a space for authentic conversation around the performance. I’m excited for that process to come with TNI.
5. What social issues are important to you and how do they inform your work?
The representation of Queer people across industries. I want real queer people playing real queer people telling real queer stories. Why is that so difficult?
6. What other artists or shows have inspired you? I’m inspired by collaboration, by artists who can truly combine the thoughts and ideas of others to create something new and beautiful. I’ve tried to bring that to all aspects of my theatre work. I firmly believe that together we are able to create something so much greater than if any one of us had tried alone. Because of this, I’m constantly asking questions and leaning on the community around me to weigh in on things I’m working on. I am a community-driven-creator.
7. When not involved in this production, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies? Movie Pass. I want Movie Pass to pay me to be their brand ambassador. Everyone should get movie pass. I Love Movie Pass. I do not understand how they plan to turn a profit. It’s a subscription service, $11 a month, and you get to see one movie in theatres every 24 hours. That’s it. I’ve been seeing SO MANY movies I would not have seen. I’ve become a snob for certain theatres because they have those fancy reclining seats. I’m all for it. Get Movie Pass.
8. Finish this sentence: I feel the most naked when……. I let people spiritually into my life.
THE NAKED I: RECOGNIZED performs February 2-11 at Minnsky Theatre. Click here for more information and to reserve tickets now!