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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

trans happenings, part 2

Another major upcoming trans-related event is actually part of a project I’m working on at the moment: the undergraduate production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. While Ensler requires that all productions of her show include certain of her original monologues, she allows some wiggle room for the rest. This year’s undergraduate production (I specify undergraduate because the Divinity School did the show this year as well, performing it in a church and selling “God loves vaginas” t-shirts. Kudos to them!) will include three original monologues focusing on transgender people and their significant others, friends, family and allies (known in nifty shorthand as SOFFAs*). The pieces are based on anonymous email submissions that circulated over the BGLSTA list earlier this year; they’ve been adapted into monologues by a team of writers, directors, actresses and consultants.

Including transgendered characters in the show is interesting and important for a number of reasons, but one of the most striking statements it makes is that “The Vagina Monologues” is not synonymous with “The Woman Monologues” because not everyone who has a vagina is a woman. (more in expanded post)

The people working on the “trans monologues,” as they’ve come to be known, have faced an extremely difficult, delicate task. They needed to be able to convey the feelings and experiences of real people by turning them into characters. They had to stay close to the original words in order to honor their authenticity, yet make them theatrically powerful enough to resonate with audience members who have given little or no thought at all to transgenderism.

Also at issue was the question of who should perform the monologues. Some feel that it would be inappropriate to require that a transgender person play a transgender character—such a mandate would fly in the face of producers’ efforts to avoid typecasting in the show (for instance, a white actress, in character, recalls getting her period for the first time by saying the line, “Fifteen, black and poor, blood on the back of my dress in church.”). Others, however, feel strongly that trans actors must participate in the performance; otherwise, the production itself would be perpetuating a problem that one of the trans monologues points out: “talking about trans people like they’re not there.” Speaking on behalf of the voiceless is important, but only up until the point at which we can speak for ourselves. At a certain point, allies need to be able to step back and support, rather than represent.

Come out and see the show this Thursday, Friday, or Saturday and make up your own mind about the trans monologues (and just enjoy a great production). Tickets are $8 for students and always sell very fast, so stop by the box office soon! If you have any immediate thoughts, too, as always, we'd love to hear them.

*update: In a writing rush, I incorrectly wrote "SAFAs" instead of "SOFFAS" because I remembered what the acronym sounds like and its general gist, but couldn't remember what it stands for and meant to look it up later, but forgot. A guardian angel of sorts emailed me to correct my error. Thanks to them and to everyone for your patience and kindness.


At 3:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is just another reason why the Divinity School should no longer have the word "divinity" in it.

At 3:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because they don't teach your version of the divine? How arrogant!

At 8:39 PM, Blogger wannatakethisoutside said...

I'm so excited about getting to see these new pieces performed alongside other monologues.

At 9:11 PM, Blogger icarus said...

thanks for covering this! i'm excited too :-)

At 11:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's excellent to finally see non-lgbt spaces at harvard actively embracing trans students. this year was the first year that i felt that people in bgltsa were actively supportive of me as a trans person, whether i disclosed my trans status or not.

it's really nice to see people finally treating us like we exist.

At 4:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just saw it last night. The trans piece was amazing!


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