This past Thursday night, 20% Theatre Company performed The Naked I: Wide Open at Augsburg College. At its sold-out world premiere in February 2012, these artists offered to the world a unique theatrical experience in which local trans*/gender non-conforming artists and allies created and performed over twenty pieces. These pieces explore issues such as gender identity, gender expression, self-embodiment, relationships, and love. The cast at this performance was smaller than in its previous shows, yet nothing about the performance was lost in its smaller number. The actors make you laugh, make you cry, and leave you with some food for thought. Regardless of one's own gender identity, this show is not only powerful, but important. During the talkback, director Claire Avitabile was asked whether or not she knew of other theater companies in the United States who did anything like this, to which she responded "no." Because theater can create a sort of "utopian space" in which issues that are not usually explored have a defined place, a performance of this kind gives trans* and gender non-conforming individuals and their allies the ability to discuss the way they experience their bodies on their own terms. When trans*/queer/gender non-conforming individuals are asked questions like "have you had surgery yet?" or "what is your real name?", regardless of the asker's good intention or not, the ability to educate is cheapened. It is not the task of trans* people to educate others, though many often do. The hurtful nature of these questions, the bombardment of questions about (what really comes down to) genitals, is not, as many of the performers explained during the talkback, on their own terms. We need more spaces for trans*/gender non-conforming individuals and their allies to talk. We don't need more silence.
I highly recommend you discover the works of these artists. If you are able to see the show in person, The Naked I: Wide Open has two more performance dates on their current tour: Tuesday, March 12 at Winona State University and Thursday, March 14 at St. John's Hospital in Maple Grove, MN. Copies of the full-length play can also be purchased on Amazon.
For more information about 20% Theatre company, visit their website.