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Theater as a safe haven for the gender perplexed …


Riannon

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Riannon

Hello!

 

I spent the entirety of my working life in the theater, as an actor (mostly), a director, playwright, and administrator. Today, I'm 76. Over the years, I've changed my identity labels like a departures clapperboard in Union Station. I've been "questioning," "hetero crossdresser," "gay," "gay crossdresser," "trans-woman," and (seeing the category for the first time when I joined Pulse––and being non-op) "trans-feminine." Which is correct? At 76, that doesn't weigh heavily on me.

 

What I most curious to know is if there are others like me who found theater as a refuge from the day-to-day self-questioning: Who am I? Or more to the point: What am I? Frankly, I fled to theater as a perplexed teen, never knowing it would be my career. Theater has proven to be a glorious release: the lights, the costumes, the camaraderie, and––most importantly!––the many opportunities to explore other versions of ME.

 

I'd love to hear from others on this topic, not only from those who've been theater practitioners, but also from those who've enjoyed being in the audience, finding the experience to have been a path both to self-understanding and self-acceptance.

 

Cheers!

Riannon

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Delcina B

Riannon, Interesting post. I have never been one who is comfortable being the center of everyone's attention & the thought of doing it real time, goosebumps. I do admire those of you who can. From one who prefers to blend in with the audience; I love the stories, performances where I resonate with a character & live vicariously through them, sometimes female, sometimes male. At the moment I can't recall any that profoundly enhanced my self understanding or acceptance. I found those through an honest in-depth look at who I really am & continue to do so.

 

Thanks for the topic,

Delcina

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VickySGV

I never went into theater as a career, but I did almost all of my elective courses in college in Theater Arts.  In High School my counselor had noticed that I was in a fatal tail spin with a load of classes my father had insisted that I be in and had stressed me to the edge.  The counselor actually told my dad she was putting me into a Drama class and out of a math class he thought I should have.  It was about the mid point in the semester that the Drama Teacher took me aside and told me that she and the counselor and other people at the school had noticed that I seemed to be playing a character and was not being my real self and this was seen by my school mates as well which is why I was not fitting into my class really.  At the time they admitted that I probably did not know I was doing it and that since this was the early 1960's they really did not know what it could be.  I always felt fine up on stage doing acting but once again I got pressured into other things.  When I came out at age 61 after some relatives passed away I fully realized who and why I had been playing as roles in the past.  In September 2015 I accidentally got roped into a newly forming Chorus of ALL Trans people here in the Los Angeles area.  The Chorus is now in its second half of its fifth year and tonight we finished an online rehearsal about an hour ago. We do provide a safe haven for all or our members and are Chosen Family to almost all of our members at some point.  Through the Chorus, I have met people in the broader entertainment field, and have been a background artist in a major TV series that ended a year+ ago, and several documentaries on Trans life and other Trans people, a well as my own part of it and it all seems safe and natural.  It is fun because happily, my Stage Fright comes about 4 hours after the final curtain and I wake up thinking OMG I did THAT.  Colorado has a couple of Trans choral groups that my group teams up with in the past, and will in the coming months.

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Riannon

Hello, Delcina and Vicky!

 

Thanks for bringing this topic to life. I look forward to talking to you about theater and the trans life.

 

I can kick myself for not saying in my original post that I'd love to talk theater not only with those who have been on stage but also––and maybe even more so––with those who've enjoyed theater as members of the audience.

 

I have to beg your indulgence for not being able to reply at length right now, I'm having the water boiler in my home repaired, and at the moment it's 55 degrees here in my living room. A little too chilly for comfort! I'm about to shut down and spend the evening with a friends––and pray that when I return either later this evening or in the morning my home will be warm and toasty.

 

Take care. And again, thank you for contributing to this topic!

 

Riannon

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VickySGV

Now now, no breaking a leg by kicking yourself.!!  I hope life warms up for you.

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Riannon

 

Good morning, Vicki. Thanks for your note.

And it is a good morning: I have heat again!

Your recollection of how a high school counselor had placed you in a drama class had me asking: How did I first end up in drama? My parents weren’t in the arts, nor did we live in a community known for its “arts scene;” the Northeast Bronx was hardly artsy! I have to thank what a miserable time I had had in junior high for propelling me toward the arts: to avoid going to the regional senior high school, where my miserable time would have continued, I applied for and was accepted by an arts high school in Manhattan. (Manhattan? The very idea terrified my mother: OMG, I’m losing my boy!) So unlike the kids I’d known in junior high, the boys and girls in my midtown arts school were welcoming, cheerful, and determined to make something of themselves (traits nowhere to be found in junior high). Mrs. McNally, my English teacher, who was also the drama club adviser, invited me to rehearsals. From there, the slope was a slippery one: in a matter of weeks, there I was: on stage, wearing a three-piece suit ten-times to big for me, with J&J Baby Powder in my hair, enacting the part of someone I wasn’t––and having the time of my life. The slippery slope now got even slipperier. So, as I think back (thanks to your post!), I see that Mrs. McNally’s drama club was my theater gateway drug.

As I must get this day underway (although my replying to you certainly qualifies as “underway”), I say bye-bye––yet I do want to hear more about your work with the trans chorus. What an intriguing endeavor. I’m all-ears!

Cheers,

Riannon
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I've never actually acted other than playing the part of a guy for most of my life.

Several of my kids have in high school, and competed at the state level.  They had a pretty good program at the local level at the time.  I would have been terrified to get on stage myself.

I do have a hobby of writing fiction though.  I find that in writing the characters I have to put myself into them, and sort of become that character at the time.  It has allowed me to explore parts of myself that I never would have otherwise for better or worse.

It is interesting to watch movies based on books and see how the various actors bring the characters to life each in their own ways.

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Riannon

Hi, Jandi

 

I sure understand what you mean by "playing the guy." All of my life I had to deliberately "play" the part, especially when I found myself having to deal with an exceptionally masculine man. Repairman coming to my house always seemed to be of this sort. Facing a man wearing a tool belt, I get all flustered. On stage, though, not only did I know I was playing a part, so did the audience––in fact, playing a part was what was expected of me; therefore, any stage fright vanished. It was many years before I asked myself: Why is playing a part in "real life" so difficult, when it's so easy on stage? I'm still working on the answer to that question.

 

Tell me more about your writing. That's what I do these days, although mostly I'm writing nonfiction.

 

Best wishes,

Riannon

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