By Paul Lucas. Directed by Fay Nass and Cameron Mackenzie. A Frank Theatre and Zee Zee Theatre production. At the Firehall Arts Centre on Friday, March 13. No remaining performances
The air of doom surging outside the Firehall on Friday night gave extra and profound meaning to an already moving performance going on inside the 150-seat arts centre.
Before Trans Scripts, Part I: The Women, codirector Cameron Mackenzie acknowledged a valiant show-must-go-on effort by saying, “We made it!” Then someone from the audience yelled, “We survived AIDS! This shitty little virus isn’t going to get us!”
Sadly, by today it may have—indirectly, at least, with word that B.C. health officials now want all venues that hold more than 50 people immediately shuttered. (This just in: you can watch a recorded performance of the show through Zee Zee Theatre’s social media channels at 8 p.m. on Saturday night [March 21]; check its website for details.)
Still, on a Friday the 13th of travel alerts and social-distancing measures, Trans Scripts, Part I felt—all too fittingly—like an act of resilience. The play’s purpose was to bring people together, opening an entire world of transgender experience by sharing pain, secrets, and laughs.
A diverse cast of seven trans or gender-nonconforming performers gave voice to Paul Lucas’s verbatim play, culled from more than 70 interviews with trans women worldwide. And what made the work resonate was that the actors here clearly brought their own experiences and emotions to the stories being told.
Lucas knows that it’s the specific details of each story that speak the loudest. When Eden (Amy Fox) recounts the meaning, even at 42 years old, of her mum buying her an ice-cream cone after years of separation, it’s devastating.
The beauty of the curated accounts here is the way they capture diversity—from a gynecologist in her 60s to a young, politically active sex worker to someone forced to work in her dad’s auto-repair business. The approach offers a range of experience over generations. One person is told to get married and have kids to solve the problem (“It ruined both our lives”), another former boy’s mother admonishes him with “Everybody’s going to blame me if you don’t behave right.”
The voices here are refreshingly frank and bitingly funny. For those who might not have trans friends, it’s an education—on stealing hormone-boosting birth-control pills, on genital scarring, on illicit silicone pump parties, and on what it’s like to drive a car in high heels for the first time. The women don’t agree on every topic, but that’s the point: some can’t afford or don’t want sex-reassignment surgery; some care much more than others about “passing” as female.
Lucas and directors Fay Nass and Cameron Mackenzie find ways to create an arc out of all this—moments where the women listen empathetically to one another or comfort each other, or move around a set that consists of simple rows of chairs.
Perhaps the most amazing thing is the way the performers—almost all of them nonactors—own the stories they tell. They include human-rights activist, political candidate, and surprisingly natural presence Morgane Oger, who appears as a funny and brutally honest British-Australian gynecologist who transitions late in life. And mental-health worker Carolynn Dimmer plays an Aussie who skydives and hunts (“I’m about as feminine as Jabba the Hut”), while Cree Canada’s a Drag! star Quanah Style nails a street-talking Luna.
By the time the show ended, they felt like friends, confidantes, and probably the bravest people you’ve ever met. And not just because they chose to leave the house last Friday.