I Wanted This Role To Be Played By A Trans Woman.
This role, has been one of the most challenging
roles in my career as an actor. I am playing Terry, the MTF trans lead in the world premiere of the musical ‘Three Hots and a Cot’. The show is being staged at the Rochester Repertory Theater in my little-big-town of Rochester, MN.
There were a couple key reasons why I auditioned. Firstly, I knew that the script was going to be brilliant. How could it not, having been authored by longstanding theater names like Deb Fuehrer, Theo St. Mane and Greg Hintermeister? Also, I wanted to contribute in another way… by furthering the visibility of trans actors and the concept of trans people portraying trans people on stage and in film.
When the director called to offer me the part I was simultaneously ecstatic and scared shitless. After some discussion it was decided that Terry’s solo in the show would be rewritten as a burlesque number just for me. He informed me that I would be working with veteran choreographer Deb Fuehrer to create the routine, and that Greg Hintermiester could tailor the music for my voice. I was blown away.
I knew, taking this role, that there was a possibility my old companion ‘dysphoria’ would arise from its nesting place and start causing havoc in my life. But I also knew that I wanted to do this; I convinced myself that I could do this.
Cisgender actors have been portraying trans characters in Hollywood movies and on stages for decades, but that does not mean it is the way things ought to be. I feel that society is being greatly influenced by the “will not be erased” movement and that has contributed to the growing volume of trans and GNC people living a life of transparency. Or is it the other way around? Either way, greater visibility makes our collective voices louder.
Having My Packer And Binder On Stage Was Comforting
One of the things that has helped me during this role is that I get to wear my packer and binder. And that the rest of the cast has been very accepting of my gender identity. Still, there were some bumps along the way. In the beginning, every time someone referred to me as ‘she’ or ‘her’ I cringed. I died a little inside… repeatedly. I knew that mostly they were referring to Terry as ‘her’ but it was such a distraction that it made getting into character very difficult.
Finally, I spoke up, I politely reiterated my pronouns and asked that when referring to Terry to please use pronouns of they/them. I used my voice and it helped. Friends, we must use our voice.
Suddenly, in my own queer way, I had found Terry’s unique voice… their core.
I met with my Instagram friend @marissaalexamccool seeking more insight. She is an amazing woman who is also an acting coach, trans advocate, public speaker, and actress. All of her advice was golden, but the one thing she said that stuck in my brain and put me solidly into Terry’s shoes was, “What if you were in a men’s prison and they found out that you didn’t have a natural penis, imagine how that would feel.. That’s how Terry feels”.
I closed my eyes and mentally put myself into that position. Immediately fear and shock hit my body like a thousand-pound weight… suddenly, in my own queer way, I had found Terry’s unique voice, her core.
To create unique characters that are as real as you and I, we as actors, have to forge our characters with our own unique voice. In real life, people physically and verbally interact with the world in different ways, it should come as no surprise that stage and film characters should as well. For me, developing Terry’s unique voice has been a painful yet triumphant journey. For others, the process might be a shorter or less challenging one.
Voice isn’t solely comprised of how you verbally present yourself to the world around you. Voice also operates internally. It’s the narrative running through our minds always, it is what we think before we filter the words that come out of our mouths.
Voice is, in many ways, contrary.
Voice is found in what we do say and in what we don’t say. Constructing your own personal and unique voice can be a complex and time-consuming endeavor. Our ‘voice’, like our identity, changes and morphs as we grow and experience life. Please believe that “developing your voice” is integral to understanding your identity and defining how you engage with the world around you. I believe it’s worth taking the time to develop.
It is also important to recognize that voice is a dynamic thing. It can be very different at the end of your story compared to how it was at the beginning. That’s called growth.
Have I lost you yet?
The next post will delve further into how we can build our unique voice as human beings and as trans/non-binary/two spirited human beings. I am excited to share these thoughts with you and I can only hope that it may act as a helpful support or guide. Thank you for reading and sharing these intimate moments with me.
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