Forum Theatre's "the T Party" Celebrates D.c.'s Transgender Community (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Transcripts

Forum Theatre's 'The T Party' Celebrates D.C.'s Transgender Community

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:08
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and this week we are all about inspiration. In this next story we'll hear about a world premiere play inspired by true stories of gender transformation. Washington D.C.'s transgender population is growing, it definitely faces its share of struggles though.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:28
40 percent of respondents to the Washington Transgender Needs survey say they don't have a high school diploma. 42 percent say they're unemployed and 19 percent report they don't have a place to live. But this new play, "The T Party," seeks to celebrate this community and bring its trials, tribulations and, yes, triumphs to the stage.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:50
Georgetown theatre professor Natsu Onoda Power has been developing the piece since 2008 and next week Forum Theatre is presenting the play as its season finale at Roundhouse Theatres Silver Spring space. I recently sat down with Natsu Onoda Power during a rehearsal and started by asking her about the play's title.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:01:08
So let's explain to people listening that when we say "T Party" we're not T-E-A Party we're the letter "T."

MS. NATSU ONODA POWER

00:01:13
With a capital "T," it's capital T, yes. And when the project started in 2007 well there was no Tea Party, T-E-A Party then right, but I know two people who met through this organization called TEA Transgender Education Association of greater Washington.

MS. NATSU ONODA POWER

00:01:31
And the two people are married, they both used to be biologically male. Now they are women and I was asking them where they met and they said, "At a TEA convention." And I thought it was T-E-A convention, you know, and I wanted to play with that word.

MS. NATSU ONODA POWER

00:01:49
And then "T" was standing in for transgender in 2008, but as I worked through the show I decided that it's standing for Transgression. Because the stories grew and became not just about transgender issues but about gender transgression in general.

MS. NATSU ONODA POWER

00:02:14
And in this most recent incarnation, I decided that it wasn't standing in for transgression anymore, it was standing in for transformation because people are not always trying to transgress. It is transforming. So we're calling it "Celebrating Gender Transformation in D.C." And all the stories are real, collected from people that I know.

SHEIR

00:02:37
How did you go about finding the stories?

POWER

00:02:39
I happened to get to know some people who identify as transgender in 2007, 2008 and I was really interested in the community and the stories that they were telling me just as personal stories as friends. And then I thought the stories were so theatrical and empowering that I thought I would share with other people.

SHEIR

00:03:04
Can you give an example one of the stories?

POWER

00:03:05
So I was out with a friend of mine who identifies as a cross dresser and he identifies as male that likes to wear dresses and looks sexy and he's a really fun friend. So we were out and he told me that he invited someone that he didn't know from an ad on Craigslist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1

00:03:24
She looks like model. She is like really gorgeous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #1

00:03:28
What was her ad?

#1

00:03:30
She was looking for a guy, you know, in causal encounters.

#1

00:03:33
Oh.

POWER

00:03:33
And it turns out that this person was a fully transitioned person, male to female and was an escort but, you know, these two people were very interested in each other's lives. Very different mode of dressing, right, because being trans is a profession for one person and the other person, my friend, was a casual cross-dresser and we had a really interesting night out.

#1

00:04:00
I mean, I've always liked guys and my parents were so supportive so, I mean, you obviously want to be with guys right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #2

00:04:11
No, no, actually.

#1

00:04:13
Well, I guess you're married so that must make it difficult and I understand.

#2

00:04:18
No, I like women.

#1

00:04:20
You like women but you want to be with a guy.

#2

00:04:23
No, actually not at all.

SHEIR

00:04:27
What's another example of something from the story that we might see or a story we might hear?

POWER

00:04:32
One of the scenes is the very first scene of the play which is a text message exchange between two people and its read verbatim.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #3

00:04:41
Is this your new dress?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2

00:04:43
Yes.

#3

00:04:45
Cute.

POWER

00:04:46
It's based on actual text message exchanges and I strung together a few different ones to make it a little bit ambiguous not specific.

#2

00:04:57
I really like that one, too, I have another one just like it but I didn't put it online. It's a little naughty.

#3

00:05:04
This skirt is so short.

#2

00:05:08
Too short?

#3

00:05:09
No, not with your gorgeous legs.

#2

00:05:12
"Smiley face."

POWER

00:05:13
And one of the cast members happens to write explicit queer rap which I'm calling trans-genre music and we're making it into a live action music video.

POWER

00:05:39
I have been working on since 2008 and what's interesting about it is that in the five years peoples' lives have changed, whose stories we've told in the play. So the play has a different ending now because peoples' lives have changed.

SHEIR

00:05:58
So will it keep changing if the play keeps being performed?

POWER

00:06:02
Yes, I would think so and then maybe new things will get added, some things get subtracted. And then you also learn so much from sharing it with the audience right. And then you get to know the experience a little bit more and you keep tailoring it so it's more enjoyable and more engaging.

SHEIR

00:06:25
That was Natsu Onoda Power the playwright and director of "The T Party" running July 17th through the 27th at Roundhouse Silver Spring. We have more information about the show on our website, metroconnection.org.
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