Local Trans Artists Say Trump Election Has Made Upcoming Show More Urgent Than Ever

By Chicagoist_Guest in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 17, 2016 5:36PM

By Tony Boylan

The work seemed important enough when it began: a local stage production by and about transgender people, addressing issues faced by a marginalized population. But along the way the United States held a presidential election, and everyone knows how that turned out.

"The issues were already important, but now the urgency has increased," Gaby Labotka, 26, the director, told Chicagoist. "Since we first started writing and rehearsing the show, we've added a segment where we name every member of the trans community who has been murdered [this year], and we have the audience say the names, too. The number has increased to 26 people from 22.''

[Trans]formation, a show conceived, written, and performed by the transgender / genderqueer / intersex / non-binary community, that opens tonight (Nov. 17) at The Vault at Collaboration Studios in the Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave. It runs through Dec. 17.

The show is a collaboration between The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company. It's performed in the style of The Living Canvas productions, with nude performers clothed only by projections. It incorporates text, spoken word, music, dance and other movement to explore "the naked truth of gender identity."

The creators of [Trans]formation offer this invitation and description:

"[Trans]formation welcomes allies and those who know little about transgender and non-binary identities but would like to gain more awareness in the context of a theatrical production. Prior to each performance of [Trans]formation there will be a short artistic “Portrait” of a local transgender/non-binary artist. Following each performance there will be an optional discussion and opportunity for audience members to participate by “transforming” their own bodies under the projections onstage.

The creators also say they want to get their message out during a troubling time for LGBTQ rights in the U.S.: While President-Elect Donald Trump has expressed support for gay marriage at times, trans progress is less secure and Vice President-Elect Mike Pence has a record of hostility toward transgender people.

"It's a piece of healing and a piece of hope,'' says Labotka.

The [Trans]formation cast includes Gabriel Faith Howard, Ronen Kohn, Lily Jean, Chase Nuerge, Ben Polson and Kevin Sparrow.

Below are the names and ages of trans people killed in 2016, which will be discussed during the show:

Noony Norwood - 30
Sierra/Simon Bush - 18
Brandi Bledsoe - 32
Jazz Alford - 30
Lexxi Sironen - 43
Crystal Edmonds - 32
T.T. Safore - 27
Rae’lynn Thomas - 28
Erykah Tijerina - 36
Skye Mockabee - 26
Dee Whigham - 25
Deeniquia Dodds - 22
“Goddess” Diamond - 20
Amos Beede - 38
Mercedes Successful - 32
“Reecey” Walker - 32
Keyonna Blakeney - 22
Shante Thompson - 34
Quartney Davia Dawsonn-Yochum - 32
Kedarie/Kandicee Johnson - 16
Demarkis Stansberry - 30
Maya Young - 25
Veronica Banks Cano - 35
Kayden Clarke - 24
Jasmine Sierra - 52
Monica Loera - 43