An Interview with Playwright Lara Rae
As the Opening Night of Dragonfly approaches (March 14-24, 2019), we took a moment to ask Lara some questions based on her play and on her past experiences:
Why it is important to share stories written by trans writers?
To show where fundamentally we are the same as cis people. And to show where we are different, unique, special, valid, deep and valuable. In my case, I want people to know how important it was that I was doing something valid. Scientifically and spiritually. That hormones and surgery would quell my lifelong gender dysphoria and that surgery would make me feel complete and for want of a better word, normal. I think many people have very little knowledge of trans people and seem bizarrely incurious, but also permit themselves to wax for hours about our lives and our rights and our needs. I think the science is growing more firm every day that trans brains have a variant that can be seen with instruments, a variant that makes our brains appear closer on some mappings to the gender we know we are. And yet most people still frame it as a “choice’. This is something I did that I needed to do, that I did years too late and that is very serious and life-saving. Also, people should know many of us are very happy but we are so often treated like garbage and it wears you down and kills your trust. I am one of the very very lucky ones. I have loving friends, a loving family, a job, a home, and my health. All these things are taken for granted by many. Many trans people have none of the above. People are trying to erase us from public life and I often feel like they are succeeding.
Why did you choose to have to two performers tell the story of a trans person?
There are two answers. First, that pre-transition in 2010, I wrote a show for TPM for the Carol Shields Festival of New Works called One Man’s Show with Sarah Constible, a gender autobiography that dealt with my gender dysphoria in a subtle way. In early transition, I considered a second act for TPM called One Woman’s Show, this act starring a male actor. Then, I, and the world changed and the limitless potential of stripping binary and gender from art suddenly freed the whole enterprise. I had always wanted this play to be the inside voice of a trans child and adult since so many stories of trans lives are about bodies changing and bodies colliding with others. (If I see one more news story of a trans woman that starts with her or them putting on makeup, I will hurl). So now, we have a show for two actors of any gender, age or ability who I call THEY and THEM and who both embody a trans identity from the inside. In assigning lines to this cast, I ignored gender leanings and you soon find they are so pervasive and yet so easily dispensed of with patience and imagination. I focused entirely on their individual strengths and since this work is basically blank verse, on how I could hear them (or they) saying a particular line. It was tough because Sarah’s performance in the first show was so fresh in my mind and I moved a few lines to Eric which was strange to my ears at first but confirmed that this experiment in non-gendered theatre esp in a play that deals so much with gender could work. And I hope you all agree.
How are you able to be so vulnerable and forthcoming about your life experience. What motivates your vulnerability?
I think more properly I write about times when I was vulnerable and part of maybe why the play ends at the start of my transition process is that I am still vulnerable in being a trans woman who only passes as a woman some of the time and I need more time to look back on this vulnerable time. I think you need to be not angry to be funny, and not angry to write about the hurt you have endured and the hurt you have caused, so you need some growth and distance. As for forthcoming, I think it’s the same. To use an alimentary metaphor I think we can only regurgitate what we have fully digested. Otherwise, your work is gas or puke.
What do you hope people will take away from this play?
That this was a spiritual journey for me: from innocence, through a wilderness of puberty and pain, to purgatory and bardo and finally to redemption rebirth and happiness
You have a broad range of activities in your life that people may not know about – What are your passions in life?
Friends, cooking, reading, rats, opera, theatre, classical music; feeling happy and alive most of the time now. Also, since my transition, I am more interested in looking at things in a different way. As Poe wrote: The more I see, the more it seems it’s all a dream within a dream. I love ghosts and the enneagram and take the horoscope serious enough I will avoid stuff if it tells me to. I also attend Quaker Meetings, St. Ben’s Table, and Young United on occasion. I love the quiet of the Quakers and the music and sermons at Young and St. Ben’s. I strive to break what Blake calls our “mind-forg’d manacles”,
In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant’s cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear.
~ Wm. Blake, London
You are a huge fan of opera – what are your top three opera picks that everyone should see in their lifetime?
Even if you can’t see them, listen: Verdi’s Rigoletto, The Ring Cycle by Richard Wagner, All the mature Mozart operas, Lucia Di Lammermoor, by Donizetti Janacek’s Janufa, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk by Shostakovich, is that three?
You grew up in Glasgow in the 1960s – what did Winnipeggers miss out on?
Not much. It was coming to the end of a dirty, sluggish, impoverished, depressed time and a better one would not begin until years after we left. Moving to Toronto in 1972 (mullets excepted) was the best thing my parents ever did for themselves or my sister and me.
You talk about your experience in Toronto during the AIDS crisis in Dragonfly, what can tell us about the Toronto AIDS crisis that people might not know?
Cynically: that there was an AIDS crisis and many many many young people died and no-one seemed to care, not really. That as crap as it is for trans people now it was ten times worse for any gay or in any way non-cisnormative non-heterosexual person when I grew up. Also, it was a true death sentence so the idea of thinking you were infected and being terrified to get tested made people antsy and grumpy and tired but at the same time most people walked around like nothing was happening.
Do you have future project plans you wish to share?
I am getting married! I just have to meet someone. I am leaving the Winnipeg Comedy Festival after 18 years. I am teaching, I love it. I want to read even more and write poetry.
Theatre Project Manitoba: January Salon Takeover
Tuesday, January 29, 2019
The Good Will – Social Club
625 Portage, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3B 2G4
A New Year! New Beginnings! New Art!
Join some of Winnipeg’s coolest Indie Theatre artists as they TAKEOVER the TPM SALON and set out on wild new artistic journeys.
Start your year off with inspiring new ideas!
Curated by Tanner Manson!
The Fresh & Fearless Line up:
Naked Theatre Productions preview of “Little Dead Lady” – Created and performed by: Rebekah Anne Marie, Jenn Davis, and Sarah Flynn; premiering at IbsenFest.
New Work by Fill The (W)hole Theatre Company – Lindsay Johnson, Brigitte Plouffe and Rayna Masterton.
Hera Nalam will be sharing some original theatrical tunes!
Music new and beloved (and maybe more?) by Walk&Talk Theatre Company – Duncan Cox, Tanner Manson and Ben Townsley.
Darla Contois will share an excerpt of a new piece.
A reading of a new work by Wren Brian – “A Fine Line”.
About the Artists:
Inspired by their love of storytelling, Fill The Whole Theatre Company aims to collaborate with a range of artists and community members to create multidisciplinary theatrical experiences.
Walk&Talk Theatre Company is a Winnipeg-based, award-winning company that aims to find innovative ways of creating original music and original theatre that engages the heart and the brain.
Hera Nalam is a 23 year old up and coming singer-songwriter and actor originally from Cebu, Philippines but is now locally based in Winnipeg.
Naked Theatre Productions – Naked /’nāked/ (adj.) without the usual covering or protection; exposed to harm; vulnerable.
Darla Contois is an award winning Cree/Salteaux theatre artist based out of Winnipeg, MB. She graduated from the Centre for Indigenous Theatre in Toronto of 2014. Her work has taken her all across Canada and most recently overseas to Germany’s Theatreformen Theatre Festival.
Wren Brian started her career in Whitehorse, Yukon (territory of the Kwanlin Dün & Ta’an Kwäch’än) where she was born and raised. Currently based in Winnipeg on Treaty 1 territory, she is dedicated to creating characters that can be played by actors of any gender, ancestry, ability, and/or age.
Happy Holidays from TPM
We would like to wish everyone the happiest of Holidays and the very best for a New Year filled with peace and joy, happiness and good health and every other good wish for YOU, our fantastic friends!
2018 was an amazing year with the World Premiere of Patrick Friesen’s A Short History of Crazy Bone, the first ever Interlake Chautauqua Tour and Stephen Massicotte’s beautiful drama, Mary’s Wedding!
A few special nods to our community:
We congratulate Patrick Friesen on his Evie Award for Best New Work and celebrate the entire team led by director Andraea Sartison, choreographer Tanja Woloshen and the incomparable Tracey Nepinak, as Crazy Bone.
The Interlake Chautauqua Fundraiser on May 3rd launched us up Highways 6, 7 and 8 with The Interlake Chautauqua Tour! Thank you to all our community partners for opening their hearts and homes to our merry band of artists! We look forward to sharing more from our adventures at our April 30th Salon -Save the Date!
The culmination of 18 months of work, the Chautauqua tour included everything from perogy and vinarterta workshops, a Historical Art Tour through New Iceland, over 150 hours of theatre workshops for children and youth, and three screenings of Andy Blicq’s documentary, A Song for John Ramsay with special guests Scott Nolan and William Prince were held in Riverton and Peguis. Mary’s Wedding was performed in high schools and community halls across the region and Salons were held in greenhouses, bars, halls, and a big boisterous kitchen party rocked the Arborg Legion! Dances for teens and seniors were hosted with the Country Pride band. (PLUS Andraea was 7 months pregnant when she started the tour… we’re happy to have now welcomed the newest member of TPM!)
As the year drew to a close, Grant Guy conducted a sold out Object Theatre Workshop which included visiting artists from Théâtre de la Pire Espèce and a special performance of their show Ubu on the Table. Thanks to our partners at Théâtre Cercle Moliere for making this cultural exchange possible.
Finally, our hearty thanks to the Goodwill Social Club for hosting our Salons. Good cheer and warm hugs to our volunteers for all their enthusiastic help. And a special shout out to Debbie Patterson, Grant Guy, Gislina Patterson, Zorya Arrow and Prairie Fire for partnering on the salon programming in 2018. Salons in the New Year to be held on January 29th, February 26th and April 30th!
We want to thank you for all of your support and love – we really appreciate each and every one of you! Not to mention, a huge heartfelt thanks to this year’s partners & generous sponsors!
TPM Staff – Ardith, Andraea, Rea, Ian and Corinne
TPM Board – Clay, Janet, Bill, Carolyn, Ray, Lisa, Justin and Chris!
Photo credit – Dylan Hewlett – A Short History of Crazy Bone
Linda Beech – Set Design, Itai Erdal – Lighting Design, jaymez – Sound Design, Claire Thérèse Friesen – Costume Design
Ensemble – David Arial, Zorya Arrow, Arne MacPherson, Tracy Penner, Tracey Nepinak
Photo credit – Duncan McNairnay – Mary’s Wedding
Featuring Justin Fry and Sarah Flynn
Set Design by Rebekah A.M. Enns, Costume Design by Joseph Abetria, Lighting Design by Adam Parboosingh, Sound Design by Matthew Waddell, Composition by Scott Nolan
Photo credit – Chris Sousa – Interlake Chautauqua – Featuring Claire Friesen