07 July 2012
The Fully Functional Cabaret: Trans Women's Secrets... Revealed
Last night my friend A. and I went to see The Fully Functional Cabaret: Trans Women's Secrets...Revealed! For those of you who have been going to small Bay Area theater for awhile, you know it's always a toss up. You are just as likely to see some self-indulgent, self-therapeutic, feel better garbage that is ill-crafted or possibly some really abstract, conceptual contemporary dance that you will have to pretend to "get" in order to save face with your friends, colleagues, community, what have you as you are to see a really quality production.
Well ladies, gentlemen and everyone on the gender spectrum, The Fully Functional Cabaret is the show you have been waiting for. This is the gold, the jackpot, that raw and real balanced equation of laughter and isolation, comedy and pain that makes for a theatrical experience that stays with you. Annie Danger, the Emcee is a seasoned performer and rabble rouser. She really brings it! Seriously, it's like watching Joel Grey on acid. She and the rest of the ensemble (Bryn Kelly, Red Durkln, Ryka Aoki, Shawna Virago, and Star Amerasu escort you through the humour and tragedy, the power and terror of their human experience. The show is so well-crafted in this way. First they make you laugh, you get broken open, then there is a bit of heaviness, then laughter again. And it cycles through like this 2 or 3 times until you don't get to laugh anymore because shit gets REAL! I swear, I almost had to leave at one point when Star Amerasu was portraying an attack by "doctors." She kept screaming for help and no one helped her. I swear, I know it was "not real," but at one point I really thought I was going to run up on stage and help her, take her away from the "men." (Just so you know, folks in the show, that part is so super-intense that it is just as likely that you have someone try to save Star. Be ready.)
I also really liked the part about saying, "I'm sorry." Interesting, when you think about it. How many times a day do you apologize for the space you take up? Are you trans, queer, female, a person of color, otherly-abled? How much of your energy goes to trying to assimilate, to just fit in? How often do you apologize for who you are? I loved screaming, "I'm not sorry!" At the top of my voice with a hundred other people. And I'm not. My queer, "disabled," female-identifying deserves to take up the space it does! We all get to take our space! Stop saying "I'm sorry," unless you really are apologizing for something. It's just as easy to say, "I can make room for that," or "There is space for you here."
What I really loved about this show was that I did not feel like the performers needed any sort of confirmation of themselves from me. They brought me confirmatin of myself. I'm not a trans woman, but I saw myself and my struggle represented on the stage.
This isn't just queer theater/trans theater/other theater, folks. This is theater! I would put it up there with Hedwig and the Angry Inch in terms of universal appeal. It's not just for a queer crowd. Gay, straight, trans, cis-, whoever you are, you understand Hedwig and the Angry Inch as a human story, and The Fully Functional Cabaret commands the same appeal.
In short, I had an awesome night at the theater!
After the show, A. and I go to Lucky 13 for a beer. Not my favorite bar in the Castro, but the least crowded on a Friday night. We discuss the show a bit. She says, "I don't want to be bi or gay or straight. I don't like any of these labels. I just want to be me."
"Sounds pretty queer." I offer.
"No, just me. I have a boyfriend. People won't like it if I say I'm queer."
"Queer just means that you reject hetero-normative culture as a default setting."
We finish our beers and are getting ready to go. Some drunk guy at the table next to us says to me, "I can tell you're a really good person."
I say, "Thanks! Hey, what are you doing tomorrow night? You should go see this." I show him my program from the show. His friend comes around to his side of the table, curious.
"What's the show?"
"The Fully Functional Cabaret: Trans Women's Secrets...Revealed!" I give a little flourish with my hand.
And all the safety I felt a moment ago vanishes as his features steel over in disbelief and he takes a step back. "You guys aren't trans, though. Are you?"
I feel my body tense, my chest puff out a little, "Maybe."
"No, you guys are real girls!" He laughs.
I make a fist. First off, trans women ARE "real" girls. Secondly, don't call me a girl, meathead!
"You know, that's really rude to question what's in my pants. I mean, what's in yours? Huh? Don't I seem rude for asking? Or assuming?"
A. steps between us, mumbles to the guy, "You really don't want to start this with her." And ushers me out of the bar.
"Wow," she shakes her head in disbelief. "We just saw that onstage."
"Yeah, well. It's real. Welcome to the life of a Gender Warrior."