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GUEST COLUMN Battling Trump via art, an actor's superpower
by Delia Kropp
2018-11-14

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Let's acknowledge one thing, after two years of misery: Our president is not stupid. He is not an idiot or moron.

In fact, he is probably the most savvy leader America has ever had with regard to one key, under-utilized aspect of his office: namely, the so-called bully pulpit.

Other presidents have calmly enlisted support for non-legislative agendas, spoken eloquently for causes both popular and not. Trump on the other hand just grabs Americans by the balls and twists. You have no choice but to respond strongly: to either hate him or bend to his will.

Maybe he lacks the intelligence and reasoning to do things "presidentially" or maybe he knows that his way gets results. Hate him, he paints you as reactionary, mobilizes followers against you, and frustrates you into despairing inaction or violence. Or, submit to his litany of fear and then you'll submit on other issues too, because he's not actually convinced you, he's established a personal dominance. He's Daddy Trump, and you're his bitch.

The difference here is an unabashed use and manipulation of human emotions. What Trump says makes no legal or logical sense—it's our feelings that are tapped, stirred up, and put through the wringer. Unfortunately for us, Democratic leaders have spent their whole lives couched within the trappings of the law, of reason, and of intellectual rigor they are unwilling or maybe just ill-equipped to answer fire with fire.

Well, I am a great believer in civilized debate, and am highly-educated. But I also happen to be working in a field where feelings are my very bread and butter. I am an actor and director in the performing arts.

Also, I am transgender. And I am fighting back.

One-Two Punch

Last May, on these pages, I spoke out against America's long legacy of trans mis-representation in popular entertainment. Even today, our "treatment" in most films and television leans towards the sordid, exploitative, and it services the fears and titillation of cis people. At best, it reinforces only what you already misunderstand about us. At its worst, movies and most plays push us even further towards the margins of society.

Five months later, I'm now in a position to do something about that and, in the process, to meet our president squarely on his own turf.

Punch One: TransScripts

Onstage at Theater Wit this November 18, Chicago audiences will find seven transgender characters brought to life by—and this is critical—seven transgender actors.

I'm directing "TransScripts, Part I: The Women," a unique piece devised entirely from the verbatim testimony of transgender women. People of all ages, nationalities and ethnicities. Women who have suffered, tried to kill themselves, and nearly killed others; who have loved, yearned, hated and fought hard for their tenuous place in America. People that Trump would brand "losers" but who possess an integrity and strength he cannot begin to comprehend.

Even you allies, those who have us "all figured out," you need to experience this work too. TransScripts isn't just a "trans play." It's as close as you'll get to walking in someone else's shoes, to feel our humanity viscerally and not to merely appreciate it from a social justice or intellectual perspective. This play does what theater does best: In between the laughs and entertainment, grab you, shake you up a little, and open some windows.

Punch Two: Landlocked

Let's just admit it: The camera loves pretty faces. And young bodies. Accordingly we audiences love to be seduced by those impossibly passable and gorgeous trans girls who are so hot you can say, yeah, trans people are cool. The world should definitely have more hot-looking femmes.

Let me tell you: That is not what being trans is about, anymore than ( insert famous Hollywood beauty here ) represents the reality of being female in this world.

So come January 2019, I'm taking this 62 year-old-face, body, and matrix of complex life experiences down to Atlanta, Georgia, and pouring it all into a character you've seldom seen on any screen.

Not a cute babe but a trans father, long estranged from her son for decades after a terrible divorce, reunited under painful circumstances, with their entire history brought to bear in ragged, imperfect attempts at understanding and reconciliation.

In other words, it's not a "trans movie." This film cuts cuts deep into a situation many of us have already lived in some fashion, trans or not. It will grab an audience where they live ... even without a pair of killer legs or augmented bosoms in sight.

And the winner is…

On the field of emotional combat, a war of hearts, the victor is anointed by those in the stands. You.

Please ask yourself, what's your biggest challenge in supporting transgender work? I'm going to guess: It's just heading to the theater, and trusting us to let these stories take their hold, and speak to your heart.

Remember that participating in this age-old act of human storytelling, yields an extra bonus: you're also lending support to our critical struggle, what's been called the civil rights battle of the 21st century. You're landing a big one, bang on the nose of the worst president in American history.

TransScripts performs one night only, Nov. 18, 5 pm, at Theatre Wit. Admission is free. RSVP by email to: insider@aboutfacetheatre.com . To help out the film Landlocked, see their Seed and Spark page at www.seedandspark.com/fund/landlocked. Info for both projects is on my site, therealdelia.com .


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