by SOPHIE KERMAN
As the opening to the MORPHOLOGIES Queer Performance Festival, Scott Turner Schofield‘s Becoming a Man in 127 EASY Steps is a perfect balance of art and storytelling. The three companies organizing MORPHOLOGIES – Pangea World Theater, 20% Theatre Company, and RARE Productions – have spent the last two years putting together the festival, which aims to celebrate and raise awareness of queer, transgender, and gender non-conforming issues. Schofield’s deeply personal, unexpectedly funny account of his transition to maleness sets just the right tone for what is sure to be an entertaining and thought-provoking collection of performers.
Becoming a Man is a unique format for a one-person show: part acrobatic performance art, part storytelling, Schofield combines the best aspects of the two different styles. As he climbs and twists up some hanging fabric, the more abstract medium allows him to delve into the more introspective sides of his transition, while the choose-your-own-adventure storytelling component – although a pretty overused gimmick in solo shows – gives him the opportunity to connect personally with his audience. This keeps the performance different every night and fresh for Schofield, who performs each story, whether a funny two-line quip or a more shameful admission of wrongdoing, with unflinching honesty and charm.
Viewers expecting to hear how Schofield knew he was a man will be disappointed; instead, he takes his gender identity as the starting point. This choice allows him to shift away from the usual transgender narrative (confusion, angst, seeking acceptance from friends and family, etc) and focus instead on the more tangible realities of the transitioning process. His stories are about all the minutia of day-to-day gender presentation – the importance of the angle of a hat or the choice of what size fake penis to buy – and the occasionally painful mechanics of living in a male body – for instance, the ritual of testosterone injections and the associated increased risk of heart disease.
All of these theatrical choices amount to a performance centered on Schofield as a human being, not simply as a member of a queer community. Though specific to the experience of a trans man, his stories also provide a mirror for cis-gendered* people to consider how many aspects of their own gender they might take for granted or perform, unthinking, on a daily basis. For Schofield, the transition is never-ending: not only is he committed to a bi-weekly testosterone shot for the rest of his life, but he seems to be discovering new sides to his maleness every day. His experience of constantly becoming a man, as well as his energetic and humorous approach to the ironies and contradictions of gender, allows him to present identity as a multi-faceted and continually evolving collage, rather than a story with a neat moral or conclusion.
If Becoming a Man is representative of the rest of the MORPHOLOGIES festival, the rest of the week will be essential viewing – not simply as an exploration of gender issues, but as an eloquent look at human identity and relationships that encourages us to embrace difference with compassion and humor. (Schofield’s performance is for two nights only, but more information about the entire festival line-up, including free workshops and panel discussions, is available here.)
*cis-gendered = the opposite of trans; a biological male who identifies as male, or a biological female who identifies as female.
Becoming a Man in 127 EASY Steps by Scott Turner Schofield. November 9-10 at the Ritz Theatre, 345 13th Avenue Northeast, Minneapolis, MN 55413. Part of the MORPHOLOGIES Festival, November 9-19, 2012. More information about the festival at http://www.tctwentypercent.org/morphologies.html; information at Schofield at http://www.undergroundtransit.com/Performance/Pages/Becoming_a_Man_in_127_EASY_Steps.html.