Friday Phone Call #60

Gender Identity in Theater—Jess Barbagallo and P. Carl

Today I followed a hunch that there was an interesting conversation to be had with Jess Barbagallo and P. Carl about gender in today's theater. Carl, of course wrote this essay last year. I have seen Jess's work in a number of productions, including House/Divided, Man in a Case, and Half Straddle's House of Dance. The conversation stems from a very awkward (to me) moment in House of Dance where Jess's character, Lee, is confronted over gender in a devastating way. Lee crumbles, mumbles, and withdraws from the confrontation. What struck me, listening to these two talk, was how relentless and varied these confrontations are for people living between the poles of our binary perceptions of gender. I was also shocked by how little I am prepared to have a conversation about life between those poles. I can talk about many things—lord knows! But in this conversation I discovered the limits of my own confidence in the topic, even with my best friend and closest collaborator in Polly. Jess and Polly are generous, open, discovering shared territory of experience. I fumble around the language, I grasp at the edges of what is and isn't appropriate, and I generally galumph around. It was a learning moment and I thank my gifted guests for taking me through it!

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