My Gender is Hot Fire
The Birth of the Non-Binary Monologues Project
In their HowlRound piece titled “Don’t Call me Ma’am: On the Politics of Trans Casting”, playwright MJ Kaufman eloquently expresses: “The bodies we see onstage make our experiences visible. For invisible people, like trans and gender nonconforming people, it is necessary that we use ourselves to tell our stories.”
I was recently asked if a resource for non-binary monologues existed. When I realized one didn’t exist, I decided to build one.
Within the hour, The Non-Binary Monologues Project was born.
I started with a simple WordPress template and frenetically started blasting my social media with the call for submissions for monologues specifically for non-binary actors. Submissions swiftly started rolling in. The Associate Artistic Director of Village Theatre started to follow one of the Facebook threads and the Chair of the Theatre department at Cornish College of the Arts said he would share the link with all of his acting instructors.
I posted the call for submissions in The Official Playwrights of Facebook group and received invaluable feedback from Asher Wyndham, who helped me craft the guidelines so they more closely fit a playwright’s expectations of a call for submissions.
In the two weeks since the site has gone live, over 1,200 unique visitors have visited it. I have posted monologues from twenty-eight different plays with monologues from non-binary, gender fluid, genderqueer, asexual, trans masculine and trans feminine characters.
If our goal as actors in the audition room is to show a piece of our soul, to let the director see who we truly are, having access to these monologues is a crucial part of the equation for non-binary actors.
We need a resource like the Non-Binary Monologues Project, because acting is still an industry very enmeshed in the gender binary. When was the last time you were asked your pronouns on an audition form? Have you ever seen a non-binary or gender-neutral dressing room backstage? How many times has a director asked for the pronouns of all actors in the cast on the first day of rehearsal?
Non-binary actors simply cannot do their best work in an audition room if the audition piece they select doesn’t align with their gender.
By creating a free, online non-binary monologue database, my hope is that non-binary actors can more easily access pieces that align with their gender. If our goal as actors in the audition room is to show a piece of our soul, to let the director see who we truly are, having access to these monologues is a crucial part of the equation for non-binary actors.
This need for non-binary representation in theatre extends far beyond the audition room. As a genderqueer, non-binary actor, I crave the opportunity to explore both male and non-binary roles onstage. This is a seismic shift from the twenty plus years I spent playing almost exclusively female roles. My gender has evolved, and the roles for which I want to audition have evolved as well.
And it shows. I recently had a colleague who commented that upon meeting me for the first time, he didn’t feel as though he had the vocabulary with which to accurately describe my gender. “I thought, that person’s gender is just—hot fire.”
Non-binary actor and director Eddie DeHais had this to say to the theatrical community at large earlier this week:
Please actively seek out trans and non-binary actors for roles that have nothing to do with their gender/transness. They are not being hired because they are being limited to roles that only center on their marginalization. If you are a producer, consider how you can produce plays with that goal in mind.
One such play is Deers, by Seattle-based playwright, Marcus Gorman. My new favorite monologue is from this very play and can be accessed here.
While writing the play, Gorman created character descriptions and stage directions that were as inclusive a possible—it is a piece with infinite permutations of gender and casting. To me, this is groundbreaking work and we need more of it.
Folx have asked me where this project is headed. They have indicated an interest in publishing a book of monologues, which I’m open to, provided I can find the proper partner in crime.
For me, the next steps are creating a “classical” category where the database can start amassing monologues from Shakespeare, Behn, Moliere, Chekhov, Ibsen, that, though imperfect, will help non-binary actors complete their audition package.
A long-term goal is to create not only a list of musical theatre repertoire that might be attractive for non-binary actors, but also to compile a list of composers who will transpose songs gratis so that they may hit more authentically in the vocal range of non-binary and trans-identified actors.
The Non-Binary Monologues project cost nothing but my time to create and signal boost into the wilds of social medial. The lesson here, dear reader, is that if you have an idea that can be of service to marginalized voices, do not wait for permission. Screw your courage to the sticking place, if you will, and go forth.
There is no need to pay for a domain name or a theatre with which to align your work. You and your ideas for diversity and inclusion may be exactly the change the current theatrical landscape needs. If you need help, I’m here for you. Contact me at nonbinarymonologues (at) gmail (dot) com, and I’ll gladly give you an hour of my time.