Shining a Spotlight on Gender Identity: Upperclassmen Perform “The Naked I”

“I am nobody, I am nothing and I am everybody and everything,” replied Subject, played by Mihika Sridhar ’16 in a response to a question about identification asked by Claudia Chu ’17, playing Interviewer, in the skit “Nothing.” Although confused by the response, Interviewer continues to ask questions about Subject’s genitals and sexual habits, in a mechanical voice.

“Nothing” was one of the skits in “The Naked I: Monologues from Beyond the Binary” by Tobias K. Davis. A cast of 31 Uppers and Seniors performed “The Naked I” this past Friday in the Theatre Classroom. The shows were produced by Foster Conklin ’16, Kieto Mahaniah ’16 and Erica Nork ’16 and advised by Allen Grimm, Instructor in Theatre.

“I feel that it’s very important to perform monologues like this because even within social justice circles, the voices of intersex, genderqueer and transgender individuals are often either not heard, or mentioned as a side note. This performance was an opportunity to put those voices in the spotlight, which rarely happens,” wrote Joshua Jordan ’16 in an email to The Phillipian.

After last spring’s performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” a play focused on destigmatizing the vagina, then-Uppers Conklin, Mahaniah and Nork decided to bring “The Naked I” to Andover in an effort to continue campus conversation about gender and to share some perspectives of transgender, genderqueer, non-binary and intersex individuals.

“I hope that all of those who got to see the show, and for all those who participated, that it stirred them as much as it did me… I also hope that audience members took away consciousness for their own discomfort – a lot of material in ‘The Naked I’ could make someone uncomfortable, and I hope that those who might have felt uncomfortable with the material ask themselves why, probe into the root of that discomfort and see what they might discover there,” wrote Nork in an email to The Phillipian.

In another skit called “A Trans Woman’s Vagina Monologue,” Claire Tellekson-Flash ’16 stood on a black box in the center of stage while wearing a pink robe with a white flamingo pattern. Grabbing a mirror, she opened her legs to the side to reenact her first time looking at her new puffy vagina, the result of a successful sexual reassignment surgery. Taking off her robe, she revealed a lavender dress as she went into detail about the problems that had arose in her life since her surgery, walking in a circle before finally sitting on the box, appearing blissful.

“I thought these were stories that really needed to be told and I wanted to be a part of the telling of those stories. The most interesting part of my monologue was trying to understand and do justice to my character. As someone who has had very few struggles with their gender identity, I wanted to do her justice in telling her story,” said Tellekson-Flash.

As the gentle tune of a country song ends, a single spotlight focused on Graeme, played by Jack Quamme ’16, as he sat on a black box looking out into the audience in “An Average Bloke.” With his left hand on his lap, he gestured using his right as he described his thoughts on becoming a girl despite being born a boy, a feeling that had been growing since his childhood. Graeme went on to describe his experience trying on his sister’s clothing in order to ascertain his gender identity.

“My favorite skit was called ‘An Average Bloke’,” said Zoe Sottile ’17, an audience member. “I liked it mostly because of [Quamme’s] acting. Whereas a lot of the other skits were very loud and brash [but still] amazing, Quamme’s was a lot quieter. It provided a nice contrast and increased the complex range of perspectives included in the show. He seemed very genuine and sincere. His performance felt really intimate, like he was actually just talking to the audience.”

Conklin said, “I think the stage is a great tool for raising important and often difficult discussions on campus because seeing something on stage makes the whole issue resonate on a much more visceral level than simply reading [or] hearing about it.”