What: Dozens of interviews for “Trans Scripts”
Where: Oberon hosts a staged reading presented by American Repertory Theater on Nov. 23. Free. www.americanrepertory
More than 75 transgendered individuals from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, India, and Cuba shared their stories with playwright Paul Lucas. A writer and producer, Lucas transformed those stories into the documentary play “Trans Scripts,” which has a staged reading at Oberon in Cambridge on Nov. 23.
“I interviewed nurses, janitors, actors, all kinds of people over the last three years,” Lucas says. “The people I interviewed included trans males, trans females, intersex people, and a couple of gender non-conforming individuals.”
When he started, Lucas says he didn’t know much about the topic: “I generally began with ‘Only you know where your story begins — that moment when you first experienced a disconnect between your family and society’s expectations of you and how you behaved and identified. What can you tell me about that?’ ”
As he reviewed his interviews, which lasted anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours, the most interesting elements were the moments where the stories intersected, Lucas recalls. “There are key things I heard again and again,” he says, “like how to deal with bathrooms.”
Ultimately, he winnowed the interviews down to six transgender women, representing a cross-section of age, race, education, and socioeconomic status. While he edited each story, he made sure each represented the actual words of the people he interviewed.
“I’m the only person who has met all of these people, so there’s no opportunity for dialogue between them,” he says. “No one wept or screamed in front of me, either, so for the purposes of the dramatic arc I tried to place two monologues next to each other that provide a contrast.”
The reading at Oberon, directed by award-winning director Jo Bonney (“When Father Comes Home From the War Parts 1, 2 & 3”), will provide Lucas with a sense of where to take the piece from here, he says.
Meanwhile, he focused on gathering a unique group to play these roles. Jay Knowles, a budding celebrity stylist, will make her stage debut, joining actresses Calpernia Addams (above front), Bianca Leigh, Jodie Lynne McClintock, Carolyn M. Smith, and Julia Motyka.
Lucas says the power of the piece is in the voices of the individuals he interviewed. But he believes there’s an opportunity to use “Trans Scripts” to raise awareness of transgender issues, in the same way Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues” raises awareness and money to prevent violence against women.
“As a white gay male, I’m often not pleased with the generalizations about the gay community,” Lucas says. “There’s a certain vocal force driving the narrative, and the same is true in the transgender community. My hope is that these interviews will offer a glimpse into this world through these individuals.”