×
  • ×

    One of the Guys – Performance Review

    ‘Would you believe I was almost homecoming queen in high
    school?’ Scott Turner Schofield asks in the opening of his show
    Underground Transit. ‘Picture it: Football field.
    Fluorescent light. Ms. Congeniality on one side, Ms. Best Dressed
    on the other, and me.’ It is a little hard to imagine, given that
    Schofield is now a guy. Or, he’d argue, he was always a guy-albeit
    one born in a girl’s body who grew up to be a debutante. His
    poetic, theatrical shows are full of such mind-twisting images,
    encouraging audiences to rethink their ideas about gender and
    identity.

    Schofield, a 25-year-old female-to-male transsexual from
    Charlotte, North Carolina, is a rising light in the field of queer
    theater. He has performed at regional theaters and theater
    festivals in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and elsewhere, and
    has brought his ‘one-trannie’ shows and workshops to major
    universities. His college audiences span everyone from women’s
    studies classes to fraternities. This month, his residency at the
    University of Wyoming in Laramie will mark the eighth anniversary
    of the beating death of gay student Matthew Shepard.

    Schofield recently received the largest commission of his
    career. The National Performance Network (NPN), an alliance of
    performing arts presenters, gave him a grant to create Becoming
    a Man in 127 EASY Steps
    . The new show will debut next May in
    Seattle at the Pat Graney Company, and later will play at 7 Stages
    in Atlanta and DiverseWorks in Houston. A second NPN grant provides
    for Schofield to talk at community forums and teach performance
    workshops in conjunction with the show.

    Though plenty of mainstream theatergoers are not about to sit
    through an evening of storytelling from a self-described gender
    renegade, Schofield’s performances are intended to reach out to the
    average Joe with a mix of humor, honesty, and vulnerability.
    Schofield wants to tell stories that are unforgettable while
    helping people understand themselves better, he says: ‘I’m hoping
    to make a space for us to grow and love ourselves, whatever we
    are.’

    ‘I find his pieces to be very truthful, thought-provoking, and
    artistically very interesting,’ says Melissa Foulger, associate
    artistic director of 7 Stages. ‘He uses a lot of elements, like
    changes of clothes and integration of music, to further the
    emotional struggles of the stories he’s telling. His pieces really
    come from a personal place. While it is a performance, you can feel
    the heart that beats beneath the piece is his heart.’

    Poetic probably wasn’t the first word that came to mind when
    Schofield, as a young girl named Katie Kilborn, started telling
    people she wanted to be a boy when she grew up. At 7, she thought
    about her body during a bath and concluded she must have received a
    sex change operation.

    By 16, she had come out as a lesbian at her wealthy private
    school. Though she was accepted there, even elected student body
    president in her senior year, she was so unhappy she tried to
    commit suicide twice. Though she had come out into a community, she
    still felt isolated. It wasn’t until Kilborn did a theater
    internship in New York during college that she met her first trans
    man and could put a name to what she felt.

    Kilborn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta, where
    Underground Transit was her honors thesis. Students from Bennington
    College in Vermont and Bard College in New York saw the show and
    arranged for her to perform at their schools. Those gigs led to
    others. By 2002 Kilborn began thinking of herself as a transgender
    person and eventually changed her name to Scott Turner
    Schofield.

    Today, Schofield makes his living entirely as a writer and
    performer. His theater pieces include Debutante Balls, in
    which he peers out from the folds of a poofy white prom dress and
    laments the fact that nobody threw a big party for him when he came
    out as a lesbian. ‘The debutantes understand: Coming out should be
    your own made-for-TV movie-of-the-week, the kind that ends in a
    ball with the date you’ve always wanted,’ he tells the audience. In
    The Southern Gents Tour, performed with Katz of the Athens
    Boy Choir, Schofield riffs on ‘how we ‘do’ gender, race, class, and
    politics down here-in a polite and friendly manner, of course.’

    His work hums with a feminist sensibility. ‘The more I pass as a
    white man, I gain privilege that’s not necessarily deserved,’ he
    says. He believes that men who become women have a tougher time
    than women who become men, because of a cultural undercurrent of
    sexism. For some people, the idea of becoming a man earns grudging
    respect.

    One stunning aspect of Schofield’s on-stage presence is his
    body. Though he began testosterone therapy to lower his voice and
    build muscle mass last year-‘it was sort of like going through
    puberty’-he has not had surgery. He looks like a man until the
    moment in Underground Transit when he briefly removes his
    shirt and the binding over his chest, revealing breasts. For now,
    he’s keeping them. ‘I think I was given this body as a way of doing
    something important,’ he says. ‘My transgender body says something
    that no male or female body can.’

    Visit www.undergroundtransit.com to learn about
    upcoming performances by Scott Turner Schofield.

    Published on Nov 1, 2006

    UTNE

    In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.