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
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
‘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
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
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.
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