Jun 4, 2006

San Antonio Pre-Show

Scott Turner Schofield
Jump-Start Performance Company
National Performance Network Community Fund Grant Report

My pre-residency with Jump-Start Performance Company in San Antonio, made possible by the Community Fund Grant, makes me believe that the community-based, multi-cultural, multi-issue work that I aim to make as a transgender solo artist is, in fact, completely possible—and totally exciting.

Before I arrived in San Antonio, JSPC members researched appropriate venues for me to network with community artists in and out of the many transgender communities in the city. When I arrived, we set up a schedule and laid out our goals:
1)Identify transgender individuals and communities in San Antonio who are active in performance, social, and/or activist circles.
2)Identify individuals and communities in San Antonio who would be allies to transpeople through art, personal solidarity, and/or social activism.
3)Identify transgender individuals and communities in Austin and Houston who are active in performance, social, and/or activist circles.
4)Identify individuals and communities in Austin and Houston who would be allies to transpeople through art, personal solidarity, and/or social activism.
5)Entice those people to speak and perform during National Performance Network residency for “Debutante Balls” at Jump-Start, May 26th and 27th.

The community element of the residency we envision for May looks like this:
What: Performance-Workshop-Networking opportunity for San Antonio-Austin-Houston artists who do with gender, in performance, what words just can't describe; Discussion forum for San Antonio transgender communities and our allies.
Why: To identify, celebrate and support trans communities and their allies in the region, talk about what matters to us, show off our work, smash some gender norms, and have a rockin' good time.
When: Friday, May 26, 8-11pm: “Debutante Balls” a 1-trannie show by Scott Turner Schofield followed by Cross-Cultural Trans-Community Forum for people of all genders.
Saturday, May 27, 2005 12pm-2am
12-2pm: Gender Performance Workshop with Scott Turner Schofield & Area Performers; 8pm: Words Can't Describe Regional Performance Showcase & Debutante Balls;
10:30pm: Drag BBQ!
What Else: EVERYBODY welcome & encouraged to participate—yes, You. Travel stipend for out-of-town artists ($100 Houston artists, $50 Austin Artists), $100 minimum honorarium for Words Can't Describe participants [paid for by the Community Fund Grant].

I translated this information into a flier, these fliers were disseminated at all of the events I attended.

A key factor in all of my work, and of course in this residency, is allyship. Artists are nothing without allies in their audience: trans artists need to be seen and supported by allies as well for our work (and our issues) to be valued. Drag shows are only so much fun because of audiences that include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and straight allies; I want to take all the fun of a drag show and infuse it with useful, community-building information through storytelling. Much of this pre-residency was spent drumming up interest among would-be performers and speakers, however the overarching goal is to outreach to communities of allies, whether they be other artists, family members, friends, or people who just happened to read the paper and want to know more about this “transgender thing”.

I began this work on Tuesday by attending Puro Slam, San Antonio's most noted (and notorious) poetry slam. I participated in the slam using moments from “Underground Transit”, my first solo show that is written in slam poetry style. The only openly queer, non-(biologically) male performer, I made it to the final round—only to be knocked out by a judge who insisted on scoring my work “6.9” every time, decreasing my final average. I plugged the show and made friends with two local performers: [name], who is on the National Slam Team for San Antonio, and [name] who does improv comedy. Both agreed to help promote the show in May, and may participate in the performance workshop for people of all genders. As a promotional activity, I am looking into headlining the May slam, which is populated mostly by Latino and Black men who love poetry no matter who's performing it, when I return to town.

Thursday is Drag Night in San Antonio; Company Artistic Director S.T. Shimi and I hit local gay and lesbian bars in full promotional form. We handed out fliers for the show and workshop, then met up with company members Monessa and Annelle for what became a singular experience, for me, as a connoisseur of drag.

I learned that San Antonio's drag scene is largely composed of transsexual artists, not artists who do not identify as transgender outside of the performance space (as is the case in many locales around the country). This means that the artists use hormones and/or have had gender-affirming surgery. This difference translates to performance which becomes, more seriously, about the body and the moves than about a campy performance of “someone else's” gender (which is differently valuable). It also makes for a lot more nudity! The performances I saw at The Saint were phenomenal—technically masterful dance pieces that exuded a sense of pleasure in the body of the performer (for him or herself). To be able to watch a transperson rock out and be sexy, and truly, un-self-consciously enjoy themselves felt like liberation to me, and was fun as hell.

I met a number of the artists that night, including the host, Erica Andrews. Andrews is San Antonio's most well-known drag queen. She expressed interest in participating in the Jump-Start program: the trick will be whether her busy schedule will allow it, and whether we can pay her enough to make missing a Saturday night of drag performance financially worthwhile to her. I also met a group of allies who call themselves The FeministDykeBitches; this group is organizing a pro-choice benefit outreaching to trans communities along common lines of sexual health and our mutual desire for freedom of choice when it comes to our bodies. They are spreading the word to other performers, and will hopefully participate in some aspect of the residency.

Another element to San Antonio's drag culture is its majority of artists of color. Too often, drag troupes and events such as “Words Can't Describe” are white-dominated, which leaves out entire communities of performers and the stories that come with them. Visibility is key for transpeople, so drag shows that exclude (for whatever reasons) artists of color do serious damage to the perception of who is and is not trans, who can or will not do drag. Such exclusion is usually a symptom of racially-divided communities at-large, but I feel it most acutely in drag events that would be so much better with a plurality of experience and participants. San Antonio's multi-cultural reality makes my goal of integrated performance truly possible—in fact, producing an all-white event here would be thankfully impossible!

On Friday, I traveled to Austin for the serendipitous 4th Anniversary of Kings'N'Things, Austin's premier drag king troupe (KNT). The group is predominantly white, however actively anti-racist (I observed through interactions and conversations among the Kings'N'Things). There were no transwomen performers in Austin, but biologically-female, “femme” performers did have an important presence. Another difference between the cities was academic: I observed a lot of gender theory and philosophy involved in the Austin performances—not so much about the body and the moves, but about word-play, sex humor, and camp. While the San Antonio Queens and Kings choreographed to pop ballads, the Kings'N'Things made elaborate skits out of such songs as “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” and “Whatever Lola Wants”. Hey, different strokes—both shows were fantastic, and if these communities come together for “Words Can't Describe”, the audience will benefit from a huge variety of well-executed work.

I brunched with members of KNT, who were very excited about the Jump-Start performance. Austin is slated to hold the 8th Annual International Drag KingCommunity Extravaganza (IDKE). Working with regional artists will strengthen their existing networking goals; given that this is the first IDKE to be held in the South, a strong Texas presence, hopefully encouraged at Words Can't Describe, will do much to promote the visibility of artists from outside the major urban drag centers. KNT agreed to promote the Jump-Start show around Austin and in their various web communities, and at least two of them will participate in the discussion and performance.

The next morning I brunched again—in keeping with our hope for a Drag Brunch during the Jump-Start residency! This time I met with Skot, an ex-member of the San Antonio Kings and founder of King'N'Play, an offshoot group of the San Antonio Kings. Skot will present a skit about bathroom problems and politics during the residency. Skot also connected me to Matthew Devreaux and Erik LaRue, with whom I have since been in touch; all three artists will promote and present for the Jump-Start showcase and discussion.

Further Goals

1.Connect with Houston performers and activists. Sixto Wagan of DiverseWorks is helping to spread the word via his contacts in the community, including HATCH (Houston Area Teen Coalition of Homosexuals).
2.Get commitments from performers and activists already solicited and organize the events according to the participants.
3.Promote! Promote! Promote!

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