Feb 27, 2009

Thoughts on Schofield's gender-bending Becoming a Man in 127 EASY Steps - Entertainment

Thoughts on Schofield's gender-bending Becoming a Man in 127 EASY Steps

Published: Thursday, February 26, 2009
Updated: Sunday, March 20, 2011 18:03

Nudity, beer chugging, acrobatics and an explosive, menstrual pad-launching rendition of Hedwig and the Angry Inch's "The Origin of Love" - sound interested?Everyone should be. If more people started going to shows like Scott Turner Schofield's Becoming a Man in 127 EASY Steps, the world would be a more accepting place. We would see a society in which we seek to understand rather than to exile, and more people would be prepared to accept and help fellow human beings in their struggle to figure out who they are, regardless of sexuality and gender differentials.
Schofield is an award-winning performer and transgender activist who has toured around the country since 2001. He has performed two other solo acts: Debutante Balls and Underground Transit, and his book Two Truths and a Lie has been nominated for two Lambda Literary Awards. Last weekend he was at Houston's DiverseWorks with his newest performance, Becoming a Man in 127 EASY Steps.

As I drove over to DiverseWorks last Saturday, I had no idea what I was about to experience. I had no idea I would be watching a woman-turned-man get naked in front of me on a stage within the first 10 minutes of a performance. (He only stayed naked for about five minutes.) 

I like to think of myself as a very accepting person, but I'm ashamed to admit that before this show, that mental image may have made me squirm a little.

But after it happened, I was actually really surprised by how, well, natural it felt.

Hilarious, emotional, explosive - and just a bit heart-wrenching at times - Becoming a Man in 127 EASY Steps is so successful because you not only feel like you are witnessing someone's private transgender experience, but you actually feel like you are inside of the experience with him.

The key to the success of this performance is its intimacy. From the set to the audience participation to the conversational ingenuity of Scott's portrayal, everything about his performance invites the audience into his world while forcing us to question the mainstream culture that surrounds us.

I'll start with the set, because it strikes me as magnificently effective at constructing an atmosphere in which the audience feels like it's being let in on something personal. Simplistic but intimate, a stripped mattress lays on the floor and above it hangs what looks like a crimson cloth cocoon. Three triangular white drapes hang at the foot and sides of the bed; a screen is placed at the back. The audience sits on three sides of the stage.

All of a sudden the cocoon starts to move and Scott comes out, weaving his body up and down and around the symbolically blood-colored cloth that now flows to the center of the mattress as a recording of his voice narrates the moment of his conception. Finally, Scott jumped to the floor. He addressed the audience, throwing the white drapes to all three sides of the stage, bringing everyone in the room into what he calls his fort, much like the ones he used to make as a kid. He asked the people in the last rows to pull the drapes back so that they form a straight line, cracking a joke about how "tight and straight is what we value in this culture." He explained that the fort is a safe place to sexually explore and then promises to the audience that "once we're in the fort, I'll tell you everything."

The title Becoming a Man in 127 EASY Steps refers to a decoder ring that is projected onto the screen at the head of the bed. Something like a pie chart, each chunk of the decoder ring is identified with a number and holds heavily-loaded word such as "butch," "gay," "stealth" and "feminine." Scott explained that when combined, these numbers and their words tell about 127 little bits of his identity. He has a story for each one. However, the title is slightly deceptive, as he does not have time to tell 127 stories but rather has the audience request certain numbers and he responds with many stories as he can within his hour on stage.

Scott's stories range from downright comical, to shockingly painful, to thought provoking. Story 47, for example, combines the words "man" and "stealth" and he muses over what penis he would have genetically inherited had he been born with a male body. Then he pulls out three soft packs (attachable penises that create a bulge under pants) of different sizes. He begins to walk around the stage, juggling the three penises. He stops, turns to the crowd, gives a mischievous smile and states, "I'd be a shower, not a grower."

Towards the end of the show this character, who for the past hour had awed the audience with his charisma and humor in discussing such a complicated topic, reveals his insecure side. We hear some recordings of a phone conversation in which a friend of Scott's explains to him that it is all right to not know how to be a man because the "idea of being a man is just an idea" and that "you happen any way you choose." The room gets a little darker and Scott quietly explains, "My body tells my truth. but sometimes the story is so big I have to lie just a little, and it hurts just a little." We get an image of him sitting in the dark with a syringe, "morphing" himself as he continues to describe the concern he has to live with: that the hormone injections he takes regularly may have negative health implications in the future.

The show closes on an open-ended note, as he says, "I haven't figured out the end. . All I can do is be a man, and know when to leave."

I can't express the impact this performance had on me. It has certainly made me ponder what constitutes gender, acceptance and how the constant evolution of the individual in personal and public spaces is something that we all go through in our own ways, yet we tend to shut off the process of understanding evolutions different from our own.Becoming a Man in 127 EASY Steps was only showing in Houston last weekend, so I wish I could have shared this earlier, but I recommend that you go see him if you ever get the chance.

Andi Gomez is a Lovett College Senior.

Thoughts on Schofield's gender-bending Becoming a Man in 127 EASY Steps - Entertainment - The Rice Thresher - Rice University

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