October: the first month of the rest of my life

October 31, 2017 Posted by Daniel

photo by Sati Allen

I have mostly been on parental leave from Moving Target for more than a year. My son, Akiva, was born in June, 2016. Around that time, I started looking for a day job and I found one that fall – actually two: Communications Co-Ordinator at the Daniel McIntyre St Matthews Community Association, half-time, and in the other half of my time, Co-Ordinator of Friends of Sherbrook Pool. It was amazing – I worked with lots of great folks in a strong, vibrant inner-city community. And the first year of Akiva’s life was amazing, and the tenth year of my step-daughter, Sati’s life, and of course my life with my partner Linsea – it has all been very very full.

But by this summer, my artistic projects needed my attention, especially because we have plans to present both of them:

Deserter, which I have been working on since 2013/14, will premiere

May 17 – 27, 2018

in Winnipeg, at the Rachel Browne Theatre

Mark your calendars. You’re all invited, and keep checking this website for details.

Also, I’m working on a new play about a Transgender person in a Jewish family. That’s a story unto itself, but first, the dates: we’re doing a reading at Winnipeg Jewish Theatre‘s So Nu? Festival

March 13 – 15, 2018 (one night, TBA)

So my last day of work at DMSMCA/FOSP was September 28. Then Yom Kippur – which was as spiritually cleansing as always – and now Linsea and I are sharing the child-care and home-making responsibilities, we’re each taking time for our own work and my main work is these two projects.

Deserter

Deserter is finally becoming the play I always wanted it to be – and it took a long time to figure out. It was a collection of scenes in no particular order for the first year. Most of them were set in Iraq, but I insisted that I wanted the story to start and finish in Canada. In 2015, we started to find a package to put it in – he gets stopped at the airport and put in a cell. Why? We’d figure that out later. In our 2016 script development workshop, it became all about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In 2017, it is becoming the drama of a war deserter caught with a fake passport, and “What’s going to happen to him?” and it’s seen through the eyes of PTSD.

So I’m mostly shifting into the producer’s seat. I’m applying for grants, I’m getting the artistic and production team in place, I’m having phone and coffee meetings with long-time friends and new friends about potential partnerships for the production. And it’s all coming into place.

The New Play

My new play is inspired by my close friend who is an Orthodox (or fully observant) Jew, who is also a FTM transgender man. If this doesn’t seem like a contradiction, it should – it should be impossible. It’s a very gendered and gender-segregated religion! Years ago, I was talking about this with an artistic director over coffee and he said, “Well, I’m interested in the play about Transgender Orthodox Jews.” I laughed and said, “No, no, that’s not a play…”

I recounted the conversation to my friend and he offered to help me with the play. On two conditions: 1) it can’t only be depressing* – it has to also capture the light, joyous aspects of being trans, and 2) it has to give some credence to the beauty that its practitioners find in Orthodox Jewish practice. I decided to make it a comedy, and the first 7 pages seemed to write themselves.

However, now that I’m beginning to work on the piece more seriously… issues come up! Transgender people are very present in the North American pop-culture imagination right now. Art about Trans people has become a genre, if not multiple genres, and much of it is made by cis-gender (non-Trans) artists! So… great. Is this really what I want to be doing? Do I feel it’s “my place” to tell this story? Not really. Like Naomi Zeveloff, the cis-gender author of “Transgender and Jewish,” I feel this project is “an act of hubris and humility all at once.” And it’s the same issue writers always get into – it’s impossible and not necessarily desirable to only tell stories within the narrow confines of our own experience. But, when you’re telling stories that you haven’t lived… etc. And, obviously, I feel I have something to offer. But: it makes for a pretty intense process.

I’m reading lots. I’ll put my full reading list on the website when I make a page for the new play. I have so far interviewed five Trans people, some of them Jewish, some not, a few friends who are queer and Jewish but not Trans, and one parent of a Trans person – and it’s been amazing. This is one part of the job (or lack thereof) I really love. People have been so generous and vulnerable with me, sharing their stories and perspectives, sharing their pain and worries – this process feels very powerful. I’m intimidated as anything, because how can I honour and respect all of the above?

Stay tuned to this website and blog to find out.

Thanks for reading,

Daniel

A footnote:

*I took this as a comment on my writing habits, but my friend clarified recently – he meant it as a comment on the way trans people were being represented in pop-culture at that time, which has shifted since.

 

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