“The whole mandate, our goal, is to show people that we are all closer than we like to believe we are,” says theatre director Cameron Mackenzie.
It’s a mandate that has led to a variety of boundary-pushing works, all aimed at normalizing the orientations and interests that appear to make each other incomprehensibly different.
The Frank Theatre and Mackenzie’s own Zee Zee Theatre are continuing that push by co-presenting the Canadian premiere of Trans Scripts, Part I: The Women, March 12 to 21 at Firehall Arts Centre.
The show is co-directed by Mackenzie and Fay Nass, which explores the real-life stories of transgender women told in their own words.
Originally from South Africa, Mackenzie’s family moved to Langley in 1996 and graduated from Brookswood Secondary School in Langley.
Mackenzie founded Zee Zee Theatre 12 years ago because as a means to direct productions, since there were not a lot of opportunities for young directors at the time.
The name of the theatre comes from Mackenzie’s godmother who suddenly passed away at the same time as the company was getting started.
“Her mark was left on me to see the world in a different way, closer than what we perceive to be different,” Mackenzie noted.
What has come out of those 12 years of championing diversity and illuminating marginalized perspectives is a vast array of mold-breaking works.
The Human Library project allowed people to borrow a “human book,” a process of browsing provocative titles attached to a person, who, once “checked out,” would recount their own life story.
The infamous Davie Street eatery, Elbow Room Cafe – where staff purposely hazed their patrons – lent itself to a tribute musical, and later, a holiday-themed sequel.
Now, Mackenzie brings a story written by American playwright Paul Lucas; the verbatim piece is compiled from interviews with more than 70 transgender women in six different countries.
The production premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2015, premiered in the US in 2017 at Harvard University’s American Repertory Theater, and has since been presented throughout North America.
Mackenzie first staged a version of the show as a series of readings during Transgender Awareness Week in November of 2018, benefiting Qmunity, BC’s Queer Resource Centre.
“It was a remarkable night that really seemed to have struck a chord,” Mackenzie said, leading to a long journey of casting, blocking, and making the peice Zee Zee Theatre’s own.
“In this time, transgender issues are often used as a political leveraging tool like bathroom access which I can’t stand,” he said. “It was important to have a fully trans cast as opposed to other productions that have used men to get behind the spirit of the piece.”
The work shares real-life stories performed by seven local transgender women.
“I believe it will be two-fold; a validation for the trans community to see themselves on stage while provide a better understanding for audience of the trans perspective and what that means,” Mackenzie explained.
Trans Scripts, Part I: The Women runs March 12 to 21, starting at 7:30 p.m. on March 17, 18, 19, and 8 p.m. March 14, 20, 21, and at 3 p.m. on March 15.
People can find out more and purchase their tickets at www.tickets.firehallartscentre.ca.
“It is so important to develop empathy and get out of that bubble of our anxieties to see that we really aren’t all that different,” the director added.
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