To our community:
As part of an ongoing dialogue we want to take this opportunity to respond to the Wetlands editorial “Trans/ending Normal.” This editorial has made our department’s conversations about the immense power and risk of representation on stage more acute.
We hear how scary it is to be a trans individual and how much sensitivity is needed around trans narratives. We take to heart the central critique that the casting choice for Ruth felt like not only a misreading of a trans experience, but also a denial of the true identity of trans women. We acknowledge that trans women are women and we understand the casting choice caused significant pain in our community. As theatre artists we will always stand by the notion that there are many modes of representation and that casting a woman (cis or trans) is not the only way to represent femininity. That being said, the sentiment articulated in the editorial and echoed in conversations across campus reminds us of just how unsafe it is to be a trans student on our campus right now. We want the Theatre Arts department to be a home to all students. We want trans narratives included in our classrooms and on our stages. As a department we need to do a better job of reaching out, of listening, of inviting, and collaborating with the trans community on campus to tell these stories together.
The Theatre Arts faculty and graduating class of theatre majors would like to acknowledge and apologize for the significant pain caused by our production. While we strive to make work that fosters meaningful dialogue, we recognize that this dialogue has been difficult and in some ways harmful. We know the risk every one of our students has taken by making theatre and having serious and challenging conversations. We are also profoundly sorry that those conversations have come with a real cost. The responses articulated in this editorial and the open conversation hosted following the show have highlighted the need for us to find more ways to engage in discourse around representation with our students. We take this work very seriously.
We commit to continuing these transformative and painful conversations with all members of the campus community surrounding issues of representation, including honoring perspectives about identity and storytelling that are to some degree unresolvable.
We would like to recognize the important work that Wetlands Magazine is doing to advocate for equity on our campus. Speaking up takes bravery and we are grateful for your voices. We are also profoundly moved by the bold ways our theatre students have and continue to take on work that is meaningful to them, remain engaged and invested in challenging conversations, and seek to learn and grow every step of the way. We are filled with hope looking at a community of activists, artists, scholars, and citizens.
Sara Freeman, Geoff Proehl, Jess K. Smith, Kurt Walls
Loring Brock, Erin Broughan, Maddie Faigel, Cassie Jo Fastabend, Katelyn Hart, Robyn Helwig, Shelby Isham, Bebe La Grua, Zoe Levine Sporer, Andrew Lutfala, Jordan Moeller, Charlotte Myers-Stanhope, Jake Rosendale, Laura Shearer, Sikander Sohail, Jens Winship