Theatre has often been a refuge for LGBTQ people; a place to be yourself and to celebrate diversity. Unfortunately, that celebration of diversity has not always included transgender and nonbinary people: Cameron Mackintosh (famed producer of Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Hamilton, and more) recently said casting transgender actors in classic shows is “gimmick casting.”
Mackintosh’s remarks prompted trans actress Alexandra Billings to fire back. Billings, who made history when cast as the first openly trans actor to play Madame Morrible in Wicked said, “Suggesting there needs to be more roles and more plays for transgender artists, doesn’t make you a revolutionary. It makes you human. It is simple common sense. We [trans people] will create that space with or without your consent.”
So what can theatres do to be more inclusive of transgender people, both for trans patrons and trans creative professionals?
1. Rethink gendered spaces
Rethinking gendered spaces (including restrooms, dressing rooms, green rooms, and more) is an important and visible way for theatres to show their commitment to the trans community. This means both removing single-sex signs from restrooms, and providing single-stall restrooms and green rooms for anyone to use, whether or not they’re transgender. As a bonus, this results in more manageable bathroom lines at intermission, as theatregoers can move to whichever line is shortest.
2. Add pronouns to playbills
Audiences love reading actor bios, behind the scenes tidbits, and sponsorship ads from the restaurant around the corner. But while pronouns are becoming increasingly common on email signatures or in video chats, few playbills include pronouns with their actor bios, e.g. “REBECCA KLING (she/her), Maureen.” As trans folks and allies, we shouldn’t assume someone else’s pronouns, and theatres can help build a more inclusive world by including pronouns in playbills.
3. Hire trans people
Hire trans people! While some theatres can talk the talk, truly walking the walk requires hiring trans people. And not just as actors, but also as directors and lighting designers and ticket takers and stage managers and office staff and more.
4. Produce trans content
Theatres that hire trans people are wonderful. Theatres that also produce trans content are even better, especially when theatres move beyond Rent or Hedwig and the Angry Inch as the only ‘diverse’ performances that some producers seem to know. Producing trans content might mean looking at lists of unproduced plays by trans playwrights, or reaching out to the Kilroys List, or even comissioning a transgender artist in your community to write something specifically for your theatre. But no matter what type of work your organization produces--from the newest of the avant garde to centuries-old classics--there are trans productions that will be the perfect fit for your next season.
Ready to learn more?
Contact Better World Collaborative today to schedule an introductory phone call, and learn how your theater can do more to support the trans community.