By Alejandro Saucedo
Think of the possibilities!
That’s where I left off on the second blog post of this series and I am currently in the bye week between two extremely affirming possibilities at Theatre Three (well, technically Theatre Too). I have just finished performing as Lottie Obligato in Scrooge in Rouge and will now begin rehearsals for this season’s production of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change as a director. The gratitude of creative opportunity isn’t the end of what they mean to me though, because these shows have brought out my joy in existence as a human and my ability as an artist that isn’t often offered in the DFW community.
In Scrooge in Rouge, I played a verbally-suggestive drag queen with a love/impersonation of female vocality and a proclivity for vaudevillian humor. The subversive take on this humorous performance style that many people assume to be only possible with straight white men making audiences of old rich white people laugh was thrilling to be a part of. Adding in my ethnicity and sexuality almost makes it seem like a role that I will never find myself in again, because it was a chance for me to just exist as who I am to a theatrical standard. A role that empowers the parts of myself that many people find to be distractions and uses them to blindly entertain (something that is very rare in the world of minorities of any kind in theatre).
The theatrical world has seen many specific dramas about white families dealing with the same set of issues over and over again, making the dream roles that align perfectly to that identity to be endless. When stories that are just as specific in terms of categorical distinctions start to stray away from the conventional, that is when producing interest wanes for an odd reason. This is actually the second time I have played the role of Lottie and that possibility to relive such a meaningful opportunity in a world where they are few and far between was a driving force for doing it again. I have luckily found myself one of the few spaces that doesn’t technically address every aspect of my being, but leaves the freedom inside of it to bring all of me into performance. Though it may seem like a lot to tack onto a character for clarity’s sake, audiences came in droves and many decided to come back for a second or third viewing (and even brought their friends to start the chain again).
To be honest, we were not so sure that the community would be there in such support as we went through the general auditions for the season and were followed along by SB 12 (Texas’ attempted drag ban). With every audition and every step towards the production, we were hit with that intense fear that ramped back up around being your authentic self. Drag is a performance of exaggerated femininity, masculinity, or other forms of gender expression and often serves as a beacon for the queer community through the facets of other genders we aren’t allowed to explore due to societal norms. If we were seen by the people we were trying to represent when minors were present, we would be arrested. Having to make a decision on how comfortable I was going to jail for a show that made me feel so at home was not something I had on my season’s Bingo card. Thankfully, the evil and unconstitutional attempt was stricken down and the path forward was cleared well before the holiday season.
We finished the run with a sold-out house and many iterations of acceptance from crowds young and old, diverse, and queerly representing every color of the rainbow. I have noticed the changes that living in that world of pure acceptance developed in me and hope members of the audience that needed it walked away with it too. I have started to wear heels more often. I now find the magic in makeup (and the frustration in having to take it off at the end of the day). And I use that unfiltered expression that theatre is known for and that many people are afraid of in real life to move the people I interact with towards that spotlight. Currently, there’s movement away from letting societal minorities be highlighted on stage and behind the scenes without using us for something “standard” theatre members don’t have access to, most likely because they know the flower you let into the sun grows. There is a world where the opportunities sway to another realm of creators that have been kept in the shadows on purpose. And thankfully, there is also a group of creatives following the warmth of the sun and have been given the opportunity to pass the directions along.
There are positive and negative ways to get to the production of greater opportunities, and I am thankful I was able to be inspired by a positive experience in my artistic journey. I now get to pass some directions along at the head of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. It will reflect the world we are in and it will craft a space for people to be their full authentic selves. I will not be expected to use my tokenized experience to make a commercial creation, but instead be given the opportunity to make the parts of myself many shows steer away from part of the DFWs highlighted experiences. There is no greater character work than what each artist brings to the table and the deletion of those gifts is a disservice to the future of theatre. Artists everywhere are looking for that invitation to just be and that invitation extends with every audience that watches the shows that authenticity is allowed in. I look forward to seeing how we invite the change we all need to make to this artform together and figuring out what life is like when it can be a true celebration for all.
Who are you inviting?