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When East Van-based artist Josie Boyce saw the casting call for Trans Scripts, Part I: The Women on Facebook, her first instinct was to share it with her community. The production was seeking someone to play Sandra, a trans woman who had transitioned in her 40’s. “I thought, ‘I’m sure I know somebody who could do this,'” she says.
But instead, Boyce’s friends suggested she audition herself. Taking their advice, she learned the lines and made an audition video in her backyard—and snagged the role. “I minored in theatre, so I do have some acting experience—thirty years ago, and not much since,” she laughs, “so I’m still kind of shocked by the whole thing.”
Trans Scripts, Part I: The Women is a verbatim production telling the real-life stories of seven diverse trans women. Every line in the monologue-driven show was taken directly from interviews conducted by the playwright, which Boyce notes as one of the most unique and important aspects of the production. “It’s somebody who has privilege amplifying our voices,” she says, “and I’m grateful for that.”
Like the character she plays, Boyce transitioned in her 40’s. The actor and the character are different in many ways (while the former has a very artsy background, the latter is a mechanic) but alike in the ways that matter: for example, Boyce notes that both herself and the character she plays have very strong ties to their family. Both transitioned later in life, and in a more conservative time. “When Sandra was young, and when I was younger, it was a difficult thing to even articulate,” says Boyce. “We didn’t have the language that we have now to be able to talk about being transgender.” Because the show is comprised of real-life stories, audiences should be prepared to face some of the harsher realities of trans women’s experiences. “I would say there is a content warning for the discussion of real life and how trans people get treated—which is not always nicely,” says Boyce. “There’s a lot of real history there.”
Despite this, Boyce says that her character still finds the funny in her experience. “Sandra has maintained a sense of humour about the trials and tribulations of being trans, and growing up trans at a time when absolutely nobody—including transgender people— understood what was going on,” says Boyce. Sandra’s poignant tales with funny twists help her make sense of her past and present.
Sandra’s voice is just one of seven in Trans Scripts (other characters include “a down-to-earth woman looking to blend in, a glamorous beauty queen, a formidable ex-dominatrix, a runaway turned activist, a hardened survivor of paternal abuse, and a sexagenarian doctor”). While each take turns sharing their own individual stories, the connection and community is clear. “It’s a challenging piece to do, because you feel like you’re in isolation, but those other women are on stage with me,” says Boyce.
Trans Scripts, Part I: The Women is directed by Fay Nass and Cameron Mackenzie, and runs from March 12-21 at the Firehall Arts Centre. Whatever your background on the subject is, there’s likely no better way to gain understanding than hearing the verbatim stories. “Like any show, come into it with an open mind,” says Boyce. “I would encourage anybody who has even a passing interest in the topic to come and see real, authentic voices.”
March 12 to 21Firehall Arts Centrefirehallartscentre.ca