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Tranny Roadshow makes local stop, sparks dialogue

POSTED AT 12:21 AM ON Jan. 20, 2009 


Six transgender performers spent last week traveling and performing individual pieces throughout the Midwest as part of the Tranny Roadshow, and Friday night they made a stop in Bloomington.

Organizer Jamez Terry said he hoped the performances would help people understand the diversity of the transgender community.

“We want people to see that there’s not one type of transgender person,” he said. “Through the range of different talents we have, we hope they can see how different we are.”

Terry also said he appreciated how receptive the crowd was to the performances, calling the audience bigger and more enthusiastic than the audiences he performed for during the group’s first two visits to Bloomington.

“The audience was responsive and enthusiastic,” Terry said. “And the better the crowd, the better we perform, so I think it was a fantastic show overall.”

Puppeteer Adelaide Windsome opened the show for the crowd huddled in the bookstore. As she placed stand-up pictures of an otter, a beaver, a bear and a wolf on the table, she explained that the different animals represented the spectrum of gender.

Windsome, who began as a street puppeteer in Boston, proceeded to reveal a platypus puppet, which she limped across the table, using it to knock down each picture in turn while occasionally stopping to have the puppet salute or wave to the audience.

Windsome explained that her puppet shows intentionally have a vague message.

“There’s no clear point, which actually is the point,” she said. “I took issues that affected me like violence and harassment and created a silly outlet for it. That’s what the platypus puppet means – escapism and silliness.”

Windsome finished her performance by playing a song on her ukulele about a platypus trying to protect its eggs in a dangerous forest.

Another performer, Ignacio Rivera, works as a performance artist and filmmaker in Brooklyn. He traveled with the Tranny Roadshow to perform poetry. His first poem, “Rediscovering Me,” described his adolescent struggle to identify himself in terms of race and gender and the prejudices he faced because he was raised in a Spanish-speaking family.

Rivera performed another poem he wrote after watching a scene from a made-for-TV movie about Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with a slave. He attacked the film’s portrayal of their relationship as a love story.

“Love cannot be created among such inequality,” he said. “The message behind my poems tends to be outrage. Like in the Jefferson piece, people watched that movie and thought it was wonderful, but it was a misrepresentation of history. Poetry allows me a platform to release my rage. And people can listen and agree or disagree, but at least it opens discussion.”

Four more performers followed Rivera, including a magician and a slam poet. The event ended with Dallas Marie Spitzer performing acoustic rock songs on her guitar, including songs she wrote herself and a medley of popular hip-hop music.

Freshman Kip Hutchins said the performances showed him that gender terminology is more complex than it seems. The performance broadened his perspective of the transgender community, he said.

“Events like this probably don’t change the minds of people who are dead-set against transgenders,” Hutchins said. “But as someone who doesn’t know about the way they live, it helps me understand their lifestyle and the things they struggle with.”

Steven Stothard, events coordinator for Boxcar Books, said the show’s strength came from the larger issues it addressed.

“Within each individual piece, the performers brought their own angle of politics,” he said. “Everyone’s experiences are different, which enriched the performance overall.”


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