While narratives on trans rights and issues are starting to appear in the broader media, it is still uncommon for these stories to be painted in a positive light. Often, there will be sad stories of violence or crass comedic comments made against the trans community instead of the breadth of stories that get told around other identities and backgrounds.
Even when it comes to live theatre, there aren’t many stage-ready stories primed to be shown… but Richmond Triangle Players is staying ahead of the curve with their production of A Kid Like Jake which opens this weekend.
“We, as the voice of the LGBTQ community in theatre [notice that] there is a large portion of our community that have been neglected, and not from us per se. There just is not a wealth of material that is stage ready to bring to the theatre [that does] not color trans issues in a non-negative light,” said Keith Fitzgerald the director of the upcoming production and member of Richmond Triangle Players Artistic Committee. “A lot of the plays that we’ve read that do deal with trans issues, just because of the style they’re written in, [fall into] more of an absurdist comedy. It doesn’t paint the trans community in a positive light. So finding the right play to bring us this subject matter is very important in this day and age.”
A Kid Like Jake includes a diverse array of talent from rookies to veteran actors in the local theatre scene and each member is excited to bring their perspective to this thought provoking piece.
The play features four principal characters with speaking roles; the audience never meets Jake; they only gets to know the character through the eyes of the adults around them.
“There is a fine line, I’m trying to advise the parent or listen to the parents’ perspective about their child but also offer my insight on how I feel about situations regarding children in the school system,” said Nancy Callaway, who plays the role of Judy, the principal at the nursery school who acts as a caretaker. “I am kind of looking out for [the children] by nurturing them and guiding them along the way, making sure that the parents are on the same page with these things that they don’t see [eye to eye] on.”
“We just see this discussion of Jake when Jake is 5 years old. All we know is Jake is gender non-confirming in some way but we know what the parents have to do and ultimately I think it’s a play about loving your children, no matter what,” said Philip Crosby, the executive director of Richmond Triangle Players. “I hope that’s what audiences take away from it, that we can present a story that’s on a very human level and once you realize that this is your child, you’re going to love that child, regardless. If we can put that forth, then we’ve done our job.”
In addition to Nancy, there are past collaborators of the director’s that have come back to help tell this story: “I saw [the call for actors] on Facebook. [Fitzgerald] had posted something, I worked with [him] many, many years ago and was looking to work with him again and I saw this come up,” said Fred Iacovo, who plays the role of the father, Greg. “It was a perfect opportunity. I messaged him on Facebook and he said absolutely, come down and audition and I did.”
A Kid Like Jake also features the talents of Heather Falks, Kelsey Cordrey, Nancy Callaway and Fred Iacovo with Dexter Ramey as the stage manager.
The family approach to the narrative of trans identities is one under told indeed, with many parents (much like Jake’s in the story) never having to consider this kind of future for their own family.
“We know lots of stories, lots of horrifying stories, of parents that when confronted with issues that are not in their range of understanding, they will dismiss their children- cut the children off or blow the children out,” said Crosby. “We want to ensure that [does] not happen.”
A Kid Like Jake, will inevitably provoke heartfelt discussion and thought post-viewing. With a child at the center of the story, audiences will find themselves mulling over the responses of the adults around Jake and thinking of their own possible responses.
“I seriously hope people talk about it because it’s important,” said Fitzgerald. “There are voices in the community and the world that need to be heard and need to be thought of as people that are dealing with issues just like anyone else is dealing with their issues. There aren’t enough people in the world that know how to talk about them.”
For some members of production, the play hit close to home and already provoked reflection.
“I just felt like this was something I wanted to do,” said Callaway. “I have nieces and nephews that are gay. Our family has wrestled with some of these very issues.”
Richmond Triangle Player’s production of A Kid Like Jake will run from April 19 to May 13 and tickets are available through RTP’s website here.
“Go grab yourself a beer at all these different breweries around us,” said Heather Falks. “…go eat Supper and come see an awesome show!”