The sellout run at Richmond Triangle Players last weekend featured Nationz Foundation founder Zakia McKensey portraying herself in the landmark stage play.
Caitlin Morris | February 5, 2019
The curtain closed Saturday on the mid-Atlantic premiere of Trans Scripts, Part 1: The Women, an original stage production that focuses on the true stories of seven transgender women. The play came and went quickly, staging only four performances at Richmond Triangle Players’ Robert B. Moss Theatre in Scott’s Addition over this past weekend.
The script is based on interviews from over 75 people who identify as transgender from all over the world. Playwright Paul Lucas used the interviews to bring honesty and depth to the characters because it was important for him that they be based on real people with real stories.
“It’s really a community that has been robbed of the ability to tell its stories,” Lucas said.
Lucas was inspired to begin the Trans Scripts project when he was surprised to discover prejudice towards transgender people within the LGBTQ community. Lucas recalls a friend scoffing about the validity of transgender identities by saying, “I could say I was a unicorn — that doesn’t make me a unicorn.”
One of the interviews Lucas used as source material for Part 1: The Women was with Richmond’s own Zakia McKensey, founder of Nationz Foundation, an LGBTQ health advocacy group in Central Virginia.
“I knew instantly upon speaking to her that she was going to be a character in my piece,” Lucas said.
Lucas created a character based on McKensey’s interview and her story of maintaining a close relationship with God throughout her transition. At Richmond Triangle Players this past weekend, McKensey took the stage to portray herself as she was eight years ago, during her interview.
The not-quite conversation, not-quite monologue production is semi-staged, allowing actors to carry scripts as they perform.
“The format of the play Is more ambitious than I knew when I began to write it,” Lucas said. “I’m not quite inventing a form, but really building upon a form.”
The stories feed off each other, Lucas said. “I’ve created a world in which seven trans women happen to be in the same space.”
The Richmond Triangle Players’ production was done with support from Diversity Richmond, with proceeds benefiting Nationz Foundation. The short run of the show included four performances over three days, all of which were sold out.
While Part I focuses on the stories of transgender women, the transgender story isn’t over. Lucas has already begun interviews for Trans Scripts, Part II: The Men.
“Part two is complicated,” Lucas said. “It has a lot of intersections with lesbian identity, with feminist identity, with toxic masculinity and the Me Too movement.”
With Part II, Lucas helps to build on the understanding and honesty of Part I, without telling the same story from a different perspective.
“I don’t need to have a male person inhabit that same thing we already know,” Lucas said. “So, what are we going to learn, and what are we going to challenge?”