The stage is proving to be a creative — and safe — space for some transgender youth in St. John's and the result is a new performance called transVersing, which is billed as an evening "where fiddle meets Shakespeare meets slam poetry meets soapbox rant."
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"This project actually hits home for me in more ways than one because I am transgendered," says Gemma Hickey.
"I wanted to offer an opportunity to trans youth to actually highlight their talents and skills, but also have an audience that's willing to listen and learn from their experiences."
Hickey is the executive director of For The Love of Learning, an arts-based non-profit group that works with at-risk youth. That organization is teaming up with Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland to produce the show.
'I know the struggle'
Fionn Shea, who is one of the show's cast members, is contributing to the production in many ways, including performing a monologue, a tune on the fiddle and also reciting Shakespeare.
Shea is from the U.S. but decided to attend Memorial University, partly because of its good English department, but also because Newfoundland and Labrador is a change from the political climate after the November election that resulted in Donald Trump becoming president.
"After the election ... noticing just the rise of acts of hatred," Shea told CBC Radio's Weekend AM.
"It didn't really feel like a safe culture or safe space anymore."
Shea called it "a bit of a relief to be here" in this province and praised its close-knit music community.
"Fantastic and not an issue," Shea replied, when asked about living in St. John's as a transgender person.
Hickey echoed that sentiment, while noting more supports are needed for transgender youth.
"I've always been welcomed here."
"I know the struggles that these youth are dealing with. It's really difficult and challenging," Hickey said.
"But at the same time, I'm just so eager for everyone else to hear their stories through a medium that they can understand and theatre is a way to do that."
transVersing plays March 28 at the Barbara Barrett Theatre at the St. John's Arts and Culture Centre.