Theatre Review: Uncomfortable Conversations

review

“No Gender Left Behind”, written and produced by Rebecca Kling (part of the KC Fringe Festival): seen July 23, 2011

When I turned into a teenager, I was the only girl (it seemed) who didn’t want to wear makeup. The only girl in my family, with two older brothers, my mom had actually been looking forward to it. But I was a tomboy through and through, and to this day I still don’t like wearing makeup (except the few times I’ve been on stage, where it’s needed). It’s been a long-standing point of dispute between us, along with my dislike of wearing dresses or skirts, although my mom finally got to the point where she at least doesn’t bring it up anymore.

I’ve always had problems fitting into the gender stereotype of being a girl: I can’t color coordinate very well, I don’t like to window shop (preferring to just go in and get it and be done with it), and I tend to talk very direct and to the point. But at the same time, I wouldn’t say I ever had problems identifying myself as a girl/woman. Stereotypes are just that, and I felt my atypical behavior was just more proof of the need for equality between the genders. Why shouldn’t boys be able to like pink? Why is it when a man sticks to his guns, he’s considered a tough, hard worker – but if it’s a woman, she’s considered a diva or a bitch? And in an example straight from the piece, why is it okay for a man to show his nipples, but it’s illegal for a woman to?

Rebecca Kling. Photo by Richard Sutton

“No Gender Left Behind” is a multimedia presentation by Rebecca Kling, who had been fired from a teaching position for being a transgendered woman. She was fired, she says, because she would create “uncomfortable conversations” with the students. And the one-woman show is her thought-provoking exploration of gender conforming behavior, delving into what it really means to be a woman or a man, under the guise of a futuristic policy from Congress much like the “No Child Left Behind”, requiring the teaching of gender education. Interspersed with various clips from old educational films, including one that equates homosexuality with mental illness, Kling talks about the various issues of gender as well as throwing in some statistics of transgendered people being hurt, committing suicide, or even being mistreated by medical staff.

In college, I was in a class called Acting Beyond Prejudice at Park University. I wrote an article about it for the April 2004 issue of KC Stage, when it was celebrating its 10th anniversary. To quote creator marsha morgan, “The focus was to recruit and interview students in the fall who would have an interactive dialogue regarding the stereotypes they carried as well as stereotypes that have been projected onto them.” The class would culminate in a short performance piece, which would then have a talk-back session. “No Gender Left Behind” reminded me of that class, and those performances, as I tried to attend every performance year after my involvement.

The production suffered from sound issues, as the film clips would sometimes not be heard right away, and the flow between the various bits of the presentation needed to be smoother. But this ‘uncomfortable conversation’ about what it means to be transgendered was an enlightening foray into gender, stereotypes, and where we go from here.

“No Gender Left Behind” has four more presentations during the KC Fringe Festival, and tickets are $8. More information can be found at http://www.kcfringe.org/2011/artist.php?ID=13.

This review has been posted to the KC Stage review system. Agree or disagree? You can rate / review this show yourself (requires free registration) by going to fringe.kcstage.com (where every review gets you put into a drawing for prizes). Read all of my Fringe reviews here