Pink Unicorn Moves, Entertains, Connects, and Educates. Everything Great Theatre Should Do.

Kate Guentzel – Photo by LaurenB photography 

I was really looking forward to the Illusion Theater’s production of Elise Forier Edie’s play The Pink Unicorn. Everything thing I read indicated it would be right up my alley. Nothing could have prepared me for one of the most moving evenings I’ve had in the theater all year. The Pink Unicorn is the best play about the experience of being a parent to a transgender child. It gets it exactly right, from the confusion to the mistakes, the fear for our children and the anger at those that hurt them. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about. Kate Guentzel’s performance is so open, honest and relatable it moved me to tears on three separate occasions in it’s 70 minute run time. You will not find a show playing in the Twin Cities this weekend that will do more for your understanding of others or your soul.

The Pink Unicorn is a one woman show based actual events from playwright Elise Forier Edie’s life. Kate Guentzel is Trisha a widowed mother of a daughter Jolene in a small Texas town. Trisha begins by telling about the day her 14 year old daughter told her that she was not a girl or a boy but that they are genderqueer. Trisha doesn’t know what that means and like most parents who are given this news she will be playing catch up with her child for a long time. She brings us along on their journey as Jolene now wanting to be called Joe tries to form a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) at their high school. We share in her experiences with her church, her battles with the school, and the non acceptance of her mother. Through everything the character remains a fallible human. Trisha isn’t written as a hero or a character that leads the way and does no wrong. She shares her initial confusion which are natural to have about something we don’t understand. She also shares her urge to go in and beat it out of her child. She says and thinks things that are not OK, just like everyone else on the planet. The play isn’t afraid to show us that side, because it also shows us the moments where she steps up and supports her child letting her love rather than fears guide her. That is the path for every parent on this journey, grapple with unknown, make mistakes, try and learn from them, and ultimately let love show you the way.

I have not seen a performance this year that connected with me as strongly as Kate Guentzel’s did. It felt like she was performing directly to my son and I. Which it turns out she sort of was as we were in the front row and the only faces she could see in the audience with the lights down. I know that connection was also because as the parent of a transgender child, I related to the character of Trisha. However, I don’t think you have to be the parent of a transgender child to feel that connection though. I think every parent can relate to the character, in fact I think every parent should see this play. We can all understand the emotions she is having and for those who haven’t been through it personally, this show can be the catalyst for empathy and the beginnings of tolerance. I have on occasion, spoken to groups about our journey with or about our son. I do that because I learned very early in the process that sharing our personal story, more than statistics or newspaper and magazine articles, is what creates understanding. With understanding comes acceptance, and with acceptance hopefully comes support. Edie has found a way to do that with her play, we know that Trisha is a character in a play being performed by an actress, but we also feel the authenticity and know that the story is true. It creates that same empathy. If you do not understand all this “trans or genderqueer stuff” do yourself a favor, go to this play, it will help you understand. And finally, I cannot close without just saying that Kate Guentzel was dead brilliant, it was a privilege to be in the front row, to be spoken to so directly, to witness such a truthful and engaging performer own a role so completely. Her Southern Accent was so well done it was a bit of a shock when the talkback began to hear her own voice.

The Pink Unicorn is playing in St. Paul at The Lowry Lab Theater, remaining performances on March 1 and then March 12, 13 & 15. General Admission tickets are only $15 (this is a steal). Click here for more information and tickets go to http://www.illusiontheater.org

The show is also continuing a tour in MN see locations and dates below.

TheaterB in Moorhead on March 7 and 8
Pioneer Place Theater In St Cloud on March 4 
Dalko Arts in New Prague on March 6
Fair trade Books in Red Wing on  March 14

Preview: Plan Ahead for the World Premiere of “Interstate” a New Queer Asian Pop-Rock Poetry Musical at Mixed Blood Theatre March 6-29

Photo by Rich Ryan

As many of you know my youngest son is transgender and gay. When a show comes along that represents his community, I try and make a point to see it with him if I can. Representation is an important aspect of art and culture. It’s vitally important for everyone to see themselves represented in the world around them. There are a lot of LGBTQ shows this winter and spring, all of them look super interesting. You can find my reviews for a couple of shows Superman Becomes Lois Lane which closes this weekend at the History Theatre and Significant Other which closes March 8th here and here I highly recommend both. I already had Interstate on my radar, tickets secured, and it was probably my most anticipated upcoming show based on what I already knew of it. When my community, The Twin Cities Theater Bloggers (TCTB), were invited to go and spend some time with the Creators of Interstate I jumped at the chance.

Melissa Li and Kit Yan

Interstate is the creation of Melissa Li (she/her/hers) and Kit Yan (He/She/They) and was inspired by a cross country tour they undertook in 2008 performing in 32 states. Melissa co-wrote the Book for the musical as well as the music and lyrics. She has written other musicals as well including Surviving the Nian Which was a Jonathan Larson Grant Recipient. Kit co-wrote the book as well as writing poetry and additional lyrics for Interstate. Kit’s show Queer Heartaches has won five awards at the Chicago and SF Fringe Festivals. They are currently collaborating on a new musical comedy Miss Step which from what I’ve read I sure hope I get a chance to see it on a Twin Cities stage in the near future. That’s just the tip of the iceberg with these two warm and inviting artists, if you are interested in learning more about them check out their websites http://melissali.com/ and https://kityanpoet.com/. Listening To Kit and Melissa talk about the shows genesis it’s easy to see that they have poured their heart and souls into this project. Semi Autobiographical, it deals with a multitude of themes. Their friendship, which in real life, didn’t survive their tour. Kit described Melissa as his nemesis for awhile until they finally made up. It tells the story of queer Asian duo Dash and Adrian as they tour the nation. Dash is a transgender spoken word poet, and Adrian a lesbian singer-songwriter. The tour takes place in 2008 at the dawn of social media as we know it. Their music is discovered by Henry, a south Asian transgender sixteen year old (hey my Trans son is 16) blogger (hey I’m a blogger) from middle America. Henry decides to seek out and meet his heroes. Li’s site calls it a

“Story about how two transgender people at different stages of their journey navigate love, family, masculinity, and finding community in the era of social media.”

melissali.com/theater

Can you see why I’m excited for this show? On top of that I have been listening to the songs the last couple of days and I really like this music. Melissa described the music as being three distinct styles. First there is the band’s songs they perform, those seem steeped in spoken word and contain some powerful messages. Secondly, there are more standard “musical” songs, where the characters sing about their feelings rather than speak them like we are used to in contemporary musical theater. Thirdly, Henry’s more electronic youth music. I’m looking forward to hearing all of it live. Kit and Melissa stressed how adamant they are about casting transgender actors in the transgender roles and casting asian actors. This speaks to the representation I addressed earlier, and an important factor in the casting.

We were lucky enough when we met up that the three young stars stopped by. Meeting them and talking with them it’s clear they found the perfect Dash, Adrian and Henry. Kai Alexander Judd plays Dash. Sushma Saha plays Henry, and Rose Van Dyne is Adrian. They range in age from 21 to 23 and a more open and engaging group of young performers you’d ever want to meet. They had just gotten back from grabbing dinner together and you could tell they were all enjoying each others company. I have a feeling they are going to rock our worlds come March 6th.

Before I let you go I do want to point out a couple of other shows opening soon that have a LGBTQ aspect to them. Uprising Theatre Company is doing a series of 4 new plays this year by transgender or nonbinary playwrights. The first of these runs March 6th through 23rd and is entitled Doctor Voynich and Her Children. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets https://www.uprisingtheatreco.com/. The other is Illusion Theater’s show The Pink Unicorn which runs Fri – Sun Feb 28 thru March 1st and Thurs, Fri, Sun March 12, 13, 15. for more information and to purchase tickets for this show click on http://www.illusiontheater.org/

Don’t wait for my review of Interstate, I’m fairly confident from what I’ve heard and seen already that this is going to be a show to remember. For tickets go to https://mixedblood.com/on-stage/interstate/ . Keep in mind that Mixed Blood have several programs to help make theatre accessible to everyone. Copied from the Mixed Blood theatre website are these programs:

RADICAL HOSPITALITY

Through Radical Hospitality, admission is provided at no-cost for folks who find cost a barrier to attending Mixed Blood. Admission is on a first come, first served basis. The box office opens two hours before every show; seating begins 30 minutes before show time and is general admission (no assigned seats).

and:

Interstate Buy One Give One

$70.00

Mixed Blood is proud to host OutFront Minnesota’s Youth Leadership Council as INTERSTATE’s Radical Hospitality partner.  When you pay it forward with a “Buy One, Give One” ticket purchase, you guarantee your own admission and underwrite admission for a Youth Leadership Council member, too.  OutFront Minnesota’s mission is to create a state where lesbian, gay, bisexual,transgender, and queer people are free to be who they are, love who they love, and live without fear of violence, harassment or discrimination. OutFront’s Youth Leadership Council is a year-long leadership program for a select group of LGBTQ+ student leaders who meet twice a month. The Leadership Council is crucial in the planning and execution of our annual Youth Summit which brings together more than 500 LGBTQ+ and allied students and educators from across the state to collaborate, learn, and take action.