I’ve always understood the appeal of a box.
Four walls. One roof. And one floor. No way out, but no way to get lost, too. A box has the trouble of being closed. Still, it also gives definition.
But take it from Lisa Stephen Friday: No definition is worth a damn coming from some closed-off square.
Keegan Scratches My Back
A one-woman show centered around the kick-ass journey of a trans rockstar, this production was fostered by the support of an incredible theater and a wildly creative artist: Lisa Stephen Friday.
After I wrote a review praising both Friday and Keegan Theatre as local legends, I was lucky enough to be offered a ticket to the second-to-last showing of “TRANS AM” — which was filmed live with a full crowd and yet another phenomenal display by Friday.
But being a restless opportunist, I thanked Keegan abundantly for the ticket with an offer of my own:
“You know what’s a fun idea? If I interviewed Lisa.”
Although I felt like a kid trying to get backstage for an autograph, I was fortunate enough that Keegan loved the idea and that Friday was a great sport who liked my article.
It was set: an interview with Lisa Stephen Friday.
Dolled Up And Jittery
Now watching “TRANS AM” was a revolutionary experience, but actually talking to Friday was big.
Not only had Friday proven herself as an artist, but she was also the embodiment of everything I stood for.
She’s a punk rock thespian who’s also a pop-culture geek and loves Boy George as much as I do.
In anticipation of the talk, I was a mess — and a tired-looking mess at that.
Having worked a whole shift listening to teens gawk over Edmund Burke, I had to rush home and devise an outfit that would make me seem cool enough for Friday.
And while fashion isn’t my forte, I sure hoped listening would be a good substitute.
I spent all afternoon playing dress-up and Friday appeared on-screen in a practical outfit: black hoodie and thick-framed glasses.
I had spent so much effort cutting shirts and ripping pants thinking anything short of amazing would bore Friday, but then I realized she is a performer with a day job.
When she’s not onstage, she’s working.
Here I was looking like a Bowie-obsessed cheerleader from a horror flick when Friday had the right idea and decided to approach everything calmly.
Again, she was schooling me with her trademark chill.
Off the bat, I was ecstatic. While Friday was brewing tea and enjoying a quiet night talking to me, I was fawning over the fact that she was really there to answer all my questions.
But as soon as I dropped the fangirling, we got deep.
At first, we talked about drag and its legacy. For me, drag education started and ended with reality T.V. But for Friday, drag was a diverse world.
Having been a part of the Cheese Whiz scene back in NYC, Friday explained how drag communities weren’t a monolith.
Many championed multiformity and welcomed all.
Others were more so rooted in certain “traditions.”
“We had one couple come in and get off on being intimate in our space. They became commonplace after a while,” Friday laughs.
After that, we discussed romance in a transgender context. Specifically how a transition allows someone to further understand their sexuality.
With Friday, there were women and men. But the key to her maintaining romantic bonds was honesty. And after years of learning and self-reflection, it seemed like Friday had a good idea of who she was.
A good idea, but not a closed book.
Hearing me lament over my past as the boy-next-door and giggling over the femme soul I was tentatively embracing, Friday made something clear to me.
“If you think you have everything figured out, you don’t. We never stop. Not you. Not me.”
And as shocked as I was to hear someone who seemed so sure admit to still figuring things out, Lisa’s lesson rang clear after the interview and at the stage of Keegan Theatre yet again.
Back At Keegan
While I spent my last experience at Keegan taking notes, this second showing let me catch up with Fred Berman, Lisa’s bandmate and director of “TRANS AM.”
Not only was Berman incredibly kind, but he also had the heart to emphasize the gravity of “TRANS AM.”
As much as I thought I knew the show, it was obvious to Berman and eventually myself that I had so much more to take in.
My Second Time
With this performance, there were many moments that lingered.
Every pause felt like the world stopped. Every yell, more passionate than the last.
Each time Friday had a glimmer in her eye, I had the whiplash reaction of looking deeper and immediately having to look away because what she was feeling was so heavy.
I saw every moment hit Friday harder than I had ever seen any actor get hit. And that makes sense because this show wasn’t an act. This was her life.
Friday essentially wrote an autobiography, but instead of having the luxury of letting other people guide the journey, she got onstage and let everything go.
She was in pain. She was triumphant. She was divine unlike any other divinity I’ve seen.
Lisa Stephen Friday was becoming a legend right before my eyes.
As soon as the show hit its end and the tears had cleared from both my eyes and Lisa’s, I thought one thing:
How could I have thought such a legendary story had a final chapter?
Learn more about Lisa Stephen Friday on Instagram @lisastephenfriday.
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