If Shakespeare was right that all the world's a stage and we are but actors on that stage, then it matters that all of the actors are represented. But they aren't. Fully 83 percent of the plays that make it to production are written by men. However wonderful many of those plays might be, that's a lopsided statistic. Enter the 20% Theatre Company Twin Cities, a Minneapolis-based PFund grantee partner in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
The 20% Theatre Company Twin Cities believes in noninvasive social justice education through theatre. This means gently educating audiences on topics that can change and even save lives on topics that can turn ignorance into understanding.
The theatre's inclusive efforts include how they choose their actors and how they select the works they produce. It recognizes GLBT artists, and specifically transgender artists, as severely misrepresented or underrepresented in American theatre. It is committed to only producing new and progressive work by female or transgender playwrights, and employing only GLBT and female allies in artistic positions of power behind-the-scenes.
Beyond traditional gender roles
Actors at the 20% Theatre Company come from everywhere, and represent the best person for each part. But what exactly does that mean? To start, the theatre takes the philosophy that gender is performative. Meaning, "femaleness" and "maleness" are concepts that are performed or expressed separately from biology. While most theaters assume that "male" or "female" roles look a certain way, the 20% Theatre does not. Its auditions show an ever-increasing number of transgender and gender-queer artists coming out to audition, alongside traditionally-gendered performers for the same "male" or "female" roles.
There is no "best" or "perfect" body to perform any particular gendered role. There is only the actor who can make that character live. And 20% Theatre productions have performers who do more than light up the stage, they light up our communities.
The 20% Theatre Twin Cities has earned rave reviews for performances of The Second Coming of Joan of Arc, Hot ëní Throbbing , Standards of Care and The Naked I: Monologues from Beyond the Binary. Over the past several years, their work has been featured in publications including Mpls./St. Paul Magazine, Star Tribune, City Pages, Lavender Magazine, St. Paul Pioneer Press, and on MPR and KFAI radio stations. Nationally, they have been featured in San Franciscoís Bay Times, New Englandís Bay Windows LGBT Newspaper, and in Curve Magazine, the nationís best-selling lesbian publication.