A.E. Quinn has poured their heart into this production. As a gender fluid student of Queer theatre in UCD, the lack of trans representation in theatre is glaringly obvious to them. Their play, My Queer Diary, is a conscious effort to change this. ‘I was doing a module called Queer Theatre and Performance and in that module, I discovered that there were only two plays in Ireland that focused on trans issues and neither of them had a trans actor in the role, It really pushed me to continue writing.’
Both the responses to their own experience of coming out and the hardships of other trans people around them gave them a sense of urgency to tell this story, ‘I think what gave me the biggest push to actually do the piece was that last summer I had a friend very close to me who is also trans try to take their own life… People need to hear these stories and get more aware of what’s going on around them; 1 in 2 trans people will try to kill themselves.’
Quinn began writing the script with Hayleigh McGowan over a year ago and the pair were determined to finish the project, even when scheduling conflicts kept them from working together in person, ‘We ended up writing the entire piece over Google Docs because we couldn’t meet up.’
The first incarnation of the script that was submitted to Dramsoc was rejected and Quinn agrees with that decision; the script was ‘shit.’ They admit that panic got the better of them, ‘I was actually very scared to put it in… To be honest, I wrote that in less than 24 hours.’
By the time the applications reopened, they knew that they could not compromise on such a personal and socially important story. ‘I spent five days straight just editing the script, I think my application was nearly twenty pages, I felt really bad for the committee, it had like reasons I thought it needed to be shown and like contingency plans for if stuff went wrong, so it was a very hyper-focused five days.’ There was a lot at stake, emotionally.
The play itself follows trans man Blake and his friend, Amelia, as they navigate a dystopian society that amplifies both the best and worst parts of the trans experience. Inherent parts of being trans that cis-gendered people may never have to contend with; questions of ‘What if?’, the fear of hate crimes and casual transphobia, ‘These little things that you dismiss actually have big effects on peoples lives.’
The aesthetic of My Queer Diary could be described as, for want of a better word, angsty. Quinn posets that many queer people adopt an angsty exterior as a shield against a world that is not always welcoming. The play’s Instagram profile features monochrome photography and pictures of feverishly scribbled diary entries, but the set will be minimalist, allowing for the actors, and their story, to take centre stage. Though videography and a soundtrack laden with LGBT+ artists will support the central story.
‘For me, it’s about creating a space that’s authentic. Especially if the writer/director/cast members are all cis and you’re trying to tell a trans story, you’re not going to do it correctly, or do it justice if you don’t know the experiences,’ Quinn asked at least fifteen other trans people to read the script and share their opinions. ‘I want to make sure that I was being authentic because authenticity is probably the best way to get rid of any taboos surrounding trans identity.’
They explain that the mere image of a cis actor playing a trans character perpetuates the ideology that trans people are simply people in costumes and men in dresses, which is ‘ridiculous and untrue’. ‘It sets a precedent that it’s just a performance, that it’s drag and it’s very hurtful especially when it comes to younger and they’re looking to these mediums to try and see themselves… What they see is damaging to their mental health.’
Adversaries to this specification in casting might say that the essence of acting allows the actors to play whoever they want to, trans characters included, but Quinn strongly disagrees, ‘When how you cast a role affects a minority its no longer just acting.’
The production process has been a lengthy labour of love that is finally ready to let the world in. Quinn hopes that My Queer Diary can translate the trans experience to cis audiences, like young trans people opening their own diaries to the world looking for acceptance and understanding in return.
By Muireann O’Shea – CoEditor