Article Title:Ze: Queer as f*ck
Category:Entertainment
Author or Credit:By
Published on:11th May 2016 - 02:13 pm
Published by:GayNZ.com
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Story ID:18257
Text:"Ze" is a new solo autobiographical work by writer and performer Michelle/Ryan Lunicke that opens tomorrow night in Auckland, tackling the big issues surrounding sex, gender and queer labels and identities. The show premiered at Fringe World in Perth this year and gained a nomination for Best Comedy, before going on to sell out shows at the Adelaide Fringe Festival and the Dunedin Fringe Festival. Part stand-up, part theatre and completely contemporary, Ze takes the audience on an hour long journey through the host's experiences with gender and sexuality. One after the other, these experience force zir to re-classify in a world of expanding terms, labels, and definitions that though empowering, can also determine inclusion or exclusion. We chat to Michelle/Ryan ahead of the Auckland opening and before heading off an a North American tour. How did you first get into theatre? My professional background is in theatre, writing, and performance, although I did work for a number of years in philanthropy, childcare, and have taken the odd job in retail and hospitality when necessary (as you do.) I have degrees in theatre and psychology from Trinity Western University in BC, Canada. My interest in theatre began at a young age in a small town in Washington State, USA where my American parents took me to local community theatres. I had the stereotypical acting bug-bite. I begged them to let me get involved in summer stock programs. I spent a great deal of my childhood and teenage years performing. While I often had small parts, the closeness allowed me to watch and learn from some well trained actors that occasionally made the rounds with us between professional gigs. I learned a little about every aspect of the theatre making process from them and was entirely consumed. I also learned about different kinds of people besides myself, which changed my world. There seemed to be no limits to the possibility of theatre as an art form and it capitalised on audience connection, human empathy, and at it's best, challenging philosophy....ingredients to change the world if you ask me. My interest in acting moved more into writing once I got interested in new forms. I wanted to see my world reflected in art, and so the void I needed to fill as a writer/performer became apparent (although I would be please as punch to help others do the same.)   What was life like for you growing up and what kinds of challenges did you face? I'm not done growing up yet! Like all children I constantly craved the love and approval of my exceedingly christian family, which I managed to achieve fairly well until puberty. Then sexuality, abstract critical thinking skills, and all my exposure to the humanities started creating a pretty wide divide between what I was taught, and experience. I had a pretty rough time of it. I was still wanting unconditional acceptance, and learning over and over that I wasn't ever going to fit the life that they, or anyone else, had expected of me. That pattern has been on repeat for a few cycles now with different groups I've identified with over the years....including some of those in the LGBTQI community. It's easy to build hierarchies of "who is the better fill-in-the-blank," "in-groups," and out-groups" when you're been on the butt end of overt or covert discrimination (or think you have) and maybe are a bit desperate and frustrated to belong. Shame and repression are fortes of mine I'm always working to relieve, even with religion replaced by other "thou shalt's." I can't escape my need for approval and love no matter how many Beyonce music videos I watch. It's just human. I focus on building a positive relationship with my sexuality, my gender identity, and my expression...even if and when it changes, and it has! People get suspicious of anything they can't predict, but life is great with surprise! And I suspect we are all a great deal more vast than we give ourselves room for. For me, turning shame into pride comes from an unapologetic ownership of my experiences (all of them, no curating!) and a flagrant celebration of this variety in a community of individuals doing the same. That's what Pride Festival is all about and that's the world I want to live in.   Why is humour important in theatre? Humour is essential, especially with tough and sensitive topics. It is a form of enjoyable criticism and it is so sane-making when it's utilised well. It's the ability to be pluralistic, to look at things from another direction and see them in another context. It's an ability to zoom out for a broader look at these silly human life games like gender and sexuality, and also zoom in to look at the minutia of our sometimes arbitrary misery and happiness. Even the best tragedy won't compel if you can't provide this scope.  We need to know that things matter, that they are serious, but not ultimately serious. Life is fun. Have a laugh. And when things can't get worse, when you can't cry anymore, have a laugh. And laugh at yourself for getting so involved and invested, because it's all going away. On a grand scale of time, we are dust. I'm not really a comedian because I don't write jokes, but I think life is like a cosmic joke, and in my opinion, a good-natured one. Do you prefer to perform solo and how does it feel to be performing something autobiographical? This is only my second solo show I've produced although I'm in the writing stages on a few others. I don't know that I prefer solo work, but it certainly makes certain things simpler, like touring. It's a very different way to make a play. I think solo shows create more intimacy with the audience, which I really enjoy. I am sure there are many in my future. As to the performance being autobiographical, true stories are sometimes more compelling than fiction. There is no hiding behind them as a performer. Although I am also reliving/acting certain things, they happened to me and I'm a stickler for emotional accuracy if not verbatim word usage.  When I first started working on this show, I knew I was going to be exposing a lot of very private information about myself, and my lovers, which was necessary to telling my story as well as getting across the point that shame lurks in our secrecy and perceived social transgressions. And I did have the thought "what will people think of me?"...especially as I've done this performance in my adopted home town of Whangarei where people will later see me at the Grower's Market. But what I've discovered is that rather than judging me, people give themselves permission to be ok. Trans-gression (so long as it doesn't hurt anyone) can become trans-cendence. And by the next day everyone is doing their shopping and they don't care one wit about my dirty little secrets. What can audiences expect from the show? The show's form is part stand-up and part theatre, and I'm told it has the aftertaste of a good TEDx talk. (Some people need more education than others.) People can expect to see something "out there," at times shocking, awkward, funny, challenging, but also tender and sweet, reflective, and inspiring. It IS a coming out story, albeit a non-traditional one even by LGBTQI, etc standards. You might laugh, cry, laugh again, and put a little more thought into who you think you are. In the end, whatever than answer is, I bring us together in a Pride Festival worthy moment of rainbow celebration! Ze: Queer as f*ck! May 12-14, 18-20, 8pm Garnet Station, Auckland - 11th May 2016    
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