Seven Million Shiny Boxes
The Farm Theater’s College Collaboration:
Three schools commission an early career playwright to write a play that each school will independently produce throughout the academic year. The faculty, students, and playwright collaborate throughout the year in the development of the text. The Farm Report will chronicle that process.
I’ve always been interested in the concept of gender even before I knew it. I remember when I was a kid, noticing how men and women were treated differently – in movies, on the news, in commercials – and I noticed how girls and boys were treated differently in school, and even in my own family. When they separated the girls from the boys, I was in the girls’ line, but there were times I felt like I didn’t fit into the girl box, or wasn’t “girl” enough. Why not separate according to hair color, or interest in music? Seems like you’d get a more interesting “team” that way, and probably a more interesting “game.” I didn’t like the experience that, because I was a girl, a set of assumptions were placed on me regarding my talents, interests and behaviors. “Girls don’t do that.” It felt limiting.
Last year, I came across a vlog by Hank Green called “Human Sexuality is Complicated” where he describes the typical lens through which we view each other. That lens puts us into two boxes determined by biological sex – basically what’s between our legs. He goes on to talk about some of the other ways you could describe a person – ways that may be more useful and expansive, which include gender identity (how you view yourself along the gender continuum), sexual orientation (who you are attracted to), sexual behavior (who you behave sexually with), and romantic behavior (who you develop intimacy with without the end-goal being sex). For example, you could have a person born with female sex organs but feels like a male and is attracted sexually to women and identifies as heterosexual. Or you could have a person who was born with male sex organs who feels more “masculine” some days and more “feminine” others. You could have a million variations of the above, including other descriptors of human behavior that aren’t typically included in the gender binary of female and male. I was excited by the idea that instead of a couple shiny boxes to stuff everyone in (and I’m not sure how shiny those boxes are), we would have seven million shiny boxes of individuality, potential, expression and hopefully, tolerance.
Through The Farm Theater’s College Collaboration Project, I created a questionnaire that was given to theater students at three colleges: SUNY Brockport; Centre College in Kentucky; and University of West Florida. Their answers were anonymous. This is what I asked:
- What is the first memory of your gender?
- What adjectives would you use to describe the female and male gender? Do you think these are different from the mainstream descriptors and if so, how?
- Has anyone every thought you were a different gender that you are? What was that experience like?
- What messages did you receive from your parents and the culture at large about your biological gender?
- Have you ever been aware of an impulse, thought, or feeling that felt like it went against the expectations of your gender?
- Can you imagine a world not defined by gender?
- Have you ever been ridiculed or denied an opportunity for doing or saying something that others didn’t consider “masculine” or “feminine” enough? How did you feel? How did you react?
- Have you ever ridiculed someone for doing something you didn’t consider “masculine” or “feminine” enough?
- How have you developed or explored your gender style?
I never could have anticipated the range and richness of their responses. In my next report for The Farm, I’ll share some of what they said. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts to the questions in the comments below and be part of the play-making process! xo
Micheline Auger is a writer, playwright and producer. She received the 2015 New York Innovative Theater Award for Outstanding Original Full-Length Script for her play Donkey Punch which was produced off-Broadway; was voted one of Indie Theater’s 2014 People of the Year and was awarded with the National Theatre Conference’s Paul Green Award by veteran Broadway producer Liz McCann. She is also the creator of Theaterspeak and the event, WRITE OUT FRONT which has put over 200 award-winning and up-and-coming playwrights in the window of the Drama Book Shop writing new plays on view of the public in the Times Square Theater District. WRITE OUT FRONT and has been featured on the front page of the New York Times Saturday Arts Section, WNYC, Time Out NY, and on NY1. She has worked with and produced for the Lilly Awards Foundation and is a proud member of the Actors Studio Playwright/Directors Unit, New York Madness Theater Company and the Dramatist Guild. @Michelineauger @WriteOutFront