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Bloody ‘Odd’: Horror show plays trans theater fest

Sometimes a gun is just a gun: While rehearsing the horror play “Oddity,” opening July 20, actor Aliyah Hakim threatens Kelsey Jefferson Barrett, who plays a detective and gender specialist.
Samantha Turlington

Queer writing trans-cends genre!

The second annual Trans Theatre Festival, returning July 17 to the Brick Theater in Williamsburg, will feature a lineup of comedies, tragedies, and musical stories from transgender creators — showcasing the diversity found within the community, said one of the festival’s curators.

“We try to go for variety and it’s very important to me as a curator to make sure that we have funny and silly pieces, the feel-goods, the light dramas, and the hard hitters,” said Maybe Burke. “It’s also really important that we don’t force people to talk about being trans, and that we find people who want tell the stories that they want to tell — whether or not they want to talk about their identity.”

The festival runs from July 17–29, and it includes musical performances, such as Burke’s “Accidental Trans Anthems,” experimental theater such as the postlanguage play “Lauras,” and a goofy transgender take on Justin Bieber titled “Swaggy.”

Among the more serious offerings is “Oddity,” opening July 20. The story follows a Victorian-era transgender man, a “gender specialist,” who is trying to solve a series of murders in a mysterious underground facility. During his investigation, he begins to question everything that he knows, as a collection of cisgender characters contradict what he has learned.

“A major theme of this piece is what it feels like to be gaslighted,” said playwright Ashley Lauren Rogers. “We’re following this character who is learning things, and knows what he knows, but is constantly being told by people above him that it’s not true.”

Rogers describes her piece as “psychological body horror.” The protagonist’s encounters reflect those often experienced by transgender people trying to navigate medical care, she said.

“I want to kind of unsettle anyone and everyone who is watching and ultimately I want to highlight the gaslighting, particularly the history of medicalization and gaslighting of trans bodies,” said Rogers, who lives in Prospect Lefferts Gardens.

The playwright chose the Victorian era for her piece because, although it has a reputation for being strait-laced, the period had a more complex understanding of gender than most people think.

“I feel like what people think they know about the Victorian era is not all true, and there are good texts in particular about Victorian sexuality and the Victorian understanding of gender,” she said.

“Oddity” at the Brick Theater [579 Metropolitan Ave. between Lorimer Street and Union Avenue in Williamsburg, (718) 907-6189, www.bricktheater.com]. July 20 at 9:20 pm, July 22 at 2 pm, July 24 at 9 pm. $20.

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