To mark the final four weeks of MURDER IN PASSING (where Stephen sang and played a homophobic cop in a commuter murder-mystery series which raised trans and transit issues that ran between Jan 7 – Mar 1, 2013 on TTC subway screens), Stephen researched and recorded a new song each week in the repertoire that brackets trans expression and representation. One of the discoveries of this process was not only are there very few pieces in the repertoire, those extant are about the MTF experience. There are none to date about the FTM experience (not counting breeches roles in opera).
Week 1: Hope there’s someone
Cover of trans-identified musician Antony Hegarty’s (Antony and the Johnsons) moving song from their amazing 2005 album I AM A BIRD NOW. The lyric “Oh I’m scared of the middle place / Between light and nowhere / I don’t want to be the one / Left in there / left in there” expresses the fear and torment of being caught in-between.
Week 2: Wicked little town
A reflection on doomed love and being different from the iconic film/musical HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH by Stephen Trask and John Cameron Mitchell about a fictional rock band fronted by an East German transgender singer. The struggle for acceptance is expressed in the lyic “They’re pious, hateful, and devout / You’re turning tricks ’til you’re turned out / The wind so cold it burns / your burning out”.
Week 3: Vera’s song
The eleven o’clock number/aria by the only transgender operatic character (to date) in the repertoire from VERA OF LAS VEGAS (billed as “a nightmare cabaret opera”) by Daron Hagen and Paul Muldoon. Vera sings “And I still don’t know / if I’m a man dreaming I’m a butterfly / or a butterfly dreaming I’m a man” and “I have such power as beauty brings / and yet I’m still quite powerless”.
Week 4: She’s a woman
A reinterpretation of a problematic song (in its conflation of homosexuality and transsexuality) from John Kander and Fred Ebb’s musicalization of Manuel Puig’s KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN as a boy soprano, which transforms it into a song of pre-adolescent gendered awakening.
CONCEIVED & PERFORMED BY : STEPHEN CHEN