Cranston residents shines in `Trans Views' production at URI theatre

The Cranston Herald ·

What if your “insides” did not match other people’s perception of you from the outside? What if the world demanded you to be a person you were not? What if you lived in fear all the time?

A local play called “Trans Views” was created from interviews of members of the local transgender community. The performance shares personal stories that raise issues and bears witness to the challenges of individuals struggling to live in their gender identity.

Often maligned and misunderstood through ignorance, these personal accounts of transgender women and men illuminate individual journeys, help dispel fear and misunderstanding, and celebrate courage and tenacity. 

The project is meant to affirm and celebrate, educate and create understanding and support.

‘Trans Views’ is hosted by the URI Feinstein Providence Campus Arts and Culture Program with Rhode Island State Council of Churches. Frank Toti is the playwright and play director, and also wrote the play, and Steven Pennell is the producer and project director. Both Pennell and Toti Jr. live in Cranston.

The play shares the daily life, celebrations, struggles and triumphs of six transgender women and men from the local transgender community, aged 15-70.

“As two gay men growing up in Cranston, Rhode Island in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s we both experienced bullying and abuse because of the perception of our sexuality,” said Pennell, who is also the coordinator of Arts and Culture at URI Providence campus.

“We owned a home and were respectable, members of the community for 15 years before it became possible to enjoy the expression of our commitment and relationship in marriage, and the rights that come from that,” he added. “Some of the painful reality in our life experiences has made each of us more deeply sensitive to the plight of others. As oral historians and theater artists this has caused us individually and as collaborators to share the stories of 'otherness', to give voice to the voiceless, and hopefully raise awareness and understanding through our work.”

Additional quotes from the interviews are infused in the narrative.

‘Trans Views’ includes performances by Lilly Cataldi of Cranston, Ted D’Atri of Smithfield/Bristol, Chris Laureano of Attleboro, Sandra Lee of Cranston, Mark Roberts of Cranston, Carol Schlink of Cranston and Steven Pennell of Cranston, with spoken word by Cody Suzuki of Fall River to open the performance.

The fully staged performance is followed by a moderated discussion under the coordination of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches to provide education and resources and engage in healthy dialogue toward understanding.

The play will tour to locations around the state in May and June, returning to URI Providence Campus Paff Auditorium for the PVD Fest and the celebration of PRIDE RI. 

All performances are free of charge and open to the public.

“One of the universal ways in which humans communicate is through the sharing of personal stories,” said Toti Jr. “Sharing a moment from your life allows for the person who is hearing that story to make a connection, to begin the process of building an empathy with the experience that is being shared. These personal stories help us recognize the common humanity between individuals who may come from different social, racial, or economic backgrounds, and in this particular case individuals who are struggling to articulate their gender identity in a society that is still struggling with basic equality between transgender, heterosexual men and women.”

The play and the moderated discussion following the performances is being brought out to local community space, both church and non-church, increasing education and opening dialogue for deeper understanding and acceptance.

The “Trans Views” touring schedule is:

May 11 at 7:00 p.m. at Westminster Unitarian 119 Kenyon Ave.;

May 15 at 6:30 p.m. and hosted by the Community Care Alliance at the Woonsocket Train Depot at 1 Depot Square;

June 1 at 7:00 p.m. at St. Paul’s Church 50 Park Place, Pawtucket;

June 2 at 7:00 p.m. at the Berean Baptist Church 475 Chapel St. in Harrisville;

June 3 at 7:00 p.m. at the First Baptist Church in America 75 N. Main Street Providence;

June 7 and 8 at 7:00 p.m. at the URI Providence Campus Paff Auditorium 80 Washington St.

For more information call 401-277-5206.