Saturday, April 01, 2017

A travesti theatre artist who refuses to be silenced


A very determined attempt was made yesterday to silence the performance of my play “The Gospel According to Jesus Queen Of Heaven”.

The performance took place in Taubate, a city of a quarter of a million people roughly half way between Sao Paulo and Ro de Janeiro.

This is the account of what happened given by the play’s performer, Renata Carvalho.

I have translated it in full because it is a magnificent testimony to the power of theatre. 

This is why theatre matters.

"Yesterday we performed  in SESC Taubate at 2000. There was already a queue of people wanting to get in at 1800. The house was full, and many people were unable to get a ticket.
I believe that this is the city that has tried the hardest to censor our play "The Gospel According to Jesus Queen Of Heaven", in which I, a travesti, portray Jesus of Nazareth.

And do you know why all those people are getting so upset?

The fact that I am a travesti.

From the moment I exchanged trousers for skirts, and trainers for high heels...my life changed completely. And I'm not referring to the clothes that came to express me, but simply from the fact of being a TRAVESTI.

One moment I was accepted as the intelligent son, the educated boy, the favourite cousin, and a source of pride to my parents. The next I discovered myself to be, and understood myself to be, a TRAVESTI.

I was expelled from many places. My parents no longer accepted me. I was thrown out of my home. I was cut off from all contact with my own family. Every invitation to family gatherings disappeared.

i came to be seen as someone who was promiscuous, made for sex, a second class and inferior category person, a source of shame to my family. They defined my gender identity as a source of immorality. I came to be suspected, watched, observed and questioned whenever I went to certain places. Forwe who are TRAVESTI are NOT accepted in many places and contexts in our society.

I have been an actress for twenty one years and when a small portion of the audience began to boo the play (which they thought had finished) we began to be applauded and cheered and some people invaded the stage to defend the right to freedom of expression. 

I was alone on stage in the presence of all this.  I saw in the lighting box someone making a sign to end the show. I was aware of the situation and was really very close to bringing the show to an end.

it was the moment in which Jesus blesses the audience; and in the tumult I raised my voice in a way I never have before and said "Bless..."

Very quickly silence returned to the auditorium and I was able to give the blessing.

I even added a line which is not in the script:

"Bless the transphobic and the prejudiced because one day we will see the light."

I wanted to say to those prejudiced and transphobic people, there in the theatre and elsewhere, that you will NOT PASS.

And to make it clear that even though you have expelled me from many places you will never throw me out of the theatre. The stage is my home, and this is where I struggle. This is where I resist. From this place you will never expel me.

Transphobia is there. Right beside us. We have to talk about it.

I want to give profound thanks to everyone in Sesc Taubate for their support and for not giving way to the attempts to censor the play. 

I want to thank every branch of the Sesc in Sao Paulo for supporting, being committed to, and standing up for diversity. 

I want to thank the public of Taubate for their welcome, their love, and the messages of support that we have been receiving since yesterday's performance. 

Thank you everyone.

Thank you Natalia Mallo, my director, for trusting me, giving me confidence, and teaching me so much.

Thank you Jo Clifford, whose words mean more and more each time I say them.

Thank you Gabi Goncalves who has made this pilgrimage possible and worked on it with so much love.

Thank you Thais Venitt (I miss you already), thank you Dalia Gil, and Juliana Augusta Vieira, who make such a difference.

We will resist and we will struggle. We are stronger together.

Evoe. Amen"


And thank you, Renata Carvalho, for your courage and inspiration.

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