Transgender Day of Visibility is observed yearly on March 31 to celebrate trans individuals and raise awareness of discrimination. To mark the day this year, Blue Barn Theatre is presenting a one-night virtual performance of “For Black Trans Girls…” (that’s the abridged title), a choreopoem by Washington, D.C.-based artist Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi. The work is inspired by the late Ntozake Shange’s seminal “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf.”
The production was pre-recorded via Zoom with the actors performing remotely. It will be followed by a virtual talkback with Edidi at 9 p.m.
The cast of “For Black Trans Girls...” includes Edidi as well as Omaha’s own Dominique Morgan, executive director of abolition nonprofit Black and Pink. Courtney Bierman spoke to Morgan about being in a production that is almost entirely composed of Black trans women.
Can you start by telling me about your character, Peaches, and who she is?
I was excited to play Peaches. One, because she was described as the youngest of all of them, and I think I'm the oldest of all the actresses. I just turned 39 last week. There is so much of Peaches that resonates from my time being a young person. And also, I think even just being a[n] older person that still does young person things, right? We think we've learned lessons and we do things like, “Oh, I didn't learn that lesson.” And intersecting with the work that I get to do at Black and Pink with the young trans women that I work with. And she's impulsive. She's a spitfire. She's funny. She has some anger, but it's valid as hell. At the end of the day, she doesn't want to be defined by anyone else's representation. And it feels good to say a lot of things that I could never say publicly as Dominic Morgan at this point in my career, and really kind of just release.
Transgender Day of Visibility is about recognizing trans people and celebrating trans people. So how does “For Black Trans Girls…” celebrate Black trans women in particular?
It really centers, like, how varied our experiences are. The trans experience is not a monolith. Specifically, the Black trans experience is not a monolith. And the conversations are so varied. You know, we're singing in this piece. We are doing rhythmic presentations. Like, I have a whole scene when I'm just singing bass notes to underscore another artist. We all are better the tighter that we link into each other in this piece. And I think that reflects the experience of being black and trans in this world, where the more that we link into each other, the better our lived experience will be. And that's powerful.
Have you been a part of production like this before? That is entirely women of color but mostly Black trans women?
I have never. I did not think that this would be something that would come my way. I haven't been able to do a piece like this in a long time because of my work life. Because, you know, Black and Pink, I'm on a plane every other day or I have things going on. I just couldn't even imagine that the first piece of performance art I would be able to do in such a grand way would be written by a Black trans woman and with all Black trans women. And that's just incredibly powerful.
Were you familiar with Lady Dane’s work before this?
I was. There was some amazing work on YouTube that I found from lady Dane about two years ago. It was just exciting, and I sent it over to some friends. And I was like, “Wow, like she's pretty lit,” and started following her on social media just because. And then, when I was able to talk to Barry [Carman] over at the Blue Barn, I'm trying to hide my excitement. And now we're here. Lady Dane's just been incredible. And "Pose" really pushed us in a space where we I think just were hungry and have been able to taste and experience Black trans folks in art. And Lady Dane is one of those folks — specifically in the space of performance art — that are really creating spaces for us and nurturing and feeding us, and that that's exciting.
And of course, she's in the play as well — or in this particular performance of it. So what was it like working with her?
It's been wonderful to work with her. I think it's not only incredible for her to lead us through the process, but for her to be able to bring the history of the piece in the moment. There's a specific monologue around Peaches's Aunt Jimmy, and it's really Lady Dane’s Aunt Jimmy. I was able to not have to wonder the tone, the energy to bring: I had it there. It's just been beautiful to be led and to be in community with her and the other girls.
Do you think you approached the work and your performance differently from how you might have even a year ago?
Oh, absolutely. I mean — well, one thing: I wouldn't have been in the play a year ago. I started my medical and social transition March 24 of 2020.
Oh, congratulations. Like exactly a year, almost.
Thank you. And so that is also what is beautiful about this piece, is that I don't think it was a coincidence. This piece came and it came from Lady Dane, and it came in this ensemble of Black trans women. Our director (Paige Hernandez) is a Black cis woman, but it's still very Black, very African-American, and it feels very liberating. So yes, it's a beautiful opportunity to have one of those full-circle moments with this piece of art — and in my city. I believe in Omaha; I believe in the power of Omaha; I believe in the power of Omaha art. And so for me to be able to do this, and to be anchored to what this work will be able to do in our community, is super exciting.
Visit Bluebarn.org to purchase tickets for the March 31 presentation of “For Black Trans Girls...” This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.