“Things I Know to be True” explores family dynamics

Kevin Kantor HSMilwaukee Repertory Theater presents the show’s American premiere March 5 to March 31.By Paul Masterson

Milwaukee Repertory Theater stages the American premiere of Andrew Bovell’s Things I Know To Be True. A family drama, it is of particular interest to the LGBTQ community because of its inclusion of a non-binary actor playing a trans character. But, perhaps more importantly, it integrates that role equally as just one of the half dozen that comprise the play’s cast.

Kevin Kantor, who identifies as non-binary and prefers the pronoun choice (they, them, their), appears as Mia. Their performance history is a long and varied one as an actor, director, writer, and poet. They also appeared with Lady Gaga during the 2016 Oscars. As a queer activist, they describe their mission in the context of the historical delineation of gender that has been socialized along the binary. “It’s a box people feel they have to live in. I want to burn gender to the ground and fashion my face from the ashes,” Kantor said.

Kevin in rehearsal 2The role of Mia is a perfect conduit for Kantor. A first for Milwaukee Repertory Theater, the casting of a non-binary actor playing a non-binary character allows the audience, especially its non-LGBTQ members, insights that might allay misconceptions about trans individuals. It’s natural for an audience to identify with a play’s characters and find a connection with them. However, a gender non-conforming role can be more of a challenge. To that Kantor explained, “I exist very publicly. If I make you uncomfortable, I want you to sit in it and metabolize that and come to terms with why someone living their lives gives you discomfort. It takes a while to get to that place and to take the character on that journey I’ve been on myself. I want to change hearts. The minds will follow.”

Casting Kantor as Mia also reflects a positive shift in the consciousness of theater producers. In the past, LGBTQ roles would probably have been played by non-LGBTQ actors. Today, institutions like Milwaukee Repertory Theater have evolved their identity awareness. By inviting non-gender conforming actors to the stage, they are offering new opportunities not only for queer performers, but also new experiences for audience members.

The cast of characters include Mia’s sisters Rosie (Aubyn Heglie) and Pip (Kelley Faulkner), brother Ben (Zach Fifer), and parents Fran and Bob (Jordon Baker and Bill Geisslinger, respectively). Director Mark Clements explains the play’s message as familial love and how it manifests itself on the one hand as an inescapable bond yet, on the other, restrains each characters pursuit of their individual identity.

How the characters negotiate that dichotomy is the crux of Things I Know To Be True.

Milwaukee Repertory Theater presents the American premiere of Andrew Bovell’s “Things I Know To Be True,” March 5-31, 2019. For tickets and info, call 414-224-9490 or visit www.MilwaukeeRep.com. The LGBTQ Community and Allies are invited to Pride Night on Friday, March 15. Tickets are $30 for this event featuring a preshow reception with complimentary appetizers, wine and beer starting at 6:30, show at 8:00. Use code: PRIDE to get this special price (restrictions apply).

Speak Your Mind