'The Naked I: Wide Open' returns this week

'The Naked I: Wide Open' returns this week
Photo by Anna Min of Min Enterprises 

This week, 20% Theatre Company brings back its wildly popular The Naked I: Wide Open, which premiered in February. The play, which is made up of monologues and short scenes, features contributions from over 20 local transgender and gender non-conforming artists and allies. The work takes on gender identity with true stories ranging from humorous to sexy to gut wrenching.

Saturday's show at Intermedia Arts is sold out, and the other performances are likely to as well, so it's highly recommended that you order in advance.

Naked I: Wide Open is inspired by an earlier play titled The Naked I: Monologues From Beyond the Binary by transgender playwright Tobias K. Davis. Davis attended Smith College with 20% Twin Cities founder and executive artistic director Claire Avitabile. He wrote the piece as he was coming out as a female to male transgender person.

'The Naked I: Wide Open' returns this week
Photo by Anna Min of Min Enterprises 

Like many colleges, Smith produced Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues each February. In 1998, Ensler and others launched V-Day, where colleges and non-profits are given permission to produce the show for free, with proceeds going toward anti-violence groups. 

"What about us?" asked Davis while watching the performance with his trans-identified friends at Smith College. That question inspired him to write his own play, written in a similar format to The Vagina Monologues, that included stories from the trans community. He conducted interviews throughout New England to gather stories that all related to genitalia. Together, Avitabile and Davis produced the play in 2003 at Smith College, with each of them co-directing Davis's script. 

In 2009, Avitabile decided to direct the show again with 20%. The production was so successful that afterward the company received many inquiries as to whether they would be doing it again, or if any workshops would take place.

'The Naked I: Wide Open' returns this week
Photo by Anna Min of Min Enterprises 

"It was such a powerful experience," Avitabile says, especially for transgender people and their loved ones. "They'd never seen themselves onstage before."

Because of the amount of positive feedback, Avitabile asked Davis if she could have permission to use the same name, but create a brand-new play using stories from people who would submit content.  

"He gave us his blessing," she says. 

While Davis's original play centered on stories surrounding genitalia, "we're going a little deeper into the concept of gender identity," Avitabile says. There are stories of coming out, having loved ones as trans, and navigating what it means to be a trans individual. There is a little sex, and a little sexiness as well, she says. 

The theater received over 100 pages of writing, and Avitabile and company member Anthony Neuman went through them all, picking the pieces that would work best for the show. Eventually, they contacted the writers, asking them if they could use their submission and if they wanted to be involved with the production. Some of the contributors said they would need to perform or direct the pieces themselves, while others gave permission for the theater to "go to town and have fun," she says. The full cast is about 30 people.
'The Naked I: Wide Open' returns this week
Photo by Anna Min of Min Enterprises 

One of the writers was Erica Fields, a trans woman who wrote about her journey. Before she was trans she never had good balance, and would stumble over words and sometimes trip over people. Once she finished her transition, she developed poise, confidence, and never stumbled again.

"It's a beautiful piece about finding congruity," Avitabile says. When the show premiered in February, another actor performed the piece. For the remount, Fields will be performing it herself, which Avitabile says has been a whole other journey for her.  

In addition to monologues, there are also short scenes and an introductory piece with a cast of 15 that was created from different people's response to the prompt: "I feel most naked when..." 

In September, a shortened version of The Naked I: Wide Open will perform at colleges. That version will be launched at the Fringe Festival this August. "It will be a whole different type of audience," she says.  
'The Naked I: Wide Open' returns this week
Photo by Anna Min of Min Enterprises 

After the tour, the company will let it rest, until they come back in 2014 with a part three to the show.  


The Naked I: Wide Open
Wednesday, June 13 through Saturday, June 16
Intermedia Arts
2822 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
7:30 p.m. for all shows.
Saturday's performance is sold out, but there will be a waiting list starting at 6:30 p.m.
$5-25 sliding scale
For reservations, call 612.227.1188 or email [email protected]
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Intermedia Arts

2822 Lyndale Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55408


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