‘History Keeps Me Awake: Queer Voices in Rep’
A ONE MAN SHOW; THE COMMANDING TRANSMAN SKYLER COOPER DEFINES HIS TRANSFORMATION FROM A BAPTIST MINISTER'S DAUGHTER TO A CHAMPION BODYBUILDER
Bay Area activist and actor Skyler Cooper's “A ONE MAN SHOW” is part of Theatre First QUEER VOICES IN REP it is compelling, gripping and powerful. It underscored the theme that "History Keeps Me Awake." The performance is raw, passionate, witty, and authentic. Skyler commanded the stage at the Waterhouse Playhouse for the entire 80-minutes. ONE MAN SHOW is only on stage at the 4th street stage through March 7th. Directed by Domenique Lozano and Dramaturgy by Lisa Evans. Cooper says “This is far from a one-man show that I originally imagined. From the creative team to the cast of characters that joined me in putting this has been very supportive and collaborative that I have ever worked on.”
The black box goes dark and Cooper enters the small space looking for his life with a flashlight. The stage is scattered with packing boxes full of clues from his past history. Once he gets started mapping out his life he begins by chalking a game on the stage floor. Growing up a tom boy, Cooper’s Baptist minister father did not accept him, and his mother “the red hat lady” was deep in faith. The death of his mother becomes the catalyst that sets Skyler on his path toward his wish to be someone he can believe in. Cooper says he found out about black history by watching the TV series ROOTS, and he was in the shadow of his little sister. “She liked dick, and I could never like that, but I loved my Father’s record collection.” Cooper listened to the classics as he later realizes his father is gay. Cooper tells his family “ I don’t believe in God, and desperately wanted to become a man.”
“I am a transman” says Sklyer as he enters the US Military to find autonomy. “The foundation of this show was built on four walls that I determined had to be torn down in order for me to thrive. They were faith, sexuality, gender and race.” Skyler's words were so vibrant and illustrating as the story unfolded while I sat on the edge of my seat. Sklyer says “ I hope the stories I tell will remind you of the stories you have experienced in your life.The stories that emerged were buried in experience after experience. We all have them and if we are able to look back we may be able to see why we are here today.”
Artistic Facilitor of TheatreFIRST Jon Tracy says he is excited when moving work is witnessed and new conversations are born about theatre and queer voices: “TheatreFIRST intersects communities with developmental work, putting audiences in the room with new processes of creation, holding ourselves to mandates of a minimum two-thirds people of color, half female identified and one-third LGBTQIA2 in all aspects of story creation. We deeply believe our investigation will lead us to the unheard stories we’ve longed to speak and hear, and that those stories will navigate us all towards a future built on humility, respect, and compassion.”
Sklyer says he was not sure about doing ONE MAN SHOW “ I felt my story was not important in the grand scheme of things and exposing my vulnerable moments throughout my life would leave me as a target for judgment. I feared I would be scorned for having positions that lay outside of the mainstream.” His story is captivating, you might think it is a story we have heard before, but it is deep, torn and a celebration of life, weather this queer theme was at the core - it still rings for anyone and everyone. Cooper writes in the playbill notes: “If I created a show that presents how we can have different beliefs and backgrounds, yet still respect and love one another then I will expose my vulnerabilities and view it as my strength.”
ONE MAN SHOW ends as Skyler is clear “Our humanity is very important to me and I will fight for it as long as I live. This is why I feel compelled to say if you are not outraged, frightened and energized by what is happening here in America then I am sorry you have been so distracted. It is my honor to have your attention now. I know that as a black American transgender veteran, my quality of life is at stake.” The sold out opening night crowd are on their feet at shows close, Skyler Cooper is a celebration of human pride.
HISTORY KEEPS ME AWAKE; QUEER VOICES IN REP also features solo performer Elaine Magree and her brillant PUSSYGARBBINGREVENGE. It runs in repertory with Skyler Cooper's ONE MAN SHOW. You can see both performances on the same day or spend two nights visiting Waterfront Playhouse is near the Fourth Street shopping area, with great dining options and easy parking.
Next up at TheatreFIRST the new works festival presents I THOUGHT I WOULD LIKE IT HERE that opens May 3rd. FUTURE TENSE part of Festival of Developing Works also opens early summer. But in the meantime it is important theatre to spend an evening with the terrific Skyler Cooper and see QUEER VOICES IN REP.
HISTORY KEEPS ME AWAKE;
Queer Voices in Rep
A ONE MAN SHOW
written and performed by Skyler Cooper
Directed by Domenique Lozano
Dramaturgy by Lisa Evans
MUST CLOSE MARCH 7th
Waterfront Playhouse and Conservatory
2020 Fourth St.