IndyFringe 2011: “No Gender Left Behind”
by Anna Turner, 8/17/2011
In 2010, Rebecca Kling was let go from a teaching position at a school in North Chicago, Illinois. The alleged reasoning behind Kling’s dismissal was that things like Kling’s “deep voice” and “big hands” would raise uncomfortable questions.
This act led Kling to create her own-woman show No Gender Left Behind, a multifaceted theatrical piece that explores the question, “what is society teaching in regards to gender identity and trans culture?”
No Gender Left Behind addresses general gender issues, something Kling hopes all audiences will relate to.
“I don’t just want the audience to take away something about trans culture, but about the human experience,” Kling said in a NUVO interview. “We all have gender, we all have gender experiences. I want people to realize they can relate to this thing that seems totally unrelated.”
Kling, who is transgendered, goes beyond a mere memoir performance format.
“The show itself is a mix of personal narratives from my own experience, as well as drawing on other peoples’ experiences,” Kling said. “At the end of the day I want to use all the tools available in my arsenal to tell the story.”
According to Kling, these tools include metaphor, fiction, storytelling and even multimedia. Kling incorporates sexual education videos from the 1940s to illustrate what was taught about sexual orientation and lifestyle in that era.
Kling also uses the Growing Up Skipper doll as a visual in her show, another example of drawing on society’s past viewpoints of gender and sexuality.Originally made in the 1970s, Growing Up Skipper “grows up” by growing breasts with the twist of her arm.
Though it is clear society has evolved since Growing Up Skipper, No Gender Left Behind provides evidence we still have a long way to go. Kling hopes her work can open up a dialogue about this, and she has been able to continue the show’s conversation in talkback sessions following her Fringe performances.
“I really find that the work that I do aims to open up a conversation,” Kling said.
When asked how she felt about the talkback sessions, she expressed that they were ideal for No Gender Left Behind. “I find the talkbacks really valuable both as a performer in terms of what the audience thought of the show, and as someone who wants to open up that dialogue and continue the conversation about gender.”