By Sheroog Kubur, January 17 2022—
This year’s iteration of High Performance Rodeo, the three-week-long performing arts festival, brings with it a plethora of stories that do more than entertain. One of the plays put on this year is Re:Construct, the sub-50-minute exploration of masculinity and societal expectations from a transmasculine perspective. While this show joins the roster of quirky and eclectic performances in the festival, it is more about looking inwards and asking yourself questions.
“It’s an invitation for audience members to question the rigid gender roles and stereotypes of gender we have in North America,” said Émmanuel Dubbeldam, one of the two actors in the show.
The show follows a transgender man, unnamed and simply known as A by the actors, and the idealized cisgender version of himself trying to have the best day ever while hosting an at-home event — although the two never truly decided what the event will be. While the premise is simple enough, the play itself is much more than meets the eye.
“I always hesitate to say it has a story — I would say it’s an exploration of gender and masculinity from a transmasculine lens,” said Dubbeldam about the show’s story.
As part of the exploration of gender, the performance asks audience members to question their notions of masculinity, including what it takes to be perceived as masculine and the pressure that may be felt for all masculine-presenting people to do so. It tackles the uniquely transgender experience by specifically considering the perception of masculinity contrasted against the identity of the individual, asking how much of yourself needs to be adjusted to “pass.” As a vehicle for exploration, the show features only two actors as they try to navigate these ideas while having the best day ever.
“It brings people into how transmasculine people are perceived and what’s expected of us, as well as of any masculine-presenting person,” Dubbeldam said about the show. “It’s that feeling of having to give up some parts of yourself in order to be perceived as authentically as possible by other people.”
The piece was written by Evan Gilchrist as part of the Edmonton Fringe Theatre Festival in 2018. It had undergone a series of workshops for the years following to perfect the script and in 2021, Dubbeldam joined the crew to play one of the two roles. The other role, the idealized cisgender version of A, is played by Calgary native and award-winning playwright Geoffrey Simon Brown.
“When I did the reading I was immediately attached to the tone and the poetic reading and the abstractness of it — it’s not a concrete narrative story,” said Dubbeldam about what drew him to the role in the first place.
While Dubbeldam’s background in acting started off in theatre, he has spent the last three years as a member of Radio-Canada’s original series ONIVA! This production is both his return to the stage and his Calgary theatrical debut.
“My beginnings were more on stage than on screen so going back to the stage with a show like this is like scratching an itch,” he said about his return to the stage. “There’s a certain magic in it because we’re doing it over and over in front of people, so we have that feedback from the audience and each one is completely different.”
Re:Construct will be running as part of High Performance Rodeo for three days from January 20-22. Tickets are available through the website starting at $25 for students.