“Becoming A Man” with the American Repertory Theater Program

On March 6th at 4:30pm, the students in the American Repertory Theater (ART) program once again lined up ready to get on the bus and head to the theater. During their ride, the students bonded over what they thought the show would be about and eagerly awaited their arrival.

This time, the students were placed into what looked like a ballroom and were able to eat their lunches after a long ride. They had sandwiches from Panera with the choice of veggie, turkey, or ham, and all were acquainted with chips and a cookie.

Students’ expectations were pretty shaky in the beginning as junior Neyonca Honore explained, “I’ve never heard of ‘Becoming A Man’ before, I haven’t read a book or anything about it.” She continued, “Based on our joy [block] though, I am expecting to see stereotypical gender roles played out on both males and females within the play.” 

Fellow junior Maxwell Torres also expressed, “I’m very excited because I’m also trans and I want to see how this story plays out!”

Junior Katiah Perez stated “I think it’s going to be very emotional and mind-opening as they play on the gender roles within P. Carl’s life.” Freshman Ryan Xiao added, “It’s going to show a new and raw perspective and I think I’m going to learn a lot from it.”

Before coming to the theatre, the ART program needed someone from Malden High School to do a “Radical Welcome” before the show started. This welcome would introduce the show and explain the ART program also known as the Levine Learning Lab to the audience. Sophomore Sabrina Dangervil happily stepped up to the plate, but as the day came closer, she became more and more nervous. “I mean, it’s going to be a lot of people staring at me, which isn’t a lot but still it’s kind of nerve-racking.” 

As Dangervil prepared herself, she also needed to write a personal message as to why she is in the ART program; she mentioned how it “allowed her to learn more about gender roles and societal standards affecting different communities.” Students were then given their tickets and were on their way to the show.

Photo depicted to the left: Sabrina Dangervil and another student in the American Repertory Theatre program presenting their speech to the audience. GABRIELA PARINI CORDOVA

“Becoming A Man” was now becoming a reality as they walked into the theater and witnessed a beautiful retelling of P. Carl’s life. Dangveril and another student who is a member of the program from a different school went up and said the “Radical Welcome” together. They also introduced that there would be a 20-minute “after-show chat” with the whole audience to hear their opinions on the show.

P. Carl began his story at the pool explaining that as a trans person, it can be hard to feel comfortable in his body and find the right bathing suit that makes him feel like a man. After that, the show follows him through his journey as a trans man and how his life has changed in different ways. 

The audience learns that he is married to a woman, Lynette, who has been with him since before the transition and has been by his side through thick and thin, as well and showing how his relationship with his parents changes and grows. The students are able to observe how society treats him and changes as he goes through his transition. P. Carl develops and improves on himself throughout these life events and as he transitions into his true self.

All of these beautiful and raw scenes struck the audience as there were tears and laughter throughout the play. It then ended with P. Carl finally gaining the courage and confidence to go into the pool without a shirt and as he begins to swim, the lights fade out.

The lights came back on and Leah Harris was on stage and introduced the after-show talk to the whole audience, opening up the conversation to everyone in the room. Some people left but those who stayed all resonated with the story and moments within the play. Lots of people expressed their own stories with people who had transitioned in their lives and how much the show affected them.

Lots of audience members referenced the swimming scenes and how representative it was of their own stories and their friends' stories. It made so many people realize just how important it is to others that feeling safe in your skin is not something everyone can do and is certainly not easy, but as long as the people encourage and stick with each other, things will get better.

“What really struck me, in the end, was when he started swimming and the lights went out, it was cool to see how the ending connected to the beginning of the show,” explained Dangervil. She continued, “It was really good and I also loved the ASL interpreters at the show, they did an amazing job and conveyed the emotions in the show beautifully!”

Photo depicted to the right: Marianne Rivadeneira, Emma Spignese-Smolinsky, Addison McWayne, Ryan Xiao, Zahirr Debel, Katiah Perez, Max Torres, and Neyonca Honore posing with their tickets for the show. GABRIELA PARINI CORDOVA

Marianne “Mari” Rivadeneira described that she “loved it. It was so eye-opening and so well presented. All the actors did amazing and having the opportunity to watch this was so beautiful!” Senior Emma Spignese-Smolinksy added, “It was awesome, and just like she said it was eye-opening. It brought my attention to so many things I wasn’t even aware of or realized was a thing!” She continued, “The after-show talk was so cool too! Hearing what everyone was thinking was something so many of us had never experienced before and I’m glad ART introduced that.”

“The show made me think a lot deeper about the essential question that the program presented ‘If you change will the people you love come with us?’ Seeing the characters go through this exact question and seeing the people who love P. Carl sticking by his side through everything made me a bit emotional.” She continued, “I learned with the characters and even grew inspiration and new ideas in my own life. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to watch it!” sophomore Auka Mui said.

After the show, the ART program held one more joy session where students and advisors were able to share their thoughts and feelings on the whole play. During the session, they were gifted pictures of birds that P. Carl had taken as he is a birder and learned more about his process.

He follows the 13 Principles of Field Identification, which are adapted from Kenn Kauffman’s “Field Guide to Advanced Birding: Understanding What You See and Hear.” Students were able to connect to these rules in different ways and further understand the life of P. Carl.

ART is not done yet, as their next showing will be in May in which the students and advisors get to watch their new show "Gatsby.”

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