Though exceedingly brief, the conversation was intensely impactful for actor and director K. Woodzick ’07, an MFA student in contemporary performance at Naropa University in Boulder, Colo.
Late last fall, Woodzick was stopped on campus by Leigh Fondakowski, the Emmy-nominated writer of The Laramie Project and a guest artist in residence at the university. Seeking monologues for trans and non-binary people—individuals who don’t identify as male or female—Fondakowski inquired whether Woodzick knew if a database of such pieces existed.
Woodzick, who uses the pronouns “they,” “them,” and “theirs,” knew of no such resource but promised to research the topic. “I told her that if I could not find one, I would create one,” they say.
Thus the Non-Binary Monologues Project was born. Within a couple of hours of that brief conversation, Woodzick had tapped into their extensive social media network to create a database of monologues from “non-binary, gender-fluid, gender-queer, trans-masculine, and trans-feminine characters.” Within two weeks, the site had received more than 1,200 unique hits. To date, it has published more than 50 monologues by 38 playwrights, and that number continues to grow.
“It was important for me to try to increase the range of options for non-binary actors,” said Woodzick when interviewed about the project by NPR last November. “If our goal as actors in the audition room is to show a piece of our soul, to let the director see who we truly are, having access to these monologues is a crucial part of the equation for non-binary actors.”
A natural actor
Acting has always been in the blood of this Madison, Wis., native, who discovered Luther while on a trip to Decorah with their mother to visit the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. The just-opened Center for the Arts and the caring Luther faculty made an indelible impression on Woodzick, who declared a theatre-dance major upon enrolling at the college in 2003. “I knew Luther was a place where I would be supported and my passions encouraged,” they say, fondly recalling faculty members Jeff Dintaman, Jane Hawley ’87, and Bob Larson. “I was able to cultivate skills in all aspects of theatre in which I had an interest.”
After graduation, Woodzick debated the practicality of actually pursuing a career in theatre, even as they kept in close contact with the arts. Through AmeriCorps, they worked in marketing and education at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts (WICA) in Langley, Wash. In 2011, they enrolled in an MFA program in arts leadership at Seattle University, completing a year before determining it was not the right fit. While managing external relations for the Seattle-based nonprofit Hedgebrook (an acclaimed organization that nurtures women writers), Woodzick launched a podcast, Theatrical Mustang, featuring interviews with trans theatre artists and activists. “It was then that I started really questioning my gender and seeing myself in some of the people I interviewed,” they say.
A non-binary actor
Their questions were answered in early 2016, when Woodzick was cast in a WICA production of Patrick Barlow’s adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps that required them to play more than 15 male roles. “That show opened up a lot of things for me professionally and personally. Because of that show, I identified as non-binary and gender queer. . . . The male roles felt like an extension of who I am, of my gender,” they say. “During that production, because of that production, I changed my pronouns from ‘she,’ ‘her,’ and ‘hers’ to ‘they,’ ‘them,’ and ‘theirs.’ It was both the hardest and the best decision I have ever made.”
That life-changing decision was followed quickly by another. In summer 2016, Woodzick packed their bags and moved from Seattle to Boulder to begin graduate studies at Naropa. Their studies culminated this academic year with the creation of the Non-Binary Monologues Project and the production of their master’s thesis, the docuplay TransActions, at the Theatre Made in Boulder Festival. The show, which featured eight trans and gender-nonconforming actors, sold out three weeks in advance and was staged in the festival’s largest venue. “My goal was to explore why making theatre-training programs more inclusive of gender diversity is so important,” they say. “I hoped to spark a dialogue about how the theatre industry can become more inclusive of gender diversity, and I think I accomplished that.”
Now that the theatre industry is talking more about non-binary roles, how does Woodzick envision moving the conversation about gender non-conformity beyond the stage? “I see it happening by sitting down and talking one-on-one, and hopefully transforming a lot of hearts and minds as a result,” says Woodzick. “It’s a lot easier to not accept a concept than it is to not accept a person.”
Woodzick begins the University of Colorado–Boulder’s PhD program in theatre and performance studies this fall. To learn more about Woodzick and the Non-Binary Monologues Project, visit woodzick.com.