‘Pronoun’ explores identity, relationships

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Preparing a play in one month would be a difficult task for most directors. In addition to this challenge, UNI student Ernest Toutant III decided that his first play in the director’s role would be one tackling the issues of transgenderism and social justice. These ideas and topics were balanced by Toutant and his colleagues as they rehearsed for the play “Pronoun” by Evan Placey.

“The play is centered around a transgender man named Dean,” said Toutant, a fifth-year physics education major. “Overall, the play is almost like a dramedy. There are some funny parts, and it’s a rom-com. But it’s like a rom-com with a twist, because it really delves into the trans experience.”

“Pronoun” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 11 and Saturday, Oct. 12 in the Interpreter’s Theatre within Lang Hall. Admission to the show is free and open to the public.

“Pronoun” dives into what it means to be a man and the trans experience. According to Toutant, it addresses the underlying dysphoria that people have when they are transgender.

While there are depictions of hardships and hopelessness in the play, Toutant said its meaning is open to interpretation. This is due to the evolution of transgender issues since the play’s creation in 2014 and the nature of the staging itself: open-ended scenes are present during many of the main character’s internal monologues.

“One of the biggest challenges was that the script overall was a very tough script,” Toutant said. “There are a lot of lines that interrupt one another, especially interrupting yourself midway through the lines. It can get a little tricky technical-wise, especially when you’re acting.”

In addition to the challenge of acting, the mental health of the actors within the show was another aspect that had to be considered. Although they had encountered occasional scheduling issues, Toutant believed that the play preparations have gone smoothly, although he wished they could have had a couple more weeks to prepare.

Even with the limited time available to prepare the production, there were still many parts of it that Toutant enjoyed. Working on the show was draining and emotional for everyone involved, but he still believes that the messages contained within it are powerful.

“My favorite part is a speech that the main character does at his school,” Toutant said. “The speech is very powerful in the sense that he rebels against his school and says what he literally wants to say instead of hiding behind the mask of what people try to say to show tolerance. It’s about how tolerance isn’t enough; I want to be loved or hated. I think it’s one of the more powerful parts of the show. It’s personally my favorite monologue of the show. I did a lot of chorus work in high school, and all of the student council and chorus scenes are great. I’m just a sucker for that interpretive stuff.”

Once the audience leaves the theatre, Toutant hopes that they are more aware of the issues that transgender people are facing. He feels that many people don’t acknowledge their existence. By presenting their struggles in the form of this play, he wants people to think about the issues and themes that are present within the production.