Photo: Rick Pollock
She Was My Brother is a mostly-fictional account of a love triangle between a “third gendered” native American of the Zuni tribe and two Caucasian ethnologists studying the Zunis. See, American natives had this whole ‘acceptance and equality for alternative genders and sexualities’ thing pinned down centuries before our “civilized” culture even deemed it lawful to broach a discussion on such a topic. The Zuni man-woman’s name was We’Wha, and he was actually a real person—a biological male respected as a female within his culture—who, at one time, passed fully for a woman while having tea with Hayes, our nation’s president.
You’ll read all about this in a blurb on the back of the play’s program before the curtain goes up. The lesson to be learned is plain and simple, almost too simple. I get it, I got it when I read the program, and I really wasn’t in the mood for any ham-fisted historical finger-wagging. Luckily the play itself only throws its moral pitch at you every so-often. For the most part, it is a successful character study of three very interesting people. Rather than characters and circumstances that exist to bolster a lesson about transgender awareness, playwright Julie Jensen uses the fascinating history of a Zuni two-spirit to build a story in which the characters themselves, and their relationships, are paramount.
There’s nothing quite like watching a small play. Wednesday night’s dress rehearsal stuffed us all into a tiny black room in little chairs with no armrests, close enough to watch the spit fly and see every scene change and hear every reaction of every audience member around you. It’s a positive experience. The acting is all convincing and the play’s pacing lively. The design of the one and only set said: “historical fantasy, late 19th century New Mexico” so effectively it might’ve been written right across the stage to no greater effect.
She Was My Brother kicks off Plan-B theatre company’s 20th anniversary season. The play runs until November 7. For more Plan-B lovin, Tune in to KUER (90.1FM) on Halloween night starting at 8pm for a marathon featuring all five Plan-B RADIO HOUR programs back to back ‘til midnight. After She Was My Brother, the 24-hour Student Slam takes place on January 8, and the world premiere of Matthew Ivan Bennett’s Mesa Verde is on February 24th. Read all about it at www.planbtheatre.org