Boy meets girl. Boy likes girl. But this boy’s life is complicated because this boy was raised as a girl.
In Trustus Theatre’s “Boy,” opening Friday, Jan. 13, we meet Adam Turner, a young man whose botched medical circumcision resulted in his parents being advised to raise him as a female.
Inspired by a true story, “Boy” stars Patrick Dodds as Adam and Martha Hearn as Jenny Lafferty, his love interest. Directed by Ilene Fins, who is making her directorial debut in Columbia, the story follows Adam and Martha’s relationship from Halloween 1989 to Halloween 1990, with touching flashback scenes that include Turner’s parents and the doctor who believed that nurture would prevail over nature.
Chad Henderson, Trustus Theatre’s artistic director, said after reading Anna Ziegler’s play and watching North Carolina’s HB2 “bathroom bill” make headlines, he felt compelled to bring the show to the theater to offer a window into experiences that differ greatly from anything most have ever experienced.
“I felt that ‘Boy’ would be a great opportunity to direct our attention to the importance of choice, our shared humanity and the universal experience of feeling strange in our own bodies,” he said. “This script calls on the power of hope – and I feel like that’s something all audiences will benefit from at the start of 2017.”
Fins said she and Henderson were in contact for a year before he approached her about directing the play.
He felt it was right up her alley. He was right.
“I’m so sympathetic, empathetic ... I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to look in the mirror and go, ‘I feel like I’m in the wrong body,’” she said. “But I feel like anybody who’s been through puberty knows what it feels like to look in the mirror and go, ‘I just don’t feel right and I don’t know why.’ And that’s what this poor young man goes through. It’s just unimaginable to be like everything in your body telling you you are a boy and everyone outside of you telling you that you are a girl. And then to find out you are a boy. How do you get over that?”
Dodds, who not only plays adult Adam but also “Samantha” at ages 6, 7, 11 and 13, said every other other scene is a different emotion. A lot of his preparation involved Fins giving him key phrases to remember to help him hone in on what feeling to emote.
“I’ve done plays where I’m a sensitive person and this show is all about that,” said Dodds. “The character is really torn between wanting to do what everybody else wants him to do and doing what he feels in his heart is right for him. I was definitely drawn to him. I understand a lot of the parts of this character and there’s a lot of parts that I obviously don’t understand. There are parts of him that he’s gained through this traumatic life.”
At the end of it all, Henderson hopes that the audience will not only walk away feeling intensely moved, but again, hopeful.
“This is very much a Trustus show,” he said. “This is the kind of material that has been at the center of the artistic mission for 32 years now. It’s modern, relevant, and gives the Midlands a new perspective to consider. Ziegler has crafted a play where we truly relate to each and every character. This play exists in that beautiful place where life resides – nothing is actually black and white, good or evil. It’s that gray area in between where we as humans subsist. Under Fins’ direction this piece is moving and wildly theatrical.”
Fins added, “I’m hoping for smiles, sniffles and applause. It’s heartwarming. It’s not a downer. We’re hoping people will hang out by the bar after and talk with the actors about it.”