Local theater’s production features role for transgender character

West Side Show Room's production of "Hir" features a character written for a transgender actor.
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 6:48 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - One local theater group says it will answer a call from audiences for more diversity and representation in its shows.

“Hir” is a comedy that centers around the LGBTQ community and its struggle for acceptance. The West Side Show Room is partnering with the LIAM Foundation for the production to make sure the actors and the audiences learn something from the process.

“I think the time is right to bring it to Rockford,” said “Hir’s” director Epic James

Leaders at the West Side Show Room say their production of “Hir” is something never seen before in the area.

“I think it’s really important to have that type of representation in Rockford. I think that it’s important to be showing people these stories,” LIAM Foundation’s program coordinator Eden Brown.

Written by Taylor Mac, “Hir” focuses on Isaac who leaves for the war in Afghanistan and has a sister named Maxine. When Issaac returns from combat, Maxine is now Max who uses the pronouns ze and hir. Axandra Smalley plays Max.

“One of my favorite parts is honestly just being able to portray a transgender character, I’m trans myself,” Smalley said.

Smalley is encouraged that more theaters are choosing shows not only with transgender roles but filling them with actors who can relate but they say this is just a small step.

“This play is kind of rather focused on the fact that Max is trans, but I would love to just see playwrights include characters that just are trans in the background. It’s not a plot point, they just are,” Smalley said.

The West Side Show Room tried to do “Hir” about a decade ago but weren’t sure the community would embrace it. Skye Gia is the program coordinator for the LIAM Foundation, an LGBTQ resource center. The group worked closely with the actors on interpreting the dialogue and identifying emotional “triggers” within the script.

“To make sure the play is properly representing the LGBTQA trans community,” Gia said.

Jones is excited about the production and hopes the show educates and builds acceptance.

“We have new pronouns that’s new to a lot of people and a lot of words to describe how people are feeling, so that could be very empowering to those people in the community who, you know, have finally discovered a new word to describe themselves,” Jones said.

Gia says the LIAM Foundation has a large list of services for the community and can provide support to help people embrace their identity.

“Hir” opens Feb. 17 at the West Side Show Room and will run every weekend through March 4.