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Transgender child focus of Emerson play

A groundbreaking new play for elementary school-aged audiences about a child fighting to conform to a specific gender identity is debuting at Emerson’s Cabaret on February 26.

The Quest of Queen Thomas follows 10-year-old Thomas, identifying as female, as she imagines a fantasy world to escape from the reality of her overprotective mother and intolerant classmates.

Queen Thomas

Meredith Gifford, MA '15, and Bryan Curran '13, rehearse scenes for Quest of Queen Thomas, which opens at Emerson on February 26. (Photo by Michelle Kwong '15)

“This could open the doors for other [play] writers,” said Robert Colby, associate professor in the Performing Arts Department, who is the faculty advisor of the student-run production.

Aimed at children in grades 3–8, The Quest of Queen Thomas is a one-act show that was written by Brit Christopher, MA ’14, a Theatre Education major, last summer for one of her classes. Sam Gambaccini, MA ’14, who is also a Theatre Education major, is directing.

Christopher, Gambaccini

Quest of Queen Thomas writer Brit Christopher, MA ’14, and director, Sam Gambaccini, MA ’14. (Photo by Michelle Kwong '15)

“I would like for [the young audience members] to have a hero to identify with that’s just for them,” Christopher said. “And for the rest of the students to start a conversation about the topic, so they’re thinking in a way they wouldn’t have thought about it before.”

Colby, who is also the director of teacher education in the Performing Arts Department, said The Quest of Queen Thomas could have a major impact on how children learn about transgender people.

He said the production could provide playwrights “the courage to write things that we ordinarily think children should wait until they’re older to listen to.”

“Children are just as interested about all the different things in the world as grownups are,” Colby said.

Curran, Howland

Actors Bryan Curran '13 and Ryan Howland, MA '15, rehearse Quest Queen of Thomas. (Photo by Michelle Kwong '15)

Even though the play centers on gender identity, Christopher intentionally wrote the script without using trans language in order to appeal to broader themes in the story.

“This play, while it focuses on a transsexual young girl, really speaks to anybody,” Gambaccini said. “We didn’t want to pigeonhole anybody that may have accepted the play as, ‘I have red hair and freckles and no one else in my class does.’”

To help guide the students through the themes of the show, Emerson graduate students are hosting educational workshops for children after the matinee performances of The Quest of Queen Thomas. Students from The Learning Project, the Cambridge Montessori School, and the Acera School are planning to attend the show.

A team of Boston-area transgender activists will hold a discussion after the evening performances of the play.

Quest Queen Thomas

Meredith Gifford, MA '15, and Ryan Howland, MA '15, rehearse. (Photo by Michelle Kwong '15)

“I was inspired by the fact that there are a lot of trans issues in the media right now,” Christopher said. “We’re seeing children younger and younger start to fight for their rights, and I think it’s something that we should be talking about with children.”

The performances will be held February 26 and 27 at 10:00 am and 7:30 pm in the Cabaret, in Emerson’s Little Building at 80 Boylston Street, Boston. The show is free, but donations are being accepted for Camp Aranu’tiq, a local camp for gender-variant youth.

Seats can be reserved by email at RSVPs are not required. Visit the Quest of Queen Thomas website for more information on the play and Little Dinos Productions, the independent theater company founded by Christopher and Gambaccini.

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