KC playwright’s transgender stage drama, In Hyding, makes world premiere in Detroit.
Transgenderism is more mainstream than ever in 2015, if only because of unprecedented media coverage surrounding the transition of Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn Jenner.
Local writer Carlos Perez stands to benefit from the trend with his new transgender stage drama, In Hyding, although he wasn’t influenced by the former Olympic champion and reality TV star coming out as female. Perez finished writing In Hyding late last year, months before Bruce became Caitlyn.
Still, “it’s bizarre,” Perez says of the timing, adding: “A lot of people are very happy that she’s doing what she’s doing, but it’s taking an incredible chance on her part.”
The public’s growing awareness and acceptance of transgender issues will help In Hyding connect with audiences when the play receives its world premiere production Sept. 23-27 at Monster Box Theatre in Detroit.
In addition, earlier this year, Perez’s screenplay version of In Hyding placed at the Indie Gathering International Film Festival in Cleveland and received honorable mention at the Los Angeles Reel Film Festival.
But it was 20 years ago that Perez originally got the idea to put a transgender twist on the classic split-personality story made famous in Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Perez was inspired by a review of the novel by Vladimir Nabokov, who felt that the secret of Hyde was that he was homosexual.
“There were a lot of people who were in the closet during the Victorian period,” Perez says. “And I wanted to play with the idea of Hyde being good instead of bad.”
As in Stevenson’s tale, Perez’s treatment is set in 19th-century London and focuses on male characters. But instead of Stevenson’s good Henry Jekyll becoming evil Edward Hyde, the restless Jekyll of In Hyding dares to release his forbidden female side in the form of Edwina Hyde, who represents the power of exposed truth in the fight for equality.
Perez didn’t jump on his concept for In Hyding back in the ’90s, because he wasn’t sure it would sell.
“There’s always been a practical side to me that says, ‘If I can’t do something with it, then what’s the point?” he said. “So sometimes it’s hard for me to just write for the sake of writing, for the love of it.
“But I had an idea that now might be a good time and that people wouldn’t shy away from it. But even when I was writing it, I was thinking, ‘You know, there aren’t many theaters that are going to take this on.’”
Why did Monster Box Theatre take on In Hyding?
“It’s packaged in something familiar, but it makes you think,” says the show’s director, Stacy C. Grutza. “People are likely to say, ‘Oh, I know the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.’ Well, what if we use that story as a metaphor for gender identity and exploring the parts of us that we suppress?
“Carlos is good at provoking thoughts and looking at things in a different context. And that’s what a theater wants. Because if people are talking about a play that you’ve just produced, then people are talking about your theater and you’re making an impact in your community.”
Perez, who lives with his wife and daughter in Independence, Mo., has eight produced screenplays, two published plays and four published collections of short stories. His work has ranged from popular children’s material to what he calls his “dark stuff,” including Skinned, a past winner at the Bare Bones International Film Festival in Muskogee, Okla., which follows two serial killers who use the faces of their victims to play fantasy games. The screen adaption of Perez’s play, Jeremy’s World, about a young man who commits a sudden act of violence and can’t escape the consequences, premiered in July at the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase.
Shedding light on the serious struggles that exist behind the safely observable world continues to fascinate Perez, who feels particularly qualified to tell such stories.
“This is probably too much of a reveal, but what it comes down to is I’m bipolar,” Perez says. “And for a long time I didn’t know, so I went through all kinds of highs and lows. And when you do that, believe me, you really have no idea about how low or high you can go and the mistakes you can make. You can have all kinds of problems. So, to an extent, I’ve kind of experienced things that a lot of people don’t know.”