Kling blends activism with humor

Rebecca Kling brings an educational and humorous edge to transgender activism. She will be hosted by multiple departments to create a far-reaching performance. Photo By: Rebecca Kling
Rebecca Kling brings an educational and humorous edge to transgender activism. She will be hosted by multiple departments to create a far-reaching performance. Photo By: Rebecca Kling
Rebecca Kling brings an educational and humorous edge to transgender activism. She will be hosted by multiple departments to create a far-reaching performance. Photo By: Rebecca Kling

Conversations surrounding issues of gender and sexuality might not be the easiest to have. Humor, though, often works as a filter through which these topics can be made more accessible. Rebecca Kling, a transgender artist, brings humor and education into her multifaceted performances and will be performing her piece, “Uncovering the Mirrors” at Vassar in the Rocky 200 Auditorium. With support from the Women’s Studies Program, the Campus Life LGBTQ Center, the Dean of the Faculty, the Africana Studies Program, the American Studies Program, the Drama Department, and the English Department, three Vassar faculty members set in motion the plans to host Kling on Feb. 25.

Director of the Women’s Studies Program and Associate Professor of English, Leslie Dunn was one of the instrumental faculty members to organize this event and wrote in an emailed statement about Kling’s upcoming performance. “Rebecca is coming to Vassar as part of a ‘The Glittery Armario,’ a series of performances by queer and trans [people] of color artists, organized by Elias Krell and Judy Jarvis. It was Eli’s idea to bring her to campus, and Judy and I were eager to support the series,” she said.

One of many people and groups to arrange the series that Dunn mentioned is Director of Campus Life LGBTQ Center and Women’s Center, Judy Jarvis, who co-planned Kling’s performance as well. Jarvis gave an added insight into “The Glittery Armario” series saying, “Rebecca is our second of three performers in the series. The goal behind our series is to feature trans artists and educators, whose stories are often co-opted by others, reflected on only during Trans Day of Remembrance, or minimized in LGBTQ histories and narratives.”

She continued, “Performance studies is a speciality of Professor Krell’s, so their leadership has been key in determining which artists to bring to campus.”

Post Doctoral Fellow of Women’s Studies, Elias Krell, has been an important contributor to not only the Queer and Transgender Performance series, but especially to the event with Kling. They noted a key aspect of “The Glittery Armario” performances which involves the audience members.

They said, “For every performance there is a question-and-answer session, a small reception, we have a dinner that a small number of students can attend on invitation, and the performers visit at least one class in the [W]omen’s [S]tudies [P]rogram in conjunction with their visit.”

The series and it’s organizers are now focused on Kling and her show, and Jarvis described it as such, “Her performances incorporate conversational storytelling, personal narrative, and humorous critique. ‘Uncovering the Mirrors’ is an autobiographical travelogue that traces Rebecca’s gender explorations from age six to her Bar Mitzvah and beyond.”

She continued, “‘Uncovering the Mirrors’ confronts the gender policing we experience in our day-to-day lives, examining how we live with regret, push past our mistakes, and look in the mirror everyday without flinching.”

Dunn commented on the powerful messages that Kling conveys through her unique blend of art, education and storytelling. Dunn wrote, “Kling takes the position that sharing accessible queer narrative with a wide audience is a form of activism, and that understanding combats bigotry. She will perform a full show of performance art with talkback afterwards.”

Krell, who is a musician and performer, as well as a professor, has known Kling for about four years and wrote about their experience with her. Krell commented, “The initial idea was mine. I was discussing with Judy Jarvis and Leslie Dunn last spring about how I’m committed to bringing in artists who are outside of the academy into academic spaces. It’s not only about supporting queer and trans independent artists but also about building connections between communities.”

They continued, “I’ve seen Rebecca perform several times in Chicago. I also performed music in a show that she co-produced last spring in…the Trans 100, a Chicago based yearly event started by Jen Richards that celebrates activists across the country who work for trans rights.”

Krell closed with a nod to Kling’s humorous and relatable style, and her ability to reach audiences of any kind.

“Rebecca makes complex and poignant topics relevant, interesting, and accessible to everyone. I’d recommend everyone to come but perhaps especially people who think they don’t know anything about the subject of trans/gender. They will be entertained by her wit and humor and also learn a lot,” they said.

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