American Theater Company in Chicago just hired Will Davis as their new Artistic Director. As a 33 year-old transgender man, Will is challenging the climate of upper-level management in the mainstream theatrical scene across the country.
Will wrote a piece for HowlRound in October 2014 about his experience in “Queering the Room” as a transgender director. I was moved reading about his sense of self and the power that his journey brought to his artistic voice. He says, “the internal compass that makes it possible to maintain my sense of Will Davis when no one on the outside can see it is constantly getting a workout—that same compass is also very useful for making theater.”
That kind of relentless self-awareness and unbreakable sense of self feels incredibly potent to the rehearsal process. As a director especially, an artist has to constantly be reckoning with their own distinct vision and the demands of the story– of what is larger than ourselve
s. The checks and balances of both are crucial. Will goes on to say, “The best performances are the ones where I am seeing both the character and the actor in action. I’m interested in the moments where both ways of being onstage are activated and I’m invited to live with the performer in that complex moment of identity.” He speaks so beautifully about the nuances of performance from a perspective that is entirely unique to his experience. He talks a lot about making the decisions to honor what was inside of him on the outside as a transgender man, and this feels like it lends itself to speaking to actors– to making a communion between the inner and the outer.
I’ll conclude with one last piece of Will Davis wisdom: “The number of times I’ve said to myself, you can’t just sit here and not make decisions, you have to get up and walk straight into I don’t know, is the number of times that I have seen my life revolutionized.” Here’s to walking straight into “I don’t know,” and to American Theater Company for hiring Will. Because I had the pleasure of learning about his artistry tonight due to his name being brought to the forefront of national theatre. Feels like a win to me.