Monday, March 04, 2024|
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Photo courtesy of UH-Hilo Performing Arts Center
Ben Moffat performs a scene in "Imperfect Gentlemen."
One man will take the stage Thursday to tell a story about gender and family dynamics.
“Imperfect Gentlemen” is a one-man show written by Ben Moffat and Bradley Wayne Smith that stars Moffat in 10 different roles.
The show is based on events from Moffat’s life and how his father began living as a transgender woman in the early 1980s.
“I was 24, and my father was 53, and it was totally shocking. My father was macho, a bully, kind of angry and just never apologized,” Moffat said. “After coming out, my dad was happier and easier to be with, but just a female chauvinist instead of male. We didn’t have a word for transgender back then and were only vaguely aware of what that really meant.”
Moffat’s father died before the play was written but had always wanted to get her story out there. While there was at one point an editor working with her on a book, over time she became more introverted and less willing to dig through painful memories, according to Moffat.
“I felt that I could write this play, because my father wanted to tell the story and was on the way to doing that,” Moffat said. “This story is about much more than coming out as transgender. It’s about a father-son relationship and a family. There is no perfect family, and I think most people can relate to that.”
Moffat, originally from Palo Alto, Calif., went to the University of Hawaii at Manoa to study theater in 1983. He worked as a professor at Windward Community College for 20 years and has made Oahu his home.
In 2014, Moffat began “seriously” writing “Imperfect Gentlemen” with Smith, who resides in London, over Skype when they had time and in-person for two to three weeks for about five summers.
“When Bradley and I were creating the play, it was hard work and challenging on many different levels. I had a certain amount of resistance to work through, and he helped by asking me questions,” Moffat said. “I realized that I was processing certain things in my life by playing it out, and it became natural over time.”
Moffat was trained in the Lecoq technique of theater in which the actor engages their whole body to balance the space. Use of the Lecoq method helps “Imperfect Gentlemen” become playful and humorous even when the story is heavy.
Moffat and Smith felt that one actor playing all the characters with minimal costume changes was appropriate, since the show is about the body.
“My father wanted to be a woman — to have a woman’s body. For me, that brings up a lot of questions,” Moffat said. “When the audience members see me play both women and men, we hope that it raises similar questions for them.”
While the play addresses gender identity, it also explores how families react to change, the forces that can shape identities, and the plasticity and durability of personality.
Moffat hopes audiences can relate to the themes within the play with empathy and see that people are just people, and nothing is as strange as people may think.
“The conversation around transgender issues is heated, but so generalized. Everyone lumps everyone together, but each trans experience is unique,” Moffat said. “The play shows the struggles of a transgender person, but also the family around them. There is so much richness in the details of someone’s life, and I hope audiences can see this play as a human experience.”
According to Moffat, audiences react favorably to the play. Some of his family members have seen it over the years, which has helped them process their emotions.
“Doing the play has helped me gain sympathy for what my father went through, because this truly wasn’t a choice. It was somewhere inside the entire time,” Moffat said. “I’ve realized that everyone was just trying their best, and we all make mistakes in our lives.”
“Each transgender person’s experience is different. Each family is different. This is a human story.”
Moffat will perform “Imperfect Gentlemen” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the University of Hawaii at Hilo Performing Arts Center.
Due to strong language and adult themes, the performance is recommended for those 14 and older.
Tickets are available for $20 for general admission and $10 for UH-Hilo and Hawaii Community College students and children 17 and under. Prices will be $5 more at the door.
For more information and tickets, visit artscenter.uhh.hawaii.edu/imperfect-gentlemen.
Email Kelsey Walling at email@example.com.
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