20% Theatre Company’s 4th annual Q-Stage: New Works Series presents new performing arts pieces by local queer artists. The first of two weekends presenting these works featured two of four performances that were developed over a six-month period, plus artist-audience talkbacks to delve into the ideas behind the pieces, which combine themes of race, gender identity, sexuality and family.

I attended Set A this past weekend. You can catch Set B’s two shows, which are completely different, from may 12-14. More information on those shows below.

Here are some thoughts on what Q-Stage’s first weekend offered:

No such thing as the “correct” box

Devin Taylor’s The Smitty Complex has all the absurd qualities to make for a hilarious 45 minutes, and succeeds at bringing in heart and human experience. Courtney Stirn stars as Smitty, an animal born from a family of sea otters who goes to see a doctor to determine whether they are an otter or a fox. What ensues is a trip through an arbitrary minefield of questions, with even less logical answers (“you don’t have a disorder; you have an inadequacy”). Smitty’s struggle to answer them (they rarely, if ever, apply) give a visceral look into navigating our social system as someone who is gender fluid. Mixing giant existential concepts with small situational humor, Taylor’s script is smart and captivating. This is definitely a play to watch out for pending future (and, hopefully, expanded) productions.

Floating bones, healing bones

During the talkback after both shows, an audience member mentioned that if Smitty took us through trauma, this next show brought on the healing process. Nadia Honary’s These Floating Bones starts with the artist balled up under a sheet on the ground with projections of crackling fire on a screen in the background (Honary filmed all the projections). Rising up under the sheet, and eventually removing it to reveal a masked figure underneath, Honary moves through different processes to display the body as fluid. The sensory experience allows the audience to feel at peace about changing identity and to release from the confines of the human experience alone. The use of repetition, music that spans multiple styles, and decisive actions create a calm but awakened atmosphere for watching the movement.

Q-Stage’s second week features the following:

"______________"

Written & Created by Sami Pfeffer

"_______________" is a haunting, both ghost and story, an interactive investigation into the phantom pains sired by cruelty and abuse. How can we heal from the unreal? And, without acknowledgement, how can we know that we aren't spirits too?

"e"

Created & Performed by Simone Bernadette Williams & Holo Lue Choy

"e" seeks to explore the intersections of race and gender identity in an interdisciplinary artistic format. Two queer trans people of color articulate through movement, poetry, music, storytelling and performance art their experiences in the complex and beautiful bodies they live within.

Shows are performed May 12 and 13 at 7:30 p.m. and May 14 at 2 p.m. at Intermedia Arts.