[Trans]formation Reviews and Stories

Reviews of [Trans]formation

Review: “[Trans]formation” (Nothing Without A Company & The Living Canvas) by Christopher Kidder-Mostrom, Theatre by Numbers

“I’ve never seen another show in which the meaning of ensemble is better represented….The sum total of their work here is something brilliant and wonderful. It challenges the audience. It informs the audience. It changes the audience. That’s what this art is supposed to do, and they do it better than I’ve seen in a long, long time.” [RATING: d20 – “One of the Best”]

Review: [Trans]formation (Nothing Without A Company) by Duane Barnes, Chicago Theater Beat

*Highly Recommended*

“I went to see a play – but I got much more…

” Ah, the message. It’s communicated in many ways but – regardless of the sources – it’s about respect and not being put into a category of another’s choosing. It’s also about awareness; the awareness that there‘s information about which many know little or perhaps nothing. And it’s about not being put in a box by others. Persons define who they are for themselves. “To thine own self be true” is borrowed from Shakespeare. ”I am my own gender” is a statement from the play. And from the director’s notes, “we have a responsibility to be audience to others who want and need to be heard”. This seems even more pertinent in today’s world, in this fractured nation where there’s an emphasis on placing people in identified (by others) groups. This play flies in the face of those attempts.

“And a word about [Trans]formation’s co-producer, The Living Canvas. Such an integral part of the performance, the group celebrates the beauty and power of the human form. Using creative lighting, they are as much of the play and the storytelling as the performers on the stage. Using a myriad of patterns, colors and design, they vividly add another dimension to the performance.”

[Trans]formation Review – Beauty, Bravery, and the Naked Truth by Jessie Bond, Chicago Splash Magazine

There is strength and bravery permeating every aspect of [Trans]formation. There is bravery in exposing one’s naked body onstage. There is bravery in proudly owning one’s identity in a world that would quash it. There is bravery in amplifying the voices of trans, genderqueer, nonbinary, and intersex people in a time where such amplification is needed more than ever. Go see this play. See these brave people tell their stories. Exist, for a few hours, in a world where everyone’s gender is not just respected, but celebrated. Witness a stage where there is vulnerability and safety together. In times like these, shows like [Trans]formation matter, and Nothing without a Company and Living Canvas have produced a piece of theatre that is desperately and urgently needed.

[Trans]formation by Marissa Oberlander, Chicago Reader

“At its core this piece’s intimate use of light, shadow, and movement is inspired—and inspiring. At the end of the show, audience members are invited to disrobe and join the performers; several did on the night I attended. As the cast reminds us, ‘It’s about access to space and personal dignity. Without that, we’re fucked.’”

Theater Review: Morality of Gender Identity on Display in ‘[Trans]formation’ by Patrick McDonald for Hollywood Chicago.

The power of the show is in its fiery cast, almost chomping at the bit to exclaim their points of view and experiences within the lives of gender confusion, and the stage art that is created with lighting on their skin (Chris Owens is the “Projection Designer”) The nudity and exposure is part of that fire… It’s impossible to forget the nudity, but the words within the dialogue carry weight, and often supersede the exposed skin.

In essence, the performance does bring up the question, “who would you be, and how would you identify yourself, if nobody labeled you during your process of life”? Maybe you’d be a “boy” or a “girl,” or maybe you’d fall somewhere along the spectrum in between. What is important for people who struggle with this identity spectrum is that we give them room to grow into what they are, for the purposes of health, love and empathy. “[Trans]formation,” as a presentation, seeks those three purposes.

THEATER REVIEW [Trans]formation by Jonathan Abarbanel, Windy City Times

[Trans]formation is performed with a six-person cast who use personal pronouns including he, she, they, “em” and “zhe.” All identify as being in some stage of gender transition, some of which is physically apparent as the cast performs the entire piece mostly in the nude. Well, they’re perhaps not quite naked, as the company is bathed non-stop in complex projection designs by Chris Owens, making each player part of a living canvas of kinetic art—floral at one moment, aquatic the next and abstract soon after, in a multitude of patterns.

The choreography by Gaby Labotka ( also the director ) and Darling Squire is quite athletic and is performed with agility and surprising grace, given that most of the cast are not trained dancers.

[Trans]formation is quite well done, but will not be to everyone’s taste. It qualifies as avant-garde performance work for sure, and yet it has a flower-power vibe as old as my long-past 1970s hippie days.


“A good story makes you think. A great story makes you feel. A powerful story transforms your perspective. Nothing Without A Company and The Living Canvas’ latest show stimulates all senses in the visually compelling, poetic drama, Transformation.”

Press pieces about [Trans]formation

“It’s a piece of healing and a piece of hope”

Local Trans Artists Say Trump Election Has Made Upcoming Show More Urgent Than Ever by Tony Boylan in Chicagoist.

The work seemed important enough when it began: a local stage production by and about transgender people, addressing issues faced by a marginalized population. But along the way the United States held a presidential election, and everyone knows how that turned out.

“The issues were already important, but now the urgency has increased,” Gaby Labotka, 26, the director, told Chicagoist. “Since we first started writing and rehearsing the show, we’ve added a segment where we name every member of the trans community who has been murdered [this year], and we have the audience say the names, too. The number has increased to 26 people from 22.”

[Trans]formation, a show conceived, written, and performed by the transgender / genderqueer / intersex / non-binary community, that opens tonight (Nov. 17) at The Vault at Collaboration Studios in the Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave. It runs through Dec. 17.

The show is a collaboration between The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company. It’s performed in the style of The Living Canvas productions, with nude performers clothed only by projections. It incorporates text, spoken word, music, dance and other movement to explore “the naked truth of gender identity.”

Emergent Bodies by Jay Van Ort, NewCityStage.

With more than thirty submissions from across the United States (and one from England), “[Trans]formation” is the first Chicago play to be written and performed entirely by trans or gender-nonconforming artists. The performance, devised from the deconstruction and synthesis of those submissions, revolves around six characters who have discovered, and are now exploring, their relationship to gender and the conflicts that those explorations can cause.

“We fuck up,” says Chase Nuerge, one of the performers, “[But] we figure out how to let that narrative be real: this person is allowed to fuck up.”

In order to deepen their relationship to the script, performers have been taking home journal prompts. Some of the prompts: How are our bodies political? What’s in a name? What’s your relationship to mirrors? These questions are often about the clash of mainstream culture and personal perception: the TV is telling me I should be this or the label “man” or “woman” means I must be this thing, but my body doesn’t necessarily fit with what the culture tells me.

This is what’s known as body dysmorphia.

“We have these negative views of our bodies for media reasons and because we only ever see our naked selves in these really ugly bathroom lights,” says Ronen Kohn, who performs a piece called “Letter to My Breasts” about the emotional and physical distance between their character and their former body parts. “But if we are in motion and doing beautiful things with our bodies and there are these beautiful images being projected onto us, it just goes to show that anyone can embody that sort of beauty.”

Production aims to ‘[Trans]form’ dance community by Lauren Wernecke in Windy City Times.

But what makes [Trans]formation different from everything else is use of nude trans and gender non-conforming bodies as a canvas. The performers represent a wide spectrum of bodies—in some cases bodies that do not match their gender identities.

Celebrating the beauty and expressive power of the human form