Autobiographical play explores transgender issues


Connie Wang/The Daily Northwestern

Bea Cordelia stars in “Chasing Blue,” an autobiographical play that she wrote. The performance premieres on Thursday in Jones Residential College.

Rachel Yang, Reporter


Like a line in her upcoming play states, Bea Cordelia said the last few years of her life have “felt like a decade.”

The Communication senior said she has experienced so much in such a short period that “time feels stretched out.” Cordelia came out as transgender while studying abroad in 2013 and said she had to write down all her thoughts to preserve and process everything she was going through.

Thus began the first iteration of her one-hour autobiographical play “Chasing Blue,” which premieres Thursday night in Jones Residential College and runs through Saturday, with all proceeds going to a local transgender organization.

The production takes place in a bathroom as Cordelia prepares for an impending date, and it’s through monologues, exchanges with the audience and slam poetry that she recounts the last three years of her life and her struggles with identity and self-worth.

Communication senior Andrew Hitzhusen is directing the performance and said the creative process was extremely collaborative, but ultimately the production is in Cordelia’s voice.

Cordelia said developing the play allowed her to heal from the upheaval in her life in the last few years, and was a way to reaffirm her own self-worth. She said oftentimes she will go days or even weeks without seeing someone on campus who looks like her and understands her struggles.

“It’s hard to have that be your constant lived experience and to somehow say, ‘I matter,’” Cordelia said. “And so this play has been an exercise in reminding myself that I matter.”

She also said the play displays an honesty also shown through her other works, such as her poetry and her blog in which she’s written personal essays.

“(My work) is very no-holds-barred, very transparent,” she said. “I’m going to tell you everything that happened, regardless of how that will make me look, or if it’s something that I’ve been ashamed of or embarrassed.”

Cordelia said her honest approach to storytelling is also a way to empower other transgender individuals who don’t always have a voice.

“In this society,” she said, “a lot of people who are (transgender) … are not in a situation in which they can have the time or energy or privilege to dedicate this much to doing a show.”

Thus, her ability to produce such a show allowed her to use it “as a tool of education with people who are not as familiar with the diverse needs and obstacles of the (transgender) community,” she said. “It is helpful to make sure that people don’t overlook an entire group of people who have dignity and worth.”

However, Cordelia said that from what she’s seen at Northwestern, there is still not enough being done for the transgender community, despite the University’s recent policies to help LGBT students, such as creating gender neutral restrooms. For example, she recalled the negative and drawn-out process of legally changing her name and gender marker at the Office of the Registrar last year.

“I think that we lie to ourselves to a certain extent,” Cordelia said. “Because we go to this liberal arts school … we must know all these things … but have you ever really considered walking in that person’s shoes?”

She encouraged people to open their eyes to transgender issues.

“It’s just a pressing thing for human beings to see,” she said.

Cordelia said the play touches on topics everyone can relate to and she hopes it will empower people of all backgrounds.

“It’s (about) just human stuff. It’s heartbreak and worth and all these things, through my more uncommon experience in this culture,” she said. “(It’s) about issues of body image and self-worth and how do we uplift ourselves and not rely on other people to do that for us?”

Hitzhusen said he hopes the play will initiate dialogue about transgender issues and educate more people in the long run.

“I would love to walk out of the theater after a show and see people having a debate, arguing about points or something from the show,” he said. “That to me would be a magical moment.”

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