Lynne Jassem, writer/performer of “Being Richard Greene” on gender identity.
Lynne and I caught up on the phone recently while she was out walking her dog.
I asked if there was a particular incident that inspired her show, “Being Richard Greene.”
In her robust New York accent, she said, “It wasn’t an incident, it was a way of being. I had gender confusion for a lot of my life. In 1949, when I was three years old walking with my mother down Main Street in Queens, I saw a woman dressed like a man.
“I said, ‘Mommy, mommy, that’s what I want to be!’ That’s how my show starts. From there we go through all the different decades and experiences, good and bad, centered around this issue.
“I tell it through mime (I call it spoken mime because I speak while I’m doing it) tap dance, characterization, and multimedia. So it’s an entertaining format but it does have sad as well as happy moments, especially since in 1949 it wasn’t easy to have gender dysfunction.
“I take the show up to the present. If I had transitioned, today I would be a short, fat, bald, Jewish man. I think I’m better off this way.”
I asked Lynne what she wants the audience to come away with after seeing her show.
“I want them to enjoy themselves, to get a better understanding, or to know that they’re not alone and that this is a major problem for a lot of people.”
LAWTF is a theatre for women’s voices. I asked Lynne what it means to be a woman.
“Obviously, it’s something I’d never been comfortable with, my desire to be male. I was brought up in a very male family back in the ‘50s. They had all the fun, they had all the power – they had it all. And I wanted what they had. I was very sick as a kid which made me even more uncomfortable.
“I’m 76 now and I’ve had a lot of time to work on these issues. I’m finally comfortable, and I think the world has changed too.”
Pulling her dog away from a tempting sandwich, Lynne said, “No – you can’t eat his lunch. Come on, you. Trying to eat the guy’s lunch.”
She continued, “The world is much more accepting of different things. Life is so different today than it was.
“I just went back to my old neighborhood in New York where I grew up and all of Main Street where I used to hang out is Hassidic. It was so weird – I grew up in an all-Catholic world. I was the only Jew. Jesus! Somebody bought my house and had 11 kids… Things change, whether you want them to or not.”
I asked what is something that would surprise most people about her.
“That I’m a depressed tap dancer.”
She giggled, then explained, “Well, everyone thinks, ‘TAP dancing!’ is very happy, you can’t be sad when you tap dance. But I am depressed and I tap dance. I try to show that in my piece. My different moods and experiences are expressed through tap dancing. It’s happy, sad, confused…”
When considering the new opportunities that are opening up, Lynne said, “I just got an email from this guy in Berlin where they have a drag king festival. He said, ‘Oh, we saw clips from your show, we love it, and we want you to come here.’ I think that would be so much fun to be a drag king and wear my beard.
“Now if you saw what I look like, I look like a girl. But I can make myself look like a drag king reeeeal easy.” I laughed. “And that’s my story.
“My dog is looking at me like, ‘Where’s my treat for doing the poop?’ OK, here’s your treat, you little rat.”
To read more about Lynne click here.