Mon. May 23rd, 2022

Glace Chase knew she was going to be the person to write the first trans-love story that premiered on the Australian main stages.

“I had the craft to handle it … I could tell it in a bold way,” says the writer and performer.

She also had the perfect story to tell: her own.

In Triple X, which premiered at the Sydney Theater Company this month, depressed Wall Street banker Scotty (played by Josh McConville) welcomes his mother and sister to stay in his luxury Manhattan apartment on the eve of his wedding. But when he hears of a fatal shooting at a popular nightclub, he can no longer concentrate on his upcoming wedding.

The piece flashes back and forth between the present and scenes from his affair with trans night club artist Dexie.

A 40-something bald man kneels with his head against the breasts of a pink-haired, 30-something trans woman
“[Scotty is] someone who somehow stuck to being a man he thought he would be. And it was eventually enlightened by a very honest and real connection [between us]”, says Chase.(Supplied with: STC / Prudence Upton)

Chase herself plays Dexie, a role that draws on her eight years as “nightlife queen” in New York City, where she runs a drag queen travel guide business and hosts bingo, karaoke and interactive comedy nights.

Scotty and Dexie’s relationship quickly escalates to a passionate, honest intimacy – leading to one of the most memorable sex scenes in recent Australian theater.

Although one audience is aware that Scotty is engaged to someone else, they root for Scotty and Dexie as a couple.

And that was precisely Chase’s intention.

“I would make it a heroic tale; give it the scope of the epic love story.”

She adds: “I wanted to make an audience feel that if they [Scotty and Dexie] could not survive, then love in the world is doomed and everything is cursed. “

Chase was born in Victoria but has lived in Melbourne, London, Los Angeles, New York and Sydney.

She won the Griffin Award for a new Australian play in 2008 with the sexual work drama Whore; and then again in 2011 for A Hoax, a play that draws on a wave of controversial literary misrepresentations in which writers would write ‘memoirs’ under pseudonyms – such as Wanda Koolmatrie, later revealed to be Leon Carmen, and the American author JT LeRoy aka Laura Albert.

Drama writing was not her first choice in a creative career.

“I fell for it because I was always mad at wanting to be an actor,” she says.

A 30-year-old trans woman with pink hair holds a pair of scissors over her head while squeezing a balloon to her stomach
Dexie is Chase’s first professional acting role. “I do not love it as much as I thought,” she admits.(Supplied with: STC / Prudence Upton)

She graduated from Actors Center Australia in Sydney in 2009, but she struggled to get roles.

“I was a little gendered. I was very feminine, that was before my transition, and it was just clear I never wanted to work. I could write, so I started writing plays.”

But the writing process is not easy for Chase.

“Even though I’m good at it, it’s not really good for me at all.”

She also found that traditional theater spaces were claustrophobic compared to the disrespect and ribbaldry of nightclub scenes.

“Writes it all [a play] would be like a trauma from woe to walk, and then it would be traumatic to get it cursed on.

“I never really felt supported or understood. I was criticized a lot, and in the end a lot of it was associated with transphobia, I think, and femmephobia and a little homophobia too.

“In the end, it cost too much.”

Triple X is the first new piece she has written since leaving Australia in 2011.

“Since I officially moved to New York, which was about 10 years ago, I stopped writing and I had no desire to take it up again, and no intention.”

When fiction becomes reality

In New York in 2017, Chase spoke with Australian director Paige Rattray about a relationship that had recently ended – and the idea for Triple X began to take shape.

Paige Rattray sits on a black box in front of a blue foil glitter curtain.
“[Glace] is one of the most extraordinary people anyone who comes to the play will meet, ”Rattray (pictured) told ABC RN’s The Stage Show in 2021.(ABC Arts: Anna Kucera)

But it was a subsequent relationship that provided much of the real fodder for the play – with eerie parallels to scenes and characters she had already written.

“In some ways, I suppose I was manifesting the central love story in the play,” Chase told ABC TV’s Art Works last year.

For example, she had already formulated Scotty’s character when a drunk banker walked into the bar where she worked.

“We flirted a lot and I ended up going home with him. And then boom, it started a real relationship that lasted a year,” she says.

“I only found out half a year when he was actually engaged. And not only that, when I found out the fiance, it was pretty much exactly the same way that Scotty in the play’s fiance is described as.”

It also worked the other way, as moments from real life – including lines of dialogue – were entered into the script.

“You think you observe and comment from a distance, and then it becomes very personal,” Chase says.

To find yourself

Triple X is a trans love story – but it did not start that way.

As the events unfolded in both her real life and acting, she found that she examined not only her romantic relationship but also her gender identity.

“And it [writing the play] somehow unlocked much of my transition. “

Likewise, the writing of the piece revealed a new kind of confidence in Chase; the woman we meet in Triple X through the character of Dexie evolved through the writing of the script.

“Triple X changed me fundamentally. It was a very deep experience,” Chase says.

Now she feels that she has gone beyond her character in relation to her acceptance of – and pride in – her gender identity.

A 30-year-old trans woman with pink hair, wearing a black dress, speaks into a microphone while being lit by a spotlight
“People are like, ‘the burden of the play, it has to be really hard emotionally’ – and it is. But it does not bother me,” says Chase.(Supplied with: STC / Prudence Upton)

“I see someone now who is able to accept, be more at peace with who I am and what it represents in the world – to let some of the trauma go.”

But her journey was not pleasant, and writing the relationship between Dexie and Scotty meant struggling with painful questions.

“I think the big question I really had to ask myself was, ‘Am I worthy of love?’

There’s a really obvious answer to that: “Of course you are, it’s all!” But everyone can relate to [the feeling that] perhaps there is a more nuanced, darker version [of that answer]. “

Centering Scotty

In the end, though, Dexie is not the center of the play; instead, Chase chose to focus on Scotty’s equally masculine character.

“Scotty is the character with more conflict,” she explains.

A 40-something bald man leans his head on the shoulder of a 30-something trans woman with pink hair, wearing a glittery dress
Chase was nervous about appearing in front of McConville. “We just had to make some of the most intimate scenes you can make.”(Delivered: STC / Rene Vaile)

“Dexie kind of has a fun-but-go-nowhere life, but she’s pretty determined on who she is … Scotty, there’s a lot more at stake for him, about authenticity and happiness and shame.”

She was also interested in telling the story from a perspective that is often mocked: men who are attracted to transgender women.

According to Pornhub data, searches for ‘trans’ increased 141 percent in 2021. ‘Transgender’ is now the 10th most viewed category of male visitors to the site.

“When you see the play, this could be your brother, your son, your ex. It’s not something that happens over there, it’s something that happens within so many family units, and no one talks about it.”

In part, Chase’s focus on Scotty was also a protective mechanism.

“I thought it would shield me a little more. I underestimated the power of history and what it means [for] I’m telling you, “she says.

“It took me a while to warm up, but I’m ultimately a gossip, and in life I sit at the end of the bar and just tell stories about my sex life and my nervous breakdowns.

Delayed satisfaction

While Chase is usually based in the US, she has lived in Australia since the beginning of 2020, when she returned for Triple X trials.

The show was first scheduled to go on stage in 2020 at the Queensland Theater in Brisbane before traveling to the Sydney Theater Company.

Both seasons were delayed by COVID and rescheduled to 2021; in the end, the lockdowns interrupted the Brisbane season and ruined Sydney.

The delays have meant changes in the cast, and the Omicron wave sweeping through New South Wales this month has necessitated the introduction of understudies.

Chase describes the uncertainty and delays as “devastating”.

“In the past with all the shutdowns, you live on a knife edge all the time because you knew a case could potentially ruin everything.

“This [season] does not feel quite so bad … You feel that the show will continue. Thank God for undergraduate studies! “

The play finally premiered in Sydney to an overwhelmingly positive reception, with critics describing it as “a beautifully constructed piece of storytelling” and “emotionally compelling, physically intimate and… revealing”.

“It’s been very moving. It’s been two years in the making,” Chase said.

“[But] we still have a really long run, so I’m still sticking together. I think I want to breathe a sigh of relief on the 26th of February [the end of the show’s run]. “

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She hopes to one day climb Triple X in New York, where she will return after performing her new comedy show Glace’s Big Things at the Adelaide Fringe in March.

She is also working on a new commission for the Sydney Theater Company, entitled Drag County.

But so far, she lets herself enjoy the feeling of finally opening the show in Sydney.

“It’s really important that I allow myself to have this moment,” she says.

“The great thing is to validate the trans experience and a trans-romantic experience and get it set at that level. We finally see trans characters on the screens [but only] a little bit, barely.

Triple X runs until February 26 at the Sydney Theater Company.

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