As soon as Malic White learned about Woolly Mammoth’s production of Taylor Mac’s explosive family dramedy Hir, they were pitching to play Max. Relaxing on a pink fur sofa in Woolly’s lobby that represents the off-center sensibility of the show’s colorful set, White explains that they’re a follower of Mac’s work.
“I’m a huge fan of Taylor Mac,” White says. “I sought out [this] production, because I wanted to be in it. I had a strong grasp on what it was about before getting involved.”
Hir portrays, painstakingly though often hilariously, a family in crisis, when a twenty-something Iraq War vet Isaac returns home from a traumatizing deployment to find his once average American family in a state of disarray. His mother is now a gender theory-spouting feminist, while his stroke-addled dad has taken to wearing makeup and dresses. Meanwhile, his sister Max — played by White — has transitioned to a genderqueer individual who prefers the pronouns ze and hir (pronounced “here”), rather than she and hers.
“A lot of people have said that they were surprised that it’s not a trans story,” says White. “[It] has a trans character in it, but really what the play is about is cycles of abuse in American families. Given that the playwright is Taylor Mac, the text of the play itself is a queer perspective on what that looks like. That is what I appreciate about it.”
White, who has been “identifying as some kind of trans for a very long time,” also appreciates having been raised in a more supportive environment than the one depicted in Hir.
“I’ve never felt bad or ashamed about any part of myself, and I know a lot of it has to do with me being very lucky and not being in horrible circumstances,” they say. “When I have been open about my gender identity or my sexual orientation — and I’ve certainly received criticism for some of those things — but at no point have I not felt okay with myself. I think that’s how Max is, too.”
White, last seen at Woolly in the Neo-Futurist’s dazzling Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, consistently brings autobiographical detail to their work as a writer and performer, particularly when collaborating with partner, Molly Brennan, a fellow Chicago-based theater artist and gender activist.
“The theater scene in Chicago is really exciting right now. There’s a great push towards inclusion and towards just more interesting casting than what we’ve seen before,” White says. “There’s an awesome group called the Chicago Inclusion Project that is helping to get more people of color, trans people and people with disabilities cast in plays where we are often not noticed or not brought into the room. That is very exciting to me.”
Hir runs to June 18 at Woolly Mammoth, 641 D St. NW. Tickets are $20 to $103. Call 202-393-3939 or visit woollymammoth.net.
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