“Ladies and gentleman and everyone in between!”
So began “F to the eMbody: A Reconstruction of Gender.” The show, which ran in the Morse Crescent Underground Theater as part of Trans/gender Awareness Week, featured hip hop artist Rocco “Katastrophe” Kayiatos and spoken word poet Harvey Katz (a.k.a. Athens Boys Choir) in performances inspired by their past struggles to come to terms with their sexual identities.
Self-described “lifestyle partners,” the pair travel across the country touring primarily college campuses, with the dual mission of entertaining crowds and humanizing the transgender experience.
Katz’s art is unabashedly personal, subversive without being caustic. At one point in the performance, his verses were accompanied by a Justin Bieber spoof featuring his own lyrics and rhymes. Later on, he presented his past to the audience in the form of a video from his Bat Mitzvah. Thankfully, Katz managed to maintain high energy throughout. During one song, he told the audience to “throw up their jazz hands” as he sang in front of a projected image of a woman decked out in 80s gear rocking to the beat.
But the joking around has more serious undertones that may not be apparent. “I would feel guilty putting people through my performance if I said everything I
really wanted to say,” Katz explained.
For his part, Kayiatos rapped about his difficulty fitting in during high school and the bouts of depression that he experienced periodically throughout his life. Nonetheless, he kept it light by introducing his songs with the anecdotes that often served as the inspiration behind his work. Like Katz, his presentation was a balancing act: art that makes us laugh while simultaneously showing the darkness underneath.
But it would be wrong to think the show is solely about the transgender experience. Rather, this unconventional outfit wants to give people a sense of passion.
As Katz put it, “After watching this, I hope people are inspired to do their art.” He added, “If that means going home and doing quadratic equations, then so be it.”