Behind the Rainbow Flag: Playwright Azure D. Osborne-Lee on Being A 'Fat Black Nonbinary Trans Queer Person' in the Theatre Community
BroadwayWorld is celebrating Pride Month with Behind the Rainbow Flag. This series will feature theatre artists, who are members of the LGTBQ+ community sharing their stories, advice, or other pieces related to their identity.
Below, read a piece from playwright Azure D. Osborne-Lee, who describes their experiences being "a fat Black nonbinary trans queer person" in the theatre community, discrimination they have faced, and advice they have for others like them.
It's hard to say what being a Black trans person means to me. Those are two primary aspects of my identity. Because my identities are not optional for me, I stand proudly in them.
I've experienced discrimination in my career due to my identities. I'm a fat Black nonbinary trans queer person. Like so many theatre makers, I started out as an actor. In my mid-twenties I realized that I didn't feel safe attending auditions. I had already spent my formative years fighting to make room for myself in a theatre program that refused to cast more than one Black actor per season. I decided that I didn't want my ability to participate in my industry to depend solely upon being cast. So I started writing.
I cannot live a life outside of my body. I cannot always tell when I'm being discriminated against for a particular identity of mine. What I can say is that making a life in the theatre hasn't been easy for me. I have been passed over more times than I can say. I have been fired from jobs because a white man thought I was a bit too uppity. I have had critics with zero cultural competency look down on my work.
My advice for other Black LGBTQ+ people is to seek out affinity and community as much as you can. Find mentors and cheerleaders of your work and stay close to them. These are the people who will help you grow as an artist, who will stay grounded when you need it most. Also figure out whose feedback means the most to you. Who's your target audience? The voices of those people are the ones to listen to when things get hectic.
Azure D. Osborne-Lee (he/him, they/them) is an award-winning Black queer theatre maker from south of the Mason-Dixon Line. He holds an MA in Advanced Theatre Practice (2011) from Royal Central School of Speech & Drama as well as an MA in Women's & Gender Studies (2008) and a BA in English & Spanish from The University of Texas at Austin (2005).
Azure is the founder of Roots and River Productions and was a member of the inaugural Trans Theater Lab cohort. Azure's work has been produced and/or developed by Trans Lab @ The Public and WP, Parity Productions, The Tank, The Flea Theater, BAX|Brooklyn Arts Exchange, BAM, JACK, Rising Circle Theater Collective, The Fire This Time Festival, Horse Trade Theater Group, The Castillo Theatre, The New Ohio Theatre, National Black Theatre, Freedom Train Productions, Downtown Urban Arts Festival, Lambda Literary Foundation, The Helix Queer Performance Network, and regionally.
Recipient of Parity Productions' 2018 Commission for Women and Transgender Playwrights, Winner of Downtown Urban Arts Festival's 2018 Best Play Award, and the 2015 Mario Fratti-Fred Newman Political Play Contest.
Finalist for Theatre Viscera's Queer Playwrights' Contest, VanguardRep's 2019 Summer Production, BAX|Brooklyn Arts Exchange's 2018 Artist in Residence, National Black Theatre's I AM SOUL Playwrights Residency, and Soho Rep's Writer/Director Lab; Semi-finalist for the Burman New Play Award, Ars Nova's Play Group and New York Theatre Workshop's Emerging Artists Fellowship.
Azure's full-length plays include Mirrors, Crooked Parts, Glass, The Beasts of Warren, Appetite, and The Crocus Eaters.
Learn more about Azure at azureosbornelee.com.
Photo Credit: Gaspar Marquez