Finn Lefevre '17G works at the leading edge of trans and theater scholarship
By Natasha Hawkins | Wednesday, October 27, 2021
By Natasha Hawkins
Wednesday, October 27, 2021
Finn Lefevre '17G is a trans non-binary scholar who first came to the Department of Theater at UMass Amherst as a graduate student in dramaturgy, and has now won a following among undergraduate students by teaching exciting new classes such as Sci Fi and Queer theatre. Lefevre works at the leading edge of trans and theater scholarship and has had several of their writings in queer theatre published over the past year, the most recent being an account of the work of Queer & Now, a collective founded at UMass, in the Palgrave Handbook of Queer and Trans Feminisms in Contemporary Performance. Natasha Hawkins, first-year MFA dramaturgy student, contacted them to ask some questions about their work and writing and how these connect to their time at UMass and with Queer & Now.
Hawkins: What is Queer and Now? How did it come to fruition?
Lefevre: Queer & Now started as an experiment in drag. A then-undergrad in our department, Garrett Sager, was assigned a project in Megan Lewis’ Theaters of Dissent class, and it inspired him to explore mixing physical theater with drag and lip sync. There was so much thirst in the community for this kind of work, that we quickly became a collective of artists, devising our first production. Now, 4 years later, we’ve had dozens of shows (online and in person), performed in multiple states and stages, and expanded to explore burlesque, cabaret, and other queer performance forms.
Hawkins: Where did the science fiction/futuristic elements of it come from? How/why are you connecting queerness with the future?
Lefevre: Queer & Now has always been interested in queer futures—imagining celebration of queer life and queer joy as a form of dissent. In exploring these futures, several of the artists started tapping into sci-fi aesthetics. By the time we started working on our second full devised show, Sync or Swim, we wanted to dive completely into the waters of science fiction and fantasy. These aesthetics helped us push our drag past limits of human genders, incorporating themes of monstrosity, magic, shadow selves, and the grotesque. We were imagining these queer possibilities while simultaneously working to build those futures in our own company—focusing on the process of playmaking as much as, if not more than, the product.
Hawkins: Can you tell me about your theater journey? How did you get into it?
Lefevre: I’ve been in theater my whole life. My parents dropped me at a theater day camp when I was 5 and I never really came home. After undergrad, I focused my attention on the trans work, co-founding a small non-profit that provided support groups for trans community members and continuing education trainings for health providers and local institutions. A couple years into that project, I started using some of my applied theater techniques in support group spaces, and suddenly everything clicked. My theater work and trans work were coming together in a really exciting way, but I was also hitting the limits of my training. I decided to go to grad school at UMass to get the support I needed to continue developing my work in trans applied theater. At UMass I was able to form a trans applied theater troupe that spanned 3 years, did several workshops, and has now been documented in a few publications.
Hawkins: Was this difficult as a non-binary person?
Lefevre: I think I've probably been non-binary my whole life too, but I came out in college. I was in a theater program in an area that was neither super aware nor super accepting of queer folx, let alone trans folx. For a while I thought my trans life and my theater life would just have to stay separate if I wanted to keep working.
Hawkins: How did your experiences at UMass as a student shape you, and how do they shape you now as a professor?
My time in the UMass MFA program had a huge influence on the work I’ve done since. My cohort in the program was instrumental in expanding my thinking, making me feel seen and heard, and most importantly deepening my ethic of people over products. I also fell in love with teaching while in grad school. I had never even considered academia as part of my career path until then. I loved TAing for various faculty members and cataloguing all the different ways they approached teaching. I loved that when I started teaching on my own, my advisors supported my unique brand of teaching. From Queer Theater to Sci Fi Theater, I still can’t even believe the cool things they let me teach here. And to have come from a place where I couldn’t have my chosen name in a show program to now having my pronouns published on the department website, I feel like my time at UMass has really let me be and share my full self.
For as much as I love my cohort and my faculty, it’s the students that make me excited to come teach at UMass every day. Working with UMass students is always so energizing. They are brilliant and so, so creative. They push the envelope, they challenge my preconceived ideas, they ask the tough questions, and they model the kind of care I’d hope to see in the broader theater community.
To read some of Finn’s work, check out their website:
... as well as the publications below!
Beyond Binaries: Trans Identities in Contemporary Culture (January 2021)
The Methuen Drama Book of Trans Plays (June 2021)
The Palgrave Handbook of Queer and Trans Feminisms in Contemporary Performance (September 2021)