Another Country Productions released Episode 1 of Assigned Female at Birth on YouTube on October 25, 2020
Early in the pandemic award-winning writer Lyralen Kaye began participating in on-line festivals presented on Zoom, YouTube and Facebook Live, as theater and film artists did all over the world. In the process, Kaye met Clare Solly, who suggested Kaye write a play about body image.
Certainly both thought it would focus on size. But Kaye, who identifies as a non-binary gender fluid pansexual living with a PTSD disability, began reaching out to queer communities and communities of color for interview subjects, and so AFAB took on a life of its own.
“Body is race, gender, identity, age, ability and size,” Kaye says. “You can’t write about body image in today’s world and not enter the complications of intersectionality.”
The series follows the lives of 3 couples and their immediate families. The characters include an agender trans man who wants to get married in a dress, zir mixed race lover who is definitely not on board, a black lesbian who doesn’t like her trans husband’s new penis and a non-binary therapist with a diagnosis of their own working to commit to their recovering addict partner.
As the series developed, so did the work of artists on line, and Kaye saw the limitations of Zoom plays and readings. They began to write toward a hybrid documentary/web series/theater format and to interview Directors of Photography with a single question: could actors filming in different locations be made to look like they were living in the same rooms? The answer seemed to be a hesitant yes, so filming began on September 9.
Using Zoom to view and instruct, the AFAB crew began to film scenes with 23 actors using smart phones, Filmic Pro, breakout Zoom rooms and external microphones. Lead actors performed from their homes in New York City, Salem, MA, San Francisco, Chicago, Pottstown, PA, Vancouver, WA and Los Angeles.
The Greek chorus who represent the interviewees are spread even wider. The story of Assigned Female at Birth, which includes a unique focus on the body as a character in and of itself, tells stories of grief, identity, oppression and the absurdity of everything human.
The series features Jen Lanier as Makayla (Washington), Jamie Black as Carl (Chicago), MJ Bird as Zander (Pottstown), Tina D’Elia as Sofia (San Francisco), Clare Solly as Melanie (Astoria, NY), Alex Alexander as Bailey (Salem, MA), Carrie Gibson as Phyllis (Los Angeles) and Lyralen Kaye as Daire (Salem, MA).