Shannon TL Kearns is a transgender man who’s playwriting is obsessed with big questions told through small stories. He is committed to work by and for marginalized communities, using writing to create a new future for all of us. He is the founder and Artistic Director of Uprising Theatre Company in Minneapolis, MN. He is a Lambda Literary Fellow for 2019. He was awarded a spot in the HBMG Foundations’ Winter Playwright Retreat in 2018 and 2019. He has participated in Pillsbury House Theatre’s Chicago Avenue Project writing plays for and with children. He was a finalist for the Equity Library Theatre of Chicago’s Reading Series, the 2019 TransLab, and the American Stages 2019 New Play Festival. He also teaches storytelling and playwriting for youth and adults. Shannon’s plays include in a stand of dying trees, Line of Sight, Twisted Deaths, The Resistance of My Skin, and Who Has Eyes To See.

Artistic Statement

My work as an artist is rooted first and foremost in a belief that marginalized people are the people best able to tell their own stories and that providing space for marginalized people to be able to embody those stories on stage enriches all of us. As a transgender man I so rarely see stories on stage that are resonant with my own experience. When I do see stories about transgender people it’s often clear that they were written by people who are not transgender and who have little connection with my community. Because of that the characters are often offensive or one-sided or written with cisgender people in mind. The stories become almost voyeuristic. Allowing transgender people to tell our own stories allows transgender characters to be nuanced and well rounded people. It allows us to tell stories beyond simply coming out and transitioning. It allows us to have lives beyond transition.

I believe that stories have the power to change the world. They allow us insight, a chance to create empathy, and transport us to a place where we can allow our hearts to soften and our minds to change. I believe this can be done without being preachy or strident or having only one “right answer” on the table. Instead we can tell stories that invite people who are not directly impacted or affected by the issue at hand to see in a new way by getting to know others who might not be like them. We are also providing a space for people who are directly affected to see themselves represented. In that space they will feel seen, represented, and walk away with a newfound hope. In the times we find ourselves in, this deepening of empathy and cultivation of hope is needed more than ever and so are the amplified voices of marginalized people.

The Work

Line Of Sight:

Cast: 1 trans masculine teenager, 1 tgnc person, 5 people of various gender identities and ethnicities

Alex hates everything. He hates school. He hates being bullied by his classmates and teachers. He hates that his parents don’t accept him and keep trying to fix him. He hates how alone he feels. But what if Alex is more powerful than he thinks? In the midst of a tragic event, Alex discovers something supernatural inside of him that he didn’t know was there. But will it be enough to change what needs to change?

Twisted Deaths:

Time: 2 hours 20 minutes Cast: 4W, 2 transgender men

Pam and Ryan couldn’t be more different. He is a young transgender man and she is an older conservative woman but when they are both diagnosed with cancer their lives intersect in ways that neither of them could have ever imagined.

This work explores questions of identity, relationships, our health care system, and who has control over your body and life.

Who Has Eyes To See:

Time: 140 minutes Cast: 4 cisgender women, 1 transgender man

Jamie, a transgender man, gets called back to his family home by his mother, Catherine, with the cryptic message that his sister, Emily, is in trouble. With the support of his loving wife, Alison, Jamie comes home to confront family struggles, a mother that doesn’t recognize him, and a past that he thought he had left behind but that impacts him in ways he can’t even see. A touching story about family, connections, and what it means to have a home.

The Resistance Of My Skin

Time: 75 minutes Cast: 1 plus size cisgender woman, 1 transgender man

Ayden and Jess have been dating. They both think that tonight might be “the night”, but each one is nervous for their own reasons. Ayden hasn’t been with anyone since his transition. Jess is afraid that her size will make Ayden run away. Can they overcome their insecurities to be intimate with one another? How can they embrace vulnerability in the midst of fear?

Want to know more about Shannon’s plays or read a script? Check him out on the New Play Exchange.