Pike Street may be best known to Seattleites for Pike Place Market. Seattle University students may associate it with the street where the local QFC is located. No matter the case, the famous street is more than glittering signs and small eateries. It is home to a diverse family of businesses, shops and restaurants. One such shop is the small bookstore, Gay City, located on 517 E Pike. On May 19-22 the bookstore hosted the one-woman play, “The Enchanted Life and Temporary Death of Sadie December” by Dorothy Frances Kent.
Seattle has become known for its thriving art scene, which allows diverse communities to practice self-expression, and no one would agree with this more then Dorothy Frances Kent.
“I’ve been really happy with how my play has been received. I hope to encourage people to go see a play about someone else’s life that is not really like theirs, but at the same time is like theirs,” Kent said.
She spoke about gender identity, her art and everything that has led up to the production of her new, one-woman play.
She admits that she is not a polished performer, but her audience is important to her. She wishes for her work to inspire developing artists to keep going and try to create their own art.
Finally, she hopes that the play will be a window into the LGBTQ community for those who do not identify as trans or gay.
Gay City is proud to put on the production as a part of their trans-art month.
“She invites you in to feel comfortable with the story,” said Ebo Barton, the youth arts coordinator at Gay City. “Gay City is known as a health clinic, but the reason why Gay City Arts exists is because we are about total wellness.”
Gay City wishes to include all members of the LGBTQ community, not just the stereotypic white, gay, cis male. They are beginning outreach into the surrounding community including Seattle University.
“Being transgender wasn’t a conversation that came up a lot when I was young, and I think art is one of those times that allows you to sit down and have someone else express their self portrait in ways not everyone can,” said sophomore Isabella Wong. “It challenges this notion that there’s only two genders out there in an honest, human way.”
The play itself is about Kent’s life mixed in with stories she was told as a child. The lines of reality and fantasy are blurred through the story of Sadie’s self-discovery.
“It’s more magical realism in a literary sense than any play that I know of,” Kent said. “I had a hard time separating reality as a kid.”
Many fairy-tale elements were present throughout the play’s production. Yet, the story is no fairy-tale. It is the story of the three major, gender-related stages in Kent’s life. The first stage, childhood, finds Kent genderless. In the second stage she knows she must choose a gender. In the third, she struggles to find herself until she is ultimately able to find peace with herself.
The play’s magical elements describe the ways that Kent was able to cope even under massive stress.
“Most of it is true, but the elements that got me through my own life are those things people do not consider to be real,” Kent said. “I am very naturalistic. I lean towards the forest, animals and small ideas of witchcraft.”
She attributes her spirituality to her life in a very religious family.
The play once featured a diverse cast, but slowly came down to just Kent after complications with scheduling and availability. The show still has a script, lighting and music, but leans more on spoken word than it had previously.
“It’s like spoken word but not like spoken word poetry, it’s like storytelling,” Kent said.
Kent wanted to be a writer since childhood, but she has explored many artistic practices. Her experiences now give her plenty of writing material.
After experimenting in writing and acting, Kent spent most of the ‘90s in a rock/punk band.
“Out of everything, music is what held me the most,” Kent said.
Kent lived around the U.S. and in Europe in cities such as San Francisco, Paris, New York and Chicago.
Yet Kent often had long stretches when all she did was write. She attributes this to her long-term struggle with alcohol and drugs that she has now overcome.
“There was a long period where—do you remember those old TVs with the static on the screen?—there was a lot of time where things seemed just like static,” Kent said.
But in the 2000s, Kent made her way back to Seattle, married and found a large community of writers to support her.
Her play signifies her new way of life, and she hopes the play will give audiences a lens to see the world as a magical place.
“There are reasons to be alive, despite all the horrible things going on,” Kent said.
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