“You Really Should Sit Like a Lady” Uncovers Gender Struggle—Streaming TheatreFirst
Linda Evans Carves a Path to Gender Fluidity
by Patricia L. Morin
TheatreFirst and Lisa Evans are to be applauded for braving the sensitive questions of sexuality and gender in “You Really Should Sit like a Lady.”
When I was young, gender and sexuality were not interchangeable. People were either male or female. Period.
Over time, we have lived with the labels of “femininity” and “masculinity,” burdened with non-scientific cultural expectations. Little girls in America were expected to play with dolls, and grow up to find a “man”; while boys played with bats and balls and grow up to find a “good woman.”
Now, the importance of Lisa Evans’ work is the psychological premise that “gender identity is really about your intrinsic sense of self.” And that self is also still evolving.
Lisa carries a computer into a living room with a microphoned stand and sound board, immediately sharing the importance of music and song. Evans sets the sound board before each song. The first song is the theme to “Sailor Moon,” who was eight-year-old Lisa’s super hero, a white, blond, blue eyed girl with long, straight hair and special powers.
This flashed me back to my “Chatty Cathy” doll with a pull-chord voice. She also had blond hair and blue eyes, and she could talk!
As much as Lisa wants to pay homage to and emulate Sailor Moon, Lisa knows that a Black girl with curly hair, lacking ladylike mannerisms, cannot. An uncomfortable “otherness” grows.
“Otherness,” a poignant theme in “You Really Should Sit Like a Lady,” addresses conflicts of sexual and gender identity—as well as racism. Classmates and teachers throw accusing questions at young Lisa: “Aren’t you supposed to be good at basketball?”
Gender and racial stereotypes increased the split between loving femininity but never feeling like a lady: “See I was always told that Black girls were like concrete wrapped in barbed wire, made of durable substance. Made to take hits, to bear the weight. Never something to be desired.”
Evans does a great job capturing our empathy through songs and stories. Songs run the gamut from “I Enjoy Being a Girl” to Hip Hop, from ballads to commercial jingles; they reflect phases of personal, sexual, and cultural development.
We often wonder what will be sung next, intrigued by the variety of experiences and music. In “Welcome to Paradise,” Lisa, as a Tour Guide, recreates a sardonic version of a TV commercial for San Diego: “Welcome to Paradise, just a little bigotry and genocide…”
Director Leigh Rondon-Davis and designer Marisa Ramos add dimension to Evans’ solo performance through creative staging and witty videos.
Those painful growing up years in San Diego solidified the “other.” Then lesbianism surfaced. Raised in a religious family, the fear that you will never fit in can immobilize any of us. But, grounded in Blackness and femininity, Evans finds a unique medium—a moving, evolving space in-between—a non-binary space, neither female nor male gender.
Food for thought is plentiful in this complicated solo performance. Sometimes funny, sometimes confusing, always raw and fast moving, I enjoyed following Evans’ steppingstones to an actualized and internalized self-discovery.
“You Really Should Sit Like a Lady” – written & performed by Linda Evans, directed & developed by Leigh Rondon-Davis, visually designed by Marisa Ramos, by TheatreFirst, Berkeley. Streaming at: TheatreFirst – to September 1, 2021.
Cast: Linda Evans