A Vancouver playwright has secured some major star power to help raise funds for a musical they’re writing about a transgender youth, with hopes of mounting it at the Vancouver Fringe Festival.
With the musical telling the story of a youth discovering their true identity, it was only appropriate that writer-director David Cutting reach out to Gia Gunn — an alum of RuPaul’s Drag Race who transitioned before coming back for Drag Race All-Stars — to headline Thursday night’s fundraiser at the Fox Cabaret.
Cutting, who calls Gunn an “icon,” said the performer was a perfect fit because of her outspoken support for the community and the way she has used her fame to highlight trans issues.
Cutting began developing the musical while coming out as non-binary, and was further inspired by conversations with transgender friends about their own self-discovery and transition.
“The whole idea for the musical came from queer rites of passage and being able to tell a story that tells a very positive trans life experience — not without challenges — but told in a very fun, upbeat way.”
The play itself tells the story of Kai, who encounters multiple fairies that are trying to get the teen hero to believe in magic.
In order to ground that magic in relatable emotions, Cutting’s music is inspired by the work of Canadian pop star Carly Rae Jepsen. Even the title of the musical, Now That I Found You, shares the name of a Jepsen song.
“We don’t use any of her music,” Cutting said. Instead, the lyrics served as a guide for the playwright to tap into the same “incredibly forward” and universal language Jepsen uses, which has endeared her to LGBTQ2 fans.
“I find that in the queer community, because they’ve had to come out and come out and come out and come out, there’s a level in us that’s like, a little bit more emotionally intelligent,” Cutting said. “She speaks to that.”
The ultimate goal is for Cutting, through Sleepy Queers Productions, to mount the musical at the Vancouver Fringe Festival in September. Thursday’s performance is just the start of fundraising efforts for the show, with a GoFundMe and a month-long drag pageant being planned for the near future.
It’s the first time Gunn has come to Vancouver since she was a child, and she said it’s important to have more artistic representations of trans people and their struggles in order to inspire the younger generation.
“I think any time any of us have the opportunity to have realizations that we are our authentic selves is incredibly important,” she said. “It’s my duty to help inspire others to continue to live their truth, and to live a healthy and positive lifestyle at the same time.”
Cutting is hopeful that the musical can speak to younger people struggling to find their own identities, but also wants to create something that all ages and generations can enjoy in order to bridge barriers within the larger community.
“I think of it as the Shrek paradigm. Kids love Shrek, it hit so heavily for them. But also parents love Shrek. So how do you strike that balance? That’s what I’m aiming for.”
More information about Thursday’s fundraiser can be found here.