Audience Praise for Publik Private

This show is an earnest and admirable production by a talented artist who uses costumes brilliantly, as if they were puppets, and uses puppets brilliantly, as if they were costumes. Eppchez! is engaging and intelligent, and owns air space like a second, more-comfortable home.

- David Hodges

Eppchez! has created a historically fascinating and modernly relevant show about gender nonconformity, colonization, and so much more. While weaving together two incredible historical narratives with modern reflections on gender and history, Eppchez! made me laugh and learn

- Sahroo Eppler-Epstein

Publik Private is a fascinating, educational, funny, and empowering story of two figures whose vibrant, adventurous lives prove that the world has always had people who defy typical gender roles and identities by living their unapologetic truths.

- Gina Renzi


The infernal and the saintly collide in a bold intertwining of two adventures too wild to be fictional. Publik Private is a show that smashes the binary in more ways than one: out and passing, chaste and carnal, pacifist and warmonger, hero and villain, thwarted imperialist and well-intentioned gentrifier. With a wry smile, Eppchez dances between the polar opposites of these two trans lives, and joins them together in something tender, irreverent, and all too human.

- Mary Tuomanen

A tale of two identities

 by Cara Blouin

Publik Private, the SoLow Fest entry from Alma’s Engine, explores two historic figures who transcended the limitations of gender within strict social structures. Multidisciplinary performer Eppchez ! creates an onstage documentary reflecting on the lives of the Publik Universal Friend, an agender Quaker prophet from Rhode Island, and of Le Monje Alferéz, a Basque lieutenant who fought to colonize the new world in the name of the Catholic Church, despite being seen by his family as female and exiled to a convent. 

Romero and Rooker's costumes allow Eppchez ! to operate and be a puppet, simultaneously. (Photo by Freedom G Photography.)

Romero and Rooker's costumes allow Eppchez ! to operate and be a puppet, simultaneously. (Photo by Freedom G Photography.)

Romero and Rooker's costumes allow Eppchez ! to operate and be a puppet, simultaneously. (Photo by Freedom G Photography.)

The descriptions of these characters matter to Eppchez ! (a nonbinary performer who uses the pronouns ey/eir and ! in place of a last name), who wonders whether ey will be remembered on eir own terms, as the Friend and Lieutenant were not. 

Publik Private debuted at the Rotunda as part of RE(focus) Fest2018. The show has an intimate feel and therefore plenty to work against at Panorama Philly, an engulfing, un-air-conditioned warehouse up several flights of stairs. 

Less is more

SoLow Fest does a great service to younger and nontraditional performers by creating a platform encouraging experimental work with low financial risk. The festival, run by a small group of dedicated and overworked volunteers can’t offer resources such as space and funding, which makes SoLow shows universally scrappy. 

Publik Private offers many examples of how limited resources can lead to truly creative solutions. Lighting designer Evelyn Swift Shuker works wonders with eight tiny instruments, three of which are clip lights. In a particularly inspired move, Swift Shuker rigs a black curtain over a warehouse window that can be raised and lowered, flooding the space with natural light for scenes where the Publik Universal Friend preaches, a subtle nod to the Quaker doctrine of the inner light. 

In the same way, the use of recorded voices overcomes the sound-sucking space, and a screen on which translations are projected serves as an inclusive solution for non-Spanish-speakers at the bilingual show.  

Puppet and costume designers Mila Romero and Gwendolyn Rooker create highly functional, durable, and evocative costumes that Eppchez can step into and out of, transforming into eir characters completely. Because the costumes are constructed as puppets, Eppchez can half step out of them and converse with a character while also embodying them. In one particularly moving moment, Eppchez slips one hand through the sleeve of the lieutenant’s costume and regards it, considering a murder Alferéz has committed. 

More, please

As a content creator, Eppchez ! is deeply thoughtful. Ey is rigorous about considering the characters’ stories in their full complexity. Often, however, the work gets too cerebral and an audience with no prior knowledge of these figures loses the thread. More show and less tell could make the script more engaging without sacrificing the integrity of eir ideas.

Eppchez’s physical performance brims with potential. Eir precision, skill, and range manifest in small motions, which is why it’s a shame eir movement vocabulary in Publik Private is so limited.  Eppchez tends to enact broadly what is being spoken, for example miming sewing with a frown as the broadcasted voice says “I hate sewing.” 

With no interpretive tension between words and actions the experience stagnates. Eppchez seems unwilling to incorporate eirself into the story, which is unfortunate. Ey introduces eir multiple identities at the top of the show and exists as a presence addressing characters as “you,” throughout, but Eppchez’s place in the show remains unexamined.

Publik Private hasn’t yet found the clear narrative or thematic throughline that holds it together and pushes the action forward, but the work overflows with interesting ideas, arresting visuals, and clever solutions. SoLow provides a chance for groups like Alma’s Engine to experiment, but this work needs and deserves more support, not only for the new stories and perspectives it offers but because of the raw talent of its creator. 

SoLow Fest 2018’s ‘Publik Private’ has two people you need to meet

by Cara Blouin                            

Eppchez! will perform 'Publik Private' in this year's SoLow Fest. (Photo courtesy of the artist.)

Eppchez! will perform 'Publik Private' in this year's SoLow Fest. (Photo courtesy of the artist.)

 “No one,” says multidisciplinary performer Eppchez !, “escapes responsibility.”

Publik Private, Eppchez’s contribution to the 2018 SoLow Fest, is an exploration of people navigating their identities within the limitations of the social structures of the past. In effect, these trans, nonbinary, and Latinx characters are the performer's ancestors, but the show isn’t a veneration.

Publik Private delves into two lives. Those are Le Monje Alferéz, a 16th-century Basque nun who escaped the convent and lived as a man, ultimately earning the rank of second lieutenant in the Peruvian army; and the Publick Universal Friend. The latter was born Jemima Wilkinson in 1752 and, after claiming death from fever in 1776, came back to life as the Friend, an agender Quaker prophet.

The show is coming to Panorama Philly in Kingsessing, June 19 through 23, at 6:30pm. It’s created and performed by Eppchez (who also provides projections and sound), with puppets by Mila Romero and Gwen Rooker. Gil Johnson directs.

Complexity and context

CLI publick private square.jpg

Eppchez ! (who uses the pronouns ey/eir and uses an exclamation point where others would use a surname) doesn’t discount the value in affirming that nonbinary people have always existed. But ey insists that queerness is the least interesting thing about eir characters. “I think it’s important not to just hold people up because we want to see ourselves in history as queer people,” ey says. “It’s important to treat them as whole, complex people living in the time that they lived in.”

Sidestepping the temptation to create flawless heroes, Eppchez emphasizes that although eir characters lived courageously in some ways, they were problematic in others. Le Monje Alferéz, Eppchez points out, completely bought into European and Catholic supremacy and fought violently to uphold them. Ey describes the Friend, an early abolitionist and advocate for equality, as nonetheless an “obnoxious person” obsessed with piety. The way that we all shift between the role of oppressed and oppressor is a timely theme.

“This other kind of creature”

Publik Private offers Eppchez as an artist a rare chance to live into all of eir identities. The show is in both English and Spanish and creates a meaty role for a person who is hard to cast in more traditional work. “Generally I’m hired for other projects because they need a trans person,” ey says. “I don’t really know what else to want. It’s not like someone could hire me and ignore the fact that I’m just this other kind of creature. That’s part of the reason that I write work for myself.”


A chat with Al Dia about making Publik Private and navigating Latinxidad


Eppchez! is a Philadelphia-based playwright, performer, and artist. Photo courtsey of Eppchez!, by Eva Wo

Behind the scenes with local playwright and performer Eppchez!

The Philly-based Cuban-American artist talks writing, trans figures in history, and contending with the history of Spanish colonization in the lead-up to eir bilingual solo show this weekend as part of the (re)FOCUS Festival.

By Emily Neil

April 05, 2018

As a local playwright, performer, songwriter, writer, and artist, Eppchez!(link is external) focuses on colonization, consumption, latent capitalism, and other themes. Eppchez! has a solo performance this weekend, April 6-8, at the Rotunda in West Philadelphia as part of the (re)FOCUS Fest(link is external) for independent artists in the Philadelphia area. The bilingual performance, titled Publik Private(link is external), explores the lives of two historical figures: a Basque-born trans man, Lieutenant Alférez, who was a nun in a convent before seeking his fortune in Latin America and participating in the violence of the Spanish Conquest; and a Quaker-born evangelical preacher who believed they were resurrected as a divine spirit of life that was neither male nor female and traveled around the Northeast of the U.S in the 18th century. The production is “about witnessing to these ancestors and about seeing them in their queerness and holding them accountable to the ways that their whiteness was oppressive,” said Eppchez!. Tickets are available for purchase online(link is external) through the (re)FOCUS Festival. 

Eppchez!, who is nonbinary and uses the pronouns ey, em, and eir, took the time to speak with AL DÍA about eir creative vision, eir identity as a Latinx and nonbinary artist, and the power of art to help us learn from and interact with our histories to better understand the world today.  

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest production? 

It’s really just me discovering and figuring out how to tell stories of these two historical people’s lives, and it’s mostly about bearing witness to them as ancestors. There’s some element of conversation and thinking about how we can connect with ancestors even when in hindsight we believe in different things. Sort of just a combination of seeing them fully and seeing them in ways that they would actually think of themselves — and seeing them as full, complex people who were not always doing the right thing. 

The production itself is bilingual? 

Yeah, it was important to me that everything that the Lieutenant says is in Spanish, because that language is in their own words because he wrote an autobiography. So what an incredible opportunity to be able to actually use his words to put his life on the stage. 

So it’s based on an actual historical text? 

Yeah, a lot of the segments about him are from his autobiography. It’s interesting because he’s from the Basque country and it’s 15th century Spanish so it’s double wonky but 15th century Spanish is much closer to modern day Spanish than 15th century English is, or even than 18th century English, which was the other character. 

I am very clear in my mind that the Lieutenant Nun is a trans man and that seems very obvious to me. Most historians are really reticent to use that language to talk about him or his experience, because there weren’t other people that they’re aware of that did that. But because of how adamant and violent he is towards people who refer to him as female during his life, it is clear to me that that would not be his preference, and that he very much conceptualized and thought of himself as a man. 

But it does create all of these language problems for Spanish.  For me as a nonbinary person it’s been really difficult to think about that, but for the Lieutenant, he was writing in the first person so it mostly didn’t affect his language that much, but when he is speaking reflexively, he definitely uses male signifiers. That’s another way in which it’s pretty clear what his preference is. 

You’re gender nonbinary, so for you in Spanish how do you identify yourself? 

It’s hard, it’s kind of impossible and it’s meant that it’s just hard for me to exist in Spanish. My tía is like so how do we do this? Apart from making up a whole kind of different linguistic rules, there’s not really a way to do it. You end up settling for masculine referencing but it’s not honest, it’s not true. 

I’m not the only Latinx non-binary person by any regards. I don’t know if a lot of people are thinking about how to fix it or solve it or do something different but I know a lot of people struggle with it. 

For you as a playwright, what do you think the particular power of theater is for exploring queer and trans issues, or queer and trans issues in the Latinx community?

For me one of the reasons I’m a playwright and not just a performer, it all goes back to there not being non binary or trans characters for me to play, generally, and so I began to feel like, oh if I want to work and have interesting roles, then I guess I just have to write the shows myself. It’s not how I first got into playwriting but that is a reason why I do solo shows. 

But for me, gender is never going to be the most interesting thing about a character that I’m writing. It’s always just that, ‘Oh, this character happens to be non binary, but like there’s a lot else that is going on.’ And that’s true for these two historical figures and I think that’s why I was drawn to them. In their perspective, their gender is sort of irrelevant. They’re just trying to exist and be in the world that they were given, and be able to live comfortably. 

The whole idea thinking about historical figures — it [brings up] the fact that all of these identities are not new things. 

Maybe the identities are new, but the people always existed. The people always existed, and just because in their time there wasn’t language for them to be known by generally, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t exist or wouldn’t have chosen that language if it did exist, and I think that there’s lots of people who since they couldn’t name the thing that they identified with, they were never able to find a more authentic identity for themselves. But in the case of these two people, their knowledge of themselves was so vivid they just followed that even though there wasn’t language for it. And to me that’s just a really powerful testament to the fact that we’ve always been here. 

I think for me placing trans people in history or just seeing us there is a powerful part about this performance, because everyone is always like , I don’t know...there’s a lot of sort of belittling the feelings: ‘What are all these new things, all these new language, new identities, what are these kids up to?’ And like, no, we’ve always been here. I have non-binary friends who are in their sixties and I can’t imagine how powerful it must be to see a younger generation that is able to be so loud and normalize it so much. But there were always people making androgynous choices with their presentation, and I think it’s really easy to forget that. 

I mean think about how people are going to look at this time that we’re in right now, in 200 years. Part of the fear is: Will my identity be erased then? I think that’s part of what this show, or the question that this show asks too: Will I be visible in that future? Or people like me? 

That’s a powerful question. I feel like it goes to, I forget what the exact phrase is, but the victor writes history. How much those in power define what is even preserved of history or the terms that are used to describe it. 

It’s interesting because I would say even more than gender this is a piece about colonization, and the fact that the Lieutenant Nun is part of that history, but he’s definitely really on the oppression side of things... I think in general and with colorism and all that that we face as Latinx people, there’s a lot of temptation to just look away from that part of history and the fact that in all of us both of those things exist. Both the brutal violence of that colonization and the justifications for it...that whole white mentality that is really tempting to look away from it and never have to contend with it. But I think it is important to tell the stories and not as a way to not just tell them, but to have to contend with them. 

I guess in some ways that’s a lot of the purpose of art... 

Yeah, I think asking those questions, keeping those questions alive, that is a big answer to your question before, of why are you a playwright. I think [it’s] similar to the kind of work that scientists do — you ask a question and you do experiments, and you see what happens.



A long winded conversation with the wonderful Darnelle Radford

REP Radio podcast with Eppchez!

Not buying the binary

Darnelle Radford June 13, 2017

Eppchez! appears as Max in Simpatico Theatre Company's production of Taylor Mac's 'Hir.' (Photo by Daniel Kontz)

Eppchez! appears as Max in Simpatico Theatre Company's production of Taylor Mac's 'Hir.' (Photo by Daniel Kontz)

Eppchez!, who plays Max in Simpatico Theatre Company's production of Taylor Mac's Hir, is a nonbinary transgender Latinx performer who brings a wealth of talents to Philadelphia. An Amherst, Massachusetts, native, Eppchez! (who uses the pronouns ey and eir) has worked with Pig Iron Theatre Company, the Mediums, and other groups with a focus on devising new work. Ey studied theater and writing at Wesleyan University. A playwright, choreographer, director, designer, puppeteer, songwriter, and vocalist, ey is also artistic director/conductor of Alma’s Engine, a process-focused creative ministry and self-producing platform for realizing eir work in music and theater. Among eir works is the album Self-Realized-Nation; A Song Cycle of the Occupation (2013), the original plays Junk Redemption (2012) and They Extract! (2014 and 2016), and a site-specific musical staged in Bartram’s Garden, Train-ing: A Duet (2017).



A compilation of reviews: What critics had to say about Simpatico Theatre's Philadelphia premeir of Taylor Mac's HIR

note: these are all written by cisgender writers intent on pandering to the alt-gender skeptical.

Marcia Saunders and Eppchez! in Hir at Simpatico Theatre. (Photo by Daniel Kontz)

Marcia Saunders and Eppchez! in Hir at Simpatico Theatre. (Photo by Daniel Kontz)

In Simpatico’s Hir, the Triumph of Chaos

BY DAVID FOX  |  JUNE 9, 2017 AT 9:35 AM

“We’ve given up on order,” says Paige with a triumphant smile to her son, Isaac, as together they survey the chaotic mess of their living room. If we take this as a winking summary also of Taylor Mac’s spectacular, genre-busting play, Hir—well, I’d say it’s the understatement of the year.

You see, Isaac has just returned from fighting in Afghanistan—and finds he’s traded one war for another. Back at home, he discovers that his father, Arnold (actor John Morrison gives a funny and heartbreaking performance) has had a stroke, and is now infantilized and abused by Paige, who has taken his failing health as an opportunity to grab the reins. (Paige is quite a piece of work: imagine a cross between Paula Deen and Kim Jong-il, and you’ll be close.) From the look of things, house cleaning is the first thing she gave up, in what is now her on-going quest for self-realization.

This is all pretty overwhelming to Isaac, who is also grappling with his own drug addiction. But wait—there’s more! He soon learns that his sister He soon learns that his sister has been transitioning and is now called Max (played with spellbinding, puckish charm by Eppchez!, an ungender mixed-media artist). Max’s gender-fluid identity is yet another of Paige’s new causes. (By the way, “hir” is a gender-neutral pronoun.)

If I were teaching Hir to a college theater class, I might start by asking them to imagine the prehistory of the family. I think we might get would be something similar to Long Day’s Journey into Night—a family in the shadow of a narcissistic, miserly patriarch, whose dominating presence robs the rest of them of a life. In this light, Paige’s emasculating treatment of Arnold takes on an almost epochal resonance—an upending of patriarchal privilege.

So, while it would be easy (also accurate) to describe Hir as a transgender play, it’s so much more than that—it’s about war, family, waste, imprisonment, and escape. Surely, by now you’re also wondering if Hir is a comedy or a tragedy—the answer is yes, on both counts.

In fact, the twists-and-turns of Mac’s script are perhaps its most startling quality (and that’s saying something!). Nothing is sacred here—war, the military machine, drug addiction, safe spaces, and even gender politics are skewered with equal savagery. It’s also often laugh-out-loud funny.

All of this makes Hir quite a challenge to perform—here director Jarrod Markman negotiates it with assurance and high-style. As Paige, the great Marcia Saunders is beyond praise. It’s an acting class simply to watch her navigate the shifts in tone with a surgeon’s precision. She can start a line with the sunny boisterousness of a morning show co-host—and, by the end of it, turned chillingly authoritarian. Simply amazing. Kevin Meehan (Isaac) is very touching in his quieter moments, but I wish he’d tone down some of his smirky comic delivery.

To say that Hir isn’t for everyone would be another understatement—but I urge all who are open to new experiences to check out for themselves the exceptional work that Simpatico is doing. O brave new world, that has such people in it! If Hir is the future of American theater, count me in.

from NewsWorks
He, she and 'Hir' 


Caustic and funny in equal parts, Taylor Mac's "Hir" doesn't bend gender as much as stab it to death with blunt barbs. In a Simpatico Theatre production that opened over the weekend, "Hir" is also forceful, with a four-person cast that shines amid the characters' absurdities.

You don't have to go too far into "Hir" to discover its weird sensibility: The first minute of the show will do, when the lights come up on Christopher Haig's set with clothes strewn all over the place and furniture that appears to come from a third-generation yard sale. In this junky house – we see the living room and the kitchen -- there's so much piled against the inside of the front door that Isaac (Kevin Meehan, in a standout display of bewilderment) can't get in. He has to enter through the back door in order to make his first appearance home after three years of picking up body parts in his wartime job in the Mideast.

Here's what he sees: A mother (the fabulous Marcia Saunders) who declares "We don't do order!" and crushes a slurry of pills and estrogen in a blender for her stroke-addled husband (John Morrison, fully into the part), whom she despises for his formerly uber-male characteristics. Isaac can't believe what she's done to his dad. The man sits in a drooling position at a cardboard box, is dressed in a women's nightie and wears a clown wig and overdone rouge (Levonne Lindsay's costumes).

But this homecoming's not yet complete. Where is Isaac's sister? "Max!" his mother hollers, "come in here and explain your ambiguity to your bother!" Eventually Max does. She is now a trans-gender he, on heavy doses of testosterone and insisting on the linguistic trappings of gender neutrality. In this household, he and she will now be ze. And him and her will be hir.

Max is played by Eppchez!, the exclamation point being part of the name. The actor is self-described on the Web as a "Quaker, ungender, Latinex artist and activist." Eppchez! had me glued to every eye-roll and move, first for the gender switch the performance perfectly exploits in the service of "Hir," but then for the way it captures the rich contradictions of a teenager who's always trying on new ideas.

"Hir" is directed by Jarrod Markman, who clearly had choices; you could read the script in different ways, each eliciting distinct reactions. Markman chooses a storytelling that makes the play funny, sad and angry all at once – you may be laughing one moment, then zapped by some strange avowal the next. However you react, you can't help but wonder what will happen next.

The storyline has a traditional arc that carries it swiftly through what seem like bizarre notions at first but, remarkably, become more understandable as "Hir" unfolds. Poor Isaac, for his part, can't buy into it – he wants everything back to the way it was when he left home to join the military. But the choices he made overseas changed his life, too, and he can't rewind the clock for himself. Everyone here is caught up in sweeping, unpredictable change. The eccentric quality of "Hir" makes it unusual but its passion for ideas keeps it grounded. It's a refreshing piece of theater and at Simpatico, a rousing production

from Broad Street Reveiw
Breaking the Binary

Wendy Rosenfield | June 09, 2017

Leave it to Taylor Mac, the genderqueer phenomenon who created one of the most ambitious works performance art has ever produced — the 24-hour-long A 24-Decade History of Popular Music — to look back at the kitchen-sink drama via judy's 2014 play Hir, with a similar mix of disdain, hope, pity, horror, and humor. With just two plays this season, the other being Martyna Majok's bleak yet humorous immigrant drama Ironbound, Simpatico Theatre Company hit the topical jackpot. 

All in the family

Turning judy’s incisive eye toward the 21st-century nuclear family, Mac takes a pinch each of O’Neill, Albee, and Shepard — and never, ever softens for the sake of nostalgia. Judy certainly believes in the tenet that you can’t ever go home again, as Kevin Meehan’s Isaac — a dishonorably discharged young Marine returning from a three-year stint picking up body parts in Afghanistan for the military’s Mortuary Affairs unit — quickly discovers.

As it happens, that home is so strewn with dirty laundry and dishes that Isaac must enter through a rear patio door (set design by Christopher Haig). In his absence, his father Arnold (John Morrison), a tyrannical, abusive former plumber, suffered a stroke and now stumbles around the living room drooling in a pink dress, blonde wig, and garish makeup applied by Isaac’s mother, Paige (Marcia Saunders). Paige, now free of her husband’s oppression, has staged her own feminist revolution by refusing to clean, drugging Arnold daily with estrogen, working at an environmental nonprofit, and homeschooling her younger child, teenage Max (Eppchez!). Little sister Max is now Isaac’s brother, identifying as transmasculine and using hir pronouns. Some homecoming.

If that were it, if this were just a quirky family navigating a new dynamic, it would still be an interesting and funny twist on a timeworn genre. But that’s not it. Oddly, this play perhaps best represents the fears of both the white, working-class Trump voter and the vanishing middle-class liberal. What happens when the kind of man who learned a trade, got a job, and ruled his roost with an iron fist no longer finds a place in the world? What happens to feminists in a gender-free future? Is freedom even possible for someone like Max, whose own history contains so many confusing and painful messages?

Fierce and funny

Director Jarrod Markman plays act one for laughs, setting us up for the damage to come. And come it does — does it ever — but not in a Shakespearean bodies-littering-the-stage fashion. This damage goes deep and stays there. There’s much discussion of parts: those collected by Isaac after battle; a museum exhibition featuring Saint Theresa (but since parts of her were stolen, Paige explains, “they only show the tidbits”); and the pieces Max wants to restore, ignored or overlooked “hirstory,” such as the conjecture that the Mona Lisa might really depict Da Vinci dressed as a woman, a dangerously transgressive act.

What powers it all is the strength of this quartet of actors. Saunders whiplashes Paige from whimsy to ferocity, one moment gleefully explaining the new generation of pronouns, the next reducing her husband to whimpers with a look. Morrison gives a shockingly brave performance, humorous and horrible. Though Paige tells Isaac, “Don’t pity him, those that knew him know of his cruelty,” he’s so pathetic it’s inhuman not to. Meehan, who, perhaps not coincidentally, also appeared in InterAct’s production of Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men, brings a determined force to Isaac, appointing himself man of the house where nobody asked for one.

Most playwrights whose work features a transgender character would make that person the fulcrum of the plot, but not Mac. Here, Max is just a confused kid looking for guidance among the wreckage. Eppchez!, with patchy peach fuzz on hir face, an ambiguously gendered physique, and gender-neutral clothing, gets enthusiastic but always holds an air of the slightly lost and frightened, like a puppy hoping to follow the right person home.

Isaac’s not that person. He made the mistake of going home again, a man in a place that needs no men. When his mother tells him, “It’s why we sent you, all the boys, to the wars to begin with,” you can’t help but see the factory-line assemblers, coal miners, steelworkers, all those who used to work with their hands and now hang out unemployed and aimless in neighborhoods like these, inside their parents’ houses. But coal’s not coming back, and people in this brave new world continue to follow a dying paradigm. Taylor Mac, it seems, believes the gender binary just might be to blame for at least part of the decline of the American dream; I think judy makes a pretty good case.



Eppchez! has work showing at DVAA gallery

Da Vinci Art Alliance explores LGBTQ identity with How Do I Look?

Tara Lynn Johnson

January 10, 2017

in What's New What's Next

A question with many layers and points of view explores the historical perceptions of the LGBTQ community in the exhibit How Do I Look? Shifting Representations of Queer Identities.

The exhibition “examines personal, private, and public perceptions of the queer self and how these have changed over time,” according to the call for artists. The show will look at 117 years of LGBTQ public representation and the movement for liberation, resistance, normalcy, and acceptability, “historical shifts in the context our own queer communal perceptions of self as well as how society continues to view us.”

David Acosta, artistic director and co-founder of Casa de Duende and board member of  Da Vinci Art Alliance (DVAA), organized the exhibit, which will be displayed at DVAA from January 18 through 29. Jarrod Markman, DVAA’s executive director, said the exhibit is part of a strategy to provide “space and opportunity for artistic growth while bringing in a more diverse membership base.”

Many questions to answer

Acosta chose Craig Bruns, who works as the Chief Curator at the J. Welles Henderson Archives and Library at the Independence Seaport Museumas the show’s juror because Bruns has created works based on similar themes in the past. Bruns chose to do a blind selection process — no names or identification on the works — so he could “only respond to the works themselves and how the illuminate the theme of the show.”

The works in the exhibit, including paintings, drawings, photography, and some 3D pieces, will reflect on how artists answer many questions: How do I look at others? How do others look at me? Does making an image of another reflect the maker? Do we hide behind a mask — would we know if we did?

Like all gallery experiences, Bruns hopes this one will be educational and an exploration to understanding for all viewers. “Artists create images of themselves and others, which can help us understand the ways we do the same within ourselves,” he said. “And who better to ask about self-identity and perception but a population — the queer — who must question their identity when confronted by challenges to their otherness.”

Supporting a young movement

Those challenges have been historical, but also permeate the present. “Without a doubt, these are challenging times, but especially for queer folk,” he said. “The arc of relative liberation and social awareness has been short, in some cases within a single lifetime. But there is a whole generation that has only experienced the advances we have achieved. For them this new challenging era is beyond their experience and grasp. They need guidance and support from queer elders and insights into self-awareness and observation.”

How Do I Look? Shifting Representations of Queer Identities is on display at the Da Vinci Art Alliance (704 Catherine Street, Philadelphia) January 18-29. Gallery hours are Wednesdays from 6-8pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 1-5pm. 

At right: Decisions Decisions (2016) by Stiofan O'Ceallaigh. (Image courtesy of DVAA)



People are saying such very nice things about They Extract!

Eppchez is an insightful and hilarious writer-director, and the actors had me gutturally guffawing for much of their performance. "They Extract!" is a show that stayed with me long after I left the theater.
- Morgan FitzPatrick-Andrews

Super on the fringe narrative based theatre. beautiful DIY feel with A LOT of heart. This is a type of story and way of story telling that you won't find anywhere else in Philly. Just check it before its short run is through!
- Kevin Meehan

What if we explored the dialectic between capitalist exploitation and our drive for human connection, on stage, with a myriad of tools of theatrical exploration masterfully employed, and with good humor to boot? We might have a damn beautiful mess of a play is what.
A thing recalling Kubrick and Bollywood and Chaplin and American Melodrama and youtellmewhatelse.. And I suspect, a thing which will echo in new Philly work in the coming years as audience-creators gleefully steal elements from it. Extract, even.
- Gil Johnson

...every aspect of it (the acting, writing, powerful simple set with evocative lights/projections/shadows) is absolutely wonderful - simultaneously heartwarming and terrifying. I left feeling inspired and exhausted in the good way. Emotional labor, romantic love, familial love, loss, trauma, obligation and exploitation, bodies...still thinking about it this morning.
- Gibbs


They Extract! a triumphant opening night.


They Extract! a triumphant opening night.

They Extract! is now up and running! Opening night was delicious. I was surprised by the laughter. An audience brings so much to the performance. I forgot how funny and moving this piece can be, and feeling relieved that this work is out of my head.

Hurray for time painting!

<3 Eppchez



Alma Sánchez-Eppler’s ‘They Extract!’

Toward a transparent creative process  Samantha Maldonado

November 03, 2014


Sánchez-Eppler: working in full view. (Photo via

Sánchez-Eppler: working in full view. (Photo via

Author’s note: Alma prefers to be referred to by using the gender-neutral pronouns "they/them/their."

Alma Sánchez-Eppler, a playwright and recent Philadelphia transplant, is embarking on an experiment to demystify the creative process.

Alma was frustrated with what they called the “black box” of the creative process, in which an artist goes in and art comes out. The art doesn’t tell the story of the creative process, of the actual work an artist puts in to make a finished product. In an effort to gain a sense of their own creative process and allow others to see beyond the finished artful product, Alma is letting transparency be their guiding principle as they work on their play, They Extract!, so that others may be able to get a glimpse of a creative process. “I’m trying to be as blatant about what it means to create as possible,” Alma said.

They Extract! is an experimental play about love as a commodity. Its characters learn to harvest love as an energy source and experience changes as a result. Alma wrote the play as a college junior two years ago, and just last year, they produced and directed a live performance of it at Wesleyan University (you can watch a video of the performancehere). Not ready to part from the world of the play, Alma committed to spending more time with the script and revising it. This experimental transparent creative process, announced on October 9 via a Facebook status and a post on their website, is the means through which Alma is once again getting involved with the play.

Working in public

Alma has put the complete text of the play up on Google Docs so that viewers can watch them edit. Alma is tracking their own thoughts, questions, and tinkering of all sizes — including thematic ideas they’re wrestling with and word choices — on Twitter as well. Alma hopes to not only gain awareness of their own creative process, but also allow others to see beyond the finished product and realize there’s no magic in creating something, just work ethic, or what Alma calls sticktoitiveness.

Alma worries that the opacity of the creative process discourages potential creators from actually creating, since they might be under the impression that either you possess genius (or inspiration or magic powers), or you don’t. Have you ever read a book and thought I could never write anything as brilliant as this? Alma would tell you that you could, but it would take hard work — the the book didn’t start out brilliant; as readers, we just don’t see the evolutions of the drafts before the published draft.

“I want to share what my process is like so that other people know that it’s possible to have a process,” Alma explained, “and that it’s messy finding what it looks like, if you ever find what it looks like.” These ideas have been percolating in Alma’s brain for a while now. Several years ago, Alma had a similar project in mind to upload to their website different versions of songs they wrote and recorded as the songs were revised and polished. Alma only ended up pursuing that project halfheartedly, but They Extract! provided an opportunity to fully try again.

Inspiration, not distraction

The Internet, with its free, wide audience and its ability to connect people, inspired Alma to start this experiment. Whereas some writers must back away from the Internet as they write in order prevent distraction, Alma is leveraging the Internet as a useful tool for productivity. People on the Internet can observe Alma at work if they choose to, and Alma can use the people as a resource. Although Alma recognizes connection over the Internet is not as valuable as face-to-face connections, they look forward to hearing the reactions and getting feedback from those who might be following the Transparent Creative Process project.

Allowing strangers to be their collaborators in this way is a challenge for Alma, who usually prefers to work alone and considers their shyness to be a barrier to asking for feedback. As for people trolling the project? It’s happened once already, but Alma knew the troll and resolved the issue over email. “But no one is really watching now,” they told me, noting that the experiment won’t feel real until people know about it and begin to tune in.

Alma feels a conflicting tension between wanting people to watch their experiment and being nervous about being vulnerable. “When I first made the Google Doc live, 12 anonymous Google critters popped up and I flipped my shit!” Alma said. “I wondered if I could really do this. I might have to put a Post-It note over part of my screen so I can pretend no one is watching.”

Alma’s potential for self-consciousness here suggests that maintaining openness will be a challenge once people start looking at the play, commenting on the Google Doc, and tweeting at them. And although Alma’s passion for the play and for playwriting is propelling them along for now, an important motivating factor is having their progress in public. “No one would notice if I didn’t tweet that day, but I would notice,” they said. Without any rules as to how to go about the experiment or a deadline to finish the revision process, accountability to an anonymous, at times imagined public is helpful.

A new spin on “performance art”

Since Alma’s trials and errors, work habits, and revisions will be on public display, the performative element of the experiment becomes an issue. This experiment could be defined as performance art, which prods the audience to ask: How might a creative process be an artful product in and of itself? Does the product of art mask the vulnerability that is actually found in the creative process? What effect will this experiment have on They Extract! and other creative projects Alma undertakes?

The transparent creative process also brings into question the distinction between private and public spaces: is Alma working in public if no one is watching, or are Google Docs and Twitter, though accessible to others, inherently private to them? Does Alma completely own their work if the play is out in the open, on corporate social media platforms, with the potential for crowd-sourced feedback?

Alma will consider these questions and many more during the course of the experiment — that’s part of the fun and part of the reason they are not setting any hard expectations about what to take from the experiment. Alma has little control over how the experiment will go, anyway — will people interact with Alma through the experiment as is Alma’s hope, take a peek to merely satiate their voyeuristic tendencies, or just ignore the project?

Maybe you can help answer that question if you watch Alma’s creative process unfold.


Above right: Photo of a February 2014 performance of  They Extract! &nbsp;via

Above right: Photo of a February 2014 performance of They Extract! via