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EXCLUSIVE: Transgender Theater Star Shakina Nayfack Takes Classicalite's Proust Questionnaire

By Logan K. Young l.young@classicalite.com on Apr 18, 2014 08:15 PM EDT

The word shakina--lowercase--is a distinctly Hebraic one. Specifically, it refers to the feminine presence of the divine spirit.

Washed in the blood of Jimmy Carter's Southern Baptist on my mother's side, myself, I'm wont to call it the most important side of Elohim (as per that old Gnostic notion of Christ as both man and woman).

Too bad, though, the name Transgendered Jesus is already taken. Because those are probably the best two words to describe one SHAKINA Nayfack--definitely uppercase.

Miss Nayfack's gender confirmation campaign "KickStartHer" first came to me via the Daily News. Soon, Gothamist, Logo TV's "New Now Next" blog and even HuffPo Live followed.

Things have changed a lot in the last half-year, however. ("I have done considerably more research and reflection in the 6 months since KickStartHer began, and I have decided, for the time being anyway, not to go forward with facial feminization," she wrote yesterday.)

More importantly, Miss Nayfack recently launched Musical Theatre Factory, an NYC-based cooperative dedicated to helping artists develop and present new work.

Following sold-out performances at Joe's Pub and 54 Below, a limited engagement of Shakina's ONE WOMAN SHOW will be presented at Sophie's, New York's newest midtown cabaret venue, Tuesday, April 22 and again on Thursday, April 24.

A story of surviving the 90s and creating a new life in a new millennium, ONE WOMAN ONE WOMAN SHOW features original songs written for Shakina by Joe Iconis (THE BLACK SUITS, BLOODSONG OF LOVE), Julianne Wick Davis (SOUTHERN COMFORT), Sam Salmond, Joel Waggoner and Nikko Benson.

Jeremy Robin Lyons music directs, with Mike Rosengarten, Joseph Wallace and Jeff Roberts in the band.

In five years, I'm sure Shakina will win a Bessie. In fact, I'd put money on it. Come back in three and a half years, even.

Yup, she's just that good on stage.

As VICE said about Shakina, "nothing will stop her in becoming who she is." And for this Butoh bel canto, SHAKINA Nayfack has become quite whatever the Hebrew word for contender is...


"WEAR YOU"
(Music and Lyrics by Julianne Wick Davis)

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

When I was 21, I went backpacking through Mexico with two Israeli women who had just gotten out of the army. In Quintana Roo, we met a few other travelers from Denmark and together rented a studio apartment from a coke-dealing musician on the coast of Isla Mujeres. One night, there was a huge storm; we woke up to several inches of water on the floor. The next morning, we blasted some bootlegged Nicho Hinojosa on the stereo and scooped water out the kitchen window with a bucket and a broom. I remember thinking, 'this is the happiest I’ve ever been.'

2. What is your greatest fear?

Living my life alone.

3. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

That would have to be a toss-up between Candy Darling, Jayne County, Ethel Merman and Jesus.

4. What is your favorite journey?

The one I’m on.

5. On what occasion do you lie?

Sometimes if someone asks if I’m hungry (and I know that I’m not, but they are, or even if they aren’t, but we’re both just waiting for someone to say they are so we can go eat something), I’ll say yes.

6. What do you dislike most about your appearance?

This one is deep. I've worked really hard to cultivate a healthy body image, but I think my life would be easier if I had hair, like maybe I could potentially "pass" as female. I keep my head shaved as a dedication to my Butoh training, which reminds me that the physical world is impermanent and illusory. Ultimately, it's a compromise: Through my gender transition, I am allowing myself to change my body into the form that I feel it should be, while maintaining an awareness that "form," "self" and "I" are illusions.

7. Which living person do you most despise?

I feel like saying George W. Bush is such a cop-out. And I don’t believe he has/had the intellect to come up with the idiotic and atrocious things his administration carried out. But many of the things that went down under his presidency, I despise.

8. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“Amazing,” “Awesome” and “I’m just gonna take a cab.”

9. What is your greatest regret?

Not being at my grandmother’s bedside when she passed away.

10. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

I’ve had a few great loves, and I hope to have more. The greatest is yet to be seen.


"HIM TODAY, GONE TOMORROW"
(Music and Lyrics by Joe Iconis)

11. Which talent would you most like to have?

Financial literacy.

12. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

Our geography. I think everyone should live in New York.

13. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Finishing my PhD. It was a really hard time in my life, and I wanted to give up so many times. It’s also my most useless achievement, but that wasn’t the question.

14. What is your most treasured possession?

A red silk scarf given to me by Geshe Lama Norbu (the Love Sutra Lama), a few pieces of jewelry from my grandparents and my “Learn to Fly” keychain from the Off Broadway production of DE LA GUARDA that I saw by myself at the Union Square Theater in 1999. I flew, it changed my life forever.

15. What is the quality you most like in a man?

Compassion.

16. What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Compassion.

17. Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

The Ingenious Gentlemen Don Quixote of La Mancha.

18. Who are your heroes in real life?

My mom, my older brother, my aunt, my Butoh master Diego Piñón.

19. What is it that you most dislike?

Willful ignorance.

20. What is your motto?

I have two...

One is a tattoo I already have; one is a tattoo I plan on getting. The first comes from a knock-off Hello Kitty pencil set my friend found at a 99 cent store: “Lie Still on the Day of Pain and the Day of Joy Will Greet You.” It’s tattooed backward on my chest so I can read it in the mirror.

The second comes from a flowchart printed in a 1984 book called MICROPROCESSING SYSTEMS that I found dumpster diving at a Goodwill donation station around the turn of the century. I plan on getting it on my body someplace, it definitely captures how I try to live my life: “Begin Statement, End; If Expression then Statement, else Statement. Case Expression of Constant Statement, End. While Expression Do Statement. Repeat Statement Until Expression.”


"LILAC WINE"
(Music and Lyrics by James Shelton)

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