I love this play because it feels totally honest about this family’s struggles, but is very kind and gentle in its telling. Also, unlike many “trans plays” (and books and movies), this piece isn’t centered around a trans character’s coming out, or transition, or suffering, or a cis character’s journey toward acceptance. Which is so very refreshing since cisgender writers and audiences have a tendency to fixate on those particular themes.
Queer art for queer people really stands out, even in a beautifully artistically saturated area like the Twin Cities. There is something so unique about the voice that comes through when you hand someone a microphone and let them tell their own stories. For this reason (among others), the music and performances of Catherine Charles Hammond have always stood out to me. I was elated when they agreed to interview for our “Spotlight on the Arts” column so I could learn more about their process and the art itself.
Hello! Welcome to “Spotlight on the Arts”. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi Cassandra! My name is Catherine Charles Hammond and I prefer they, she or he pronouns. I’m a writer, musician, and performer.
What draws you to such a variety of art forms? What inspires you to write and perform?
I’ve always loved art that tells some kind of story – hence songwriting, storytelling, theatre, and video. Within those forms, I gravitate toward work that involves an element of “pop” – art that’s intentionally entertaining, pleasurable, fun. I think the most accessible and magical stuff happens when art sets out to connect with its audience while raising meaningful questions and saying something worth saying.
A lot is changing locally in the queer arts community (and the larger arts community). A lot of companies are shuttering but some really interesting new stuff is popping up. What iss your hope as a queer artist for this community as we move forward?
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the relationship between the various sizes of arts organizations – how the big, established, relatively securely funded organizations and the folks doing work on a smaller, grassroots scale can coexist, share talent and resources, and support each others’ well being. With the recent loss of several organizations who were actively making space for new, raw, nontraditional, marginal work, I’m curious and hopeful about what new spaces and contexts might start to see that work seeping in. Because new work can’t be suppressed. People will not stop telling stories and expressing themselves and sharing with each other. People who feel that urgency to share and create and gather together will find ways and places to do it. I hope that established artists and producers will also do their part to foster a healthy local arts ecosystem by getting creative and seeking new methods and avenues for providing training, resources, and platforms to emerging creators.
Talk to us a little bit about your music! I really love what you’re doing.
I’m currently working on an album called whats a boy like you doin in a place like this. The songs come from a few different places in terms of sound and genre, but I think they all have that very direct approach of pop music and they all have a common theme, which I’d sum up as “misadventures in sex and gender.”
My big goal is to make good, fun songs that are also just very, deeply gay. For me and for many queers I know, engaging with existing pop music has always involved some kind of adaptation. To sing anything authentically, we always have to change a song’s lyrics, or pronouns, or octave, or tease out a hidden subtext. Writing my own songs is a joy because I finally get to have music that’s made for my voice, my body, my perspective. There are enough songs about sex and attraction between feminine women and masculine men. I want to make music that could never make sense within that dynamic – songs that are fundamentally, audibly gay.
You’re in a play at Mixed Blood! Tell us about that. What’s the show? What’s it about? What has that process been like?
I am! It’s a new musical called Mermaid Hour: ReMixed and it’s been a ton of fun. It’s about two parents figuring out how to show up for each other and for their daughter, who’s 12 years old and trans.
On a personal level, this is my first time performing in a traditional-format play with a professional company. I never thought I’d be able to work in this realm without crushing dysphoria, so getting to play a character whose gender I can identify with, and feeling seen and cared for by the creative team throughout the process, has been a really lovely surprise.
Where and how can we support you and your work further?
You’ve got a few more chances to come see Mermaid Hour – we run through April 29 and it really is a lovely story. (Ed. note: Mixed Blood’s website is here if you want details on this show.) For my personal music, check out my Bandcamp page where my album will be available to stream and download soon. I’m also hoping to put together an album release event of some kind, which I’ll announce on Bandcamp. One of these days I’ll should really get an up-to-date artist presence going on Facebook and Instagram too. Probably not Twitter. Twitter stresses me out.
Thanks so much Catherine Charles!