In Vanessa Garcia’s “#Graced,” a world premiere play opening May 4 at Zoetic Stage in Miami, a young woman, Cat, seeks authentic experiences while on a “Lewis-and-Clark-esque” trip across the country with her lover Lewis.
One of the unique characters they encounter along the way is Blake, a queer homeschooled teen, portrayed by Miami transgender actor Sabrin Diehl.
“Blake is a 16-year-old girl who is just starting to figure out that she might not be straight and she might not be cisgender,” explained Diehl. “She’s very much at the beginning of her journey.”
Diehl, who is now 24, came out as a lesbian at 14. Two years ago, during the height of the pandemic, the New World School of the Arts grad began questioning their gender identity.
“At the same time, my dad was imprisoned for a while and had just been released. There was a lot of space for emotions to come out,” they said. “I realized that I was trans and felt very much nonbinary. I’m obviously androgynous enough to be playing a teenage girl, but I had a lot of conversations with [directors Sarah Hughes and Victoria Collado] about what Blake is going through.”
Blake and Diehl’s experiences share similarities, along with obvious differences. Unlike Blake, who is somewhat isolated, at New World and surrounded by diverse students, Diehl “could be myself.”
“I came out very loudly and figured it out for myself,” they recalled. “The connection with Blake is especially sweet, but it comes out very messily for her … like it does when you’re young and queer. But, it was met with tenderness and it’s healing to see that in the play. There are a lot of young gay and queer people who don’t get that.”
Diehl believes the timing of the premiere is important, especially given the political attacks the transgender community is facing in Florida and other Republican-led states. It’s personal, they added.
“It’s a great play with a lot of important perspectives around where we are as a country,” Diehl, who is also Cuban-American, elaborated. “This show dares to ask all the questions. There’s also a lot happening right now because of social media and when you give someone a ‘label’ there are all sorts of prejudices that come along with that.”
They concluded, “I’m happy people are talking about pronouns, but I don’t want people to be afraid to speak to me or get to know me just because I’m trans. It’s hard and it was hard for me, too. Since it’s such a well-written show and being directed brilliantly, I believe this very clear message will come through. We need to have conversations and not be afraid of each other.”
Zoetic Stages presents the world premiere of Vanessa Garcia’s “#Graced,” May 4 – 21 at the Arsht Center in Miami. Tickets are $55 – 60 at ZoeticStage.org.