Name as you’d like it to appear: Holly Scott
Gender as you’d like it to appear: Female She/Her
City you live in and/or improvise in most: Fullerton, Orange County CA.
Personal website or another project that you’d like to link to: Fancy Hobo Improv on all major social networks.
I have been performing improv for 15 years, starting with short-form and eventually learning long-form formats. I studied at iO West with Paul Vallencourt and had the opportunity to train under some truly amazing improvisers.
I was a company member of Spectacles Improv Engine and was a founding member of the OV Improv Festival.
I currently am a performer with Fancy Hobo Improv and one of my specialities is Musical Improv. I also play improvised guitar.
How does being trans influence your impro(v)?
Being Trans means I have the unique ability to have experienced the world as more than my assigned gender, and all of the joys and biases that come along with that. That more open world view gives me a larger scope to play with experientially.
Do you play trans*/NB characters often?
Not often. A lot of time players are not sure that it is OK to endow characters with a trans or non-binary gender. When it happens it’s nice but also a little jarring because you really don’t expect it from Cis players. Sometime I will inform the scene that my character is trans, but only if it helps the scene and won’t be taken for laughs.
How do you feel about cisgender actors playing trans*/NB characters in impro(v)?
I think, with anything, you have to play with honesty. If a player can play trans or NB with honestly and bring truth to the character and not just play them as comedic, I can be OK with it. The minute they fall into stereotypes or go blue, that’s when I am not OK.
Besides announcing it, how might you know/show a character is trans*/NB?
That’s just the thing, if the fact they are trans is not important to the scene, I don’t know if it’s necessary to point out that they are trans. If I’m on stage and I am endowed with male pronouns, I am assuming that I am playing a binary male. And I’ll play him honestly. If I am endowed with They/them pronouns in a scene, I know that I have been endowed as NB, and I will play them with honesty.
How do you feel about playing different genders generally, in terms of naming gender and of expressing it?
I am more than OK with playing any gender on stage. Even before I came out I was playing any gender given to me. And I made it a point to endow my fellow players with whatever gender I saw fit for the scene, regardless of how they identified. As actors, we know that when someone gives you a name and gender, they are giving that to the character we are playing, not you personally. I told my team when I came out that regardless of how I am presenting, don’t limit yourself to the feelings that you find to be true just because I am trans. Say what you feel and I will support. And then when we are having beers after the show, then you can get my pronouns correct.
Does your local impro(v) community know/understand your gender? If so, how has that been in terms of acceptance/understanding?
My local improv community has accepted me and my gender with open arms. Because of the current situation of the world, I have yet to actually be on stage as myself… I have only done online improv. But I know that my team and my community has my back, and I’m hoping that other trans people can see me play and choose to become an improviser as well.
What are some things that teachers/directors/other performers can do to make sure trans*/NB improvisers feel safe and welcome?
One of the key things that can be done is codifying expectations. Put it in writing that harassment will not be tolerated and can be punished by dismissal. And really following that. Never staying silent when something wrong is happening. Actions really do promote a safe space for play.
As far as other players, when not in scene, respecting identities and pronouns is a good way to support. Treat people with kindness and respect. It’s the simplest rule and it goes a long way.
Thinking about examples of trans*/NB characters across all media (Impro(v), TV, Movies, Plays etc), what are the best trans*/NB characters or stories you’ve seen depicted? The worst?
There is a film called Boy Meets Girl that I really enjoyed because it is the first film I remember that had a trans main character played by an actual trans person. The film can be problematic at times, but it was a solid attempt. I also enjoy when trans people are on film and their storyline isn’t totally about them being trans. We are more than our transition!
I think the gold standard for awful trans depiction on screen is sadly a movie I used to enjoy but now can’t watch: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Not only is the trans woman painted as the villain, but the character is played by a cis woman, with a terrible sight gag at the end to denote that she is trans. Also the insinuation that if someone kisses a trans woman they need to burn their clothes and gargle toilet water is horrible and really detrimental to trans folks.
Who do you look up to/admire as a trans*/NB person in impro(v) or the world generally?
I have always admired Eddie Izzard as someone that does great comedy while blurring gender lines, and that the majority of their act isn’t just about gender identity. Truly wonderful. Another actor that I love is Faith DeBrooke, the host of The Gender Rebels podcast. Because she shared her personal journey, I have been able to follow along and feel better about my own transition. A true role model.
What’s something special that you and/or trans*/NB performers have to offer?
We have unique perspectives. We do not accept the status quo. We know that society can be shaken up and that we can choose to not accept what was given to us, but rather make our own path. In Improv, that is a powerful tool. We can play truthfully with honestly from so many perspectives.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about being trans or impro(v) in general?
Never let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t be yourself. You are just as valid and worthy as the next player and just being on stage is going to help someone who is afraid to be themselves come out and have confidence. That is beautiful. Improv is all about support, and knowing you are not alone on stage or in the world is a wonderful feeling.