Name as you’d like it to appear: Taliah Horner
Gender as you’d like it to appear: Non-binary woman
City you live in and/or improvise in most: Edinburgh
Personal website or another project that you’d like to link to: I’m off the grid atm!
I’ve been improvising for about 7 years, primarily with the troupe The Improverts until 2019. I also taught public workshops for a couple of years. Since then I’ve performed slots with various troupes and at open improv nights but nothing major. I was in the process of setting up a new troupe with some friends but that unfortunately fell through with lockdown!
How does being trans*/NB influence your impro(v)?
Massively! When I realised that I was trans, improv became a huge playground for me to explore my new identity. On top of exploring my new found gender through characters, I would also experiment with make-up to gain confidence in a safe environment.
I also think that being trans gives me an awareness and flexibility in exploring parts of characters and scenes that I otherwise wouldn’t have. New areas of characters and how they relate to their gender, also how to remove gender from a character, things like that. On the flip side, dysphoria sometimes means that I feel less comfortable exploring these aspects.
Do you play trans*/NB characters often?
I think that I do. I rarely know the gender of my characters and they always have a very loose and fluid gender which unfolds from my interactions with other characters and scenes. I suppose you could argue that this is a very trans thing to do and that almost all my characters are NB but maybe that depends on who you ask!
How do you feel about cisgender actors playing trans*/NB characters in impro(v)?
I don’t really know why they would do so to be honest. It’s not as if they could draw on their own experience to channel into the character. The only reason I would see it relevant for them to be playing trans*/NB characters is if the scene material is trans*/NB which they would probably butcher.
Besides announcing it, how might you know/show a character is trans*/NB?
I don’t think that I would! Unless the character has that nuanced trans*/NB relationship with gender that is hard to put into words. If I realise that a character that I was playing was trans*/NB then I will keep that to myself while certainly drawing on it subconsciously. Potentially that will shine through to perceptive people!
How do you feel about playing different genders generally, in terms of naming gender and of expressing it?
As I said, I rarely play gendered characters. However if I want to play into a specific cultural stereotype of a gender to make a point, or just to mock cishets then I will do so with absolute glee!!
However if I’m not doing that and another scene partner genders my otherwise fluid characters I can get a bit of emotional whiplash. It’s never something I’ve held against anyone though as it’s usually a bit too nuanced to explain without more emotional energy!
I actually used to have a block about playing feminine characters which I now understand as dysphoria.
Does your local impro(v) community know/understand your gender? If so, how has that been in terms of acceptance/understanding?
Yes I am very open about my identity. I’m quite lucky in that my community has been amazing! Especially in The Improverts, if not for some of the folk that I met there then it would have taken me a lot longer to realise that I was trans.
People make mistakes of course, and publicly teaching was sometimes a little difficult when you get misgendered!
What are some things that teachers/directors/other performers can do to make sure trans*/NB improvisers feel safe and welcome?
Pronoun circles are great (don’t just single folks out!!) and don’t make a huge deal when people are misgendered. Correct them firmly, and move on. Maybe check in with the person who was misgendered later on. Explain about punching down and don’t tolerate it.
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?
Pose is great! We definitely need more positive representation though…
In terms of worst.. have an issue with cisgender actors playing trans*/NB characters of a gender not their own in media, as it reinforces the cultural perception that we are not actually our genders. To that aim… The Danish Girl.. etc. Furthermore, anything that fetishises trauma is a big no, especially when it’s written by cis folk.
Who do you look up to/admire as a trans*/NB person in impro(v) or the world generally?
Not strictly improv but I really admire Jodie Mitchell! We were in The Improverts together and they’ve gone on to do some amazing things in comedy and I’m excited to see them continue to do so.
What’s something special that you and/or trans*/NB performers have to offer?
Our compassion and deep understanding of gender! It’s a very important facet of our culture and who knows it better?
We also have important (albeit difficult) stories to tell and draw from.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about being trans*/NB or impro(v) in general?
I think I’ve gotten it all out!