Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Interview with Maryanne Marttini - Part 2

The interview is the continuation of the previous conversation with Maryanne Marttini, an American comedienne, writer, producer, and designer from Arizona. She is known for her stand-up comedy performances across the country, and brief appearances in Transparent and Glee. She is also part of a writing team that has developed an animated television series and a three-act play based on that series. Since starting her transition 12 years ago she has volunteered with The Maricopa Community College System for LGBTQ awareness, fundraising for scholarships, and Human Resources for LGBT education.

Monika: You co-operate with the Maricopa Community College System to raise awareness about LGBT rights. Could you say a few words about it?
Maryanne: When I joined The Desperado LGBT Film Festival, which is sponsored by The Maricopa Community College System (MCCS) with corporate and community sponsors, I met the Director of The MCCS Diversity Program for students and staff. MCCS has almost 280,000 full and part-time students and is the center of diversity for Maricopa County. The MCCS is dedicated to promoting diversity despite the reputation of Arizona being a red state.
As a part of the program for diversity education, I met with the LGBTQ student organizations to present educational and entertaining LGBTQ films, and lead discussion groups about LGBTQ diversity and communication. The fact that I am as old as many of the student’s parents and grandparents the dialog we opened, hopefully, established better communication for them with their families.
There was also a program for MCCS staff, including administrators, teaching, and support for transgender awareness and education. I was there to introduce myself and tell some of my life stories of trials and tribulations. When we started this program we might have had 20% of the attendees that knew the term transgender or might know a transgender person. After six years that went to 90% and the program was discontinued. As a result of my volunteer work with MCCS Diversity, I was invited to work with local and National corporate Human Resource Departments to do pretty much the same diversity program.

1986 - Courtesy of Maryanne Marttini.

Monika: You are a writer too?
Maryanne: Yes I like to think I am. I was a Fine Arts Major in College, yet witting classes were also among my favorite classes. After college, I struggled to find a career that would better support my family than trying to live off my creativity in the arts. Fortunately, that creativity and imagination opened several successful business careers beginning in retail home furnishings and interior design. My writing at the time was mostly marketing for print, radio, and television advertising.
As I mentioned earlier I took writing classes to learn how to write stand-up comedy. Stand up
is the hardest thing I have ever done. It has the most personal rewards and the least financially… thank goodness I am here to enjoy the ride. 
Monika: You took part in the Transparent series, which is full of transgender talent: Actress Alexandra Billings (“Davina”), producer Zackary Drucker;, actress Alexandra Grey (“Elizah Edwards”), actress Trace Lysette (“Shea”), and writer Our Lady J, just to name some of them. Did you like it?
Maryanne: I should tell you how I happened to be involved with Transparent. In January 2014 I was on the board for The Desperado LGBTQ Film Festival in Phoenix. One of our documentary film selections was Margaret Cho’s production, Superhero Ian Harvie, Transgender Comedian. As emcee of this event, I was fortunate to meet and spend time with him. He told me about his upcoming role in the new Amazon series Transparent.
Following the film festival, I was able to connect Ian with The Keystone Conference to produce a comedy night dinner and charity fundraising event with Ian and Me. I think this was one of the many successful Keystone Conferences that helped established Keystone as the premier transgender conference in the country. I have to thank Kristy Snow and her staff for all they have accomplished.
Monika: And then you were invited to partake in the series?
Maryanne: Yes, later that year I was contacted by Eyde Belasco, the casting director of Transparent. She asked if I would be interested in coming to LA to audition for a part in the series. Ian Harvie passed my name on to Rhys Ernest and Zachary Drucker, Transparent consulting producers, and I was off to LA. I tested for the part of Divina, and I sucked. However, the casting director asked me if I would like to work background on the series. Later that summer I was back in LA for the shoot. I was also back to test with Eyde for parts of the Transparent Season 3 and sucked again.
One of the rules for background people was, we were not allowed to mingle or even talk with the cast. We even had a separate meal buffet. Everyone was amazing. On the first day of shooting Ian invited me to join the cast at their buffet for meals. I got to have lunch with the entire cast. They were all amazing. Alexandra Billings was beyond nice, she was absolutely the perfect woman for the part of Davina.
I also had time to meet with the director and creator Jill Solway and her sister Faith. We chatted about their father coming out as transgender to them and how it mirrored my life coming out to my daughters.

2017 - Courtesy of Maryanne Marttini.

Monika: And Jeffry Tambor?
Maryanne: During the second day’s shoot we were shooting the Trans Got Talent show. I had an early scene with another transgirl when between takes he came over and sat beside me. He wanted to know about me and how I happened to be there? I told him my life was the same as his character, I came out at the same point in my life and was the same age. He was totally shocked. It was another moment that made this once-in-a-lifetime event so special. When I think back there were some whispers about him, I found him very friendly.
Transparent was a life-changing event for almost every transgender person on the planet. It helped us feel proud of being ourselves. Following Transparent season one, I was invited to walk with the Transparent cast and crew in the LA / Hollywood Pride Parade. Getting to see all those that worked on Season One was like being with family. I am asked all the time about Transparent, was it real? Yes, the premise is similar to so many of our lives, fortunately, not all of us had that same Transparent dysfunctional family, but most of us have struggled and many will continue to do so, hopefully, less.
The experience was a dream come true. To be a part of something that opened the door for me and thousands of other transgender men and women was beyond my life’s expectations. Equally was the experience to learn about the industry and how it worked, not even considering, at the time, what this would lead to in my life.
Monika: And the Glee series?
Maryanne: Not long after Transparent I was asked to come to Central Casting in LA to register and be photographed for future work in Transparent. A few weeks later I got a call from the Glee casting director and asked if I would like to be a part of the Glee choir for the final episode. Later I was asked if I had a couple of trans-friends I would like to invite to be in the choir? Originally I was told there would be twenty singers in the choir and we would be wearing choir robes. At 10 pm the night before I got a wardrobe call telling me to wear fall-colored clothes shoes and or boots, it was supposed to befall in the scene. It was summer and I thought I was going to wear choir robes, fortunately, I was staying in Hollywood and there was a 24-hour Target down the street that had just put out their fall clothes. 
Surprise, the next morning there were 200 Trans men and women there for the choir, including my two California friends and a comedienne friend from New York. This was the largest assembly of transgender men and women for any film or television show. We all were there for the entire day with three meal breaks, an open snack kitchen, and overtime pay. You could feel the total love and it all came together from 13 hours of work for a five-minute scene.
I was called by Central Casting, to audition for another series, as a transgender character in a new, non-LGBT medical drama. I made the cut and the two of us went to LA for the director’s interview, a fully paid day, and meals. I thought I was ready for the big time. A much younger girl got the part. Unfortunately, this big-budget CBS, Universal Studio series was canceled after six episodes 
The ironic thing about being in LA working in comedy, film, and television, was recalling the picture of me dressed in my sisters clothes, taken in 1949 when I was three years old. The picture my dad used to embarrass me, was taken in our home in Burbank, California less than two miles from Universal Studios, 1.5 miles from my favorite comedy club in Burbank, and close to my work in Transparent and Glee. That little house on Evergreen Street, where I first realized I was supposed to be a girl, I returned as my true self almost seven decades later.

2012 - with my wife. Courtesy of Maryanne Marttini.

Monika: What do you think in general about the representation of the trans community in the media?
Maryanne: News, real and fake, has its own methods of how to present us to make a profit and it is not always positive. Print and online news tend to grab readers with sensational acts of trans-murder, crimes, and negative events that shed a disparaging view of transgender women.
Sadly, bad news attracts a larger audience. Whereas film and television, while still for profit, tend to be more real to life and less sensational when telling our stories. For example, Caitlyn Jenner’s show confirmed the character that is Caitlyn in comparison to her entourage of transwomen that were struggling to be accepted. As much as I don’t care for the alpha male that is now Caitlyn Alpha Female, I appreciate that Caitlyn Jenner did help present us to millions of people that now know more about us than they did before.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Maryanne: I have read several books written by trans-men and women and find there is so much similarity in our lives, even with some differences, that I think very few people would read another transgender life story after they have read a couple of them. I decided to start writing short chapters of events in my life. These are the stories that got me to where I am today as a wife, a parent, a grandparent, an entrepreneur, and the transgender woman I have always been.
After years of improper therapy, I learned how to search for memories and write them in detail, beginning at three years of age. I currently have twenty-four events. Hopefully, my future generations will read them. I thought about videotaping but when I read the details my great aunt wrote about her life, with only one photograph, I realized reading would never die, and as technology changes, in the future videos may not be able to be watched in current formats.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now? Where can we see you on stage? 
Maryanne: I had two stand-up bookings in April for Phoenix and one in Los Angeles that were canceled due to the Covid-19 shutdowns. As of today, I have two bookings in the Phoenix area for June and will post my upcoming events on my Facebook page if it is safe. I am happy stand-up comedy is not my full-time job.
Even at my age, I have a real job that I like to say supports my comedy habit. I feel bad for everyone, that lost their lively hood during this epidemic and I fear it may not be over for some time.

My next tattoo. Artwork by Maryanne Marttini.

For years I had an idea for an animated comedy television series that was based in the Melrose LGBTQ district of Phoenix. The situation came from my life’s experiences of being an entrepreneur, designer of all kinds, and transgender. The characters are all LGBTQ and straight with a location and social situation that has never been used in television or film. Without the collaboration of my partners, the amazing writer, comedienne Dee Ann Kinkade, and one of the best gay comedians in the country, Gene Moore this never would have happened.
I am also fortunate to have one of the best animators in North America and two independent film writers, producers, and film directors in the US, as mentors. We had serious interest from a major studio and, with their encouragement, we began to modify and re-write the first 8 episodes. In the last few months, we have written a three-act play based on the situation and the main characters of that series. We completed the script when Covid-19 hit and all the theatres were shut down. Like so many, we are in entertainment limbo.
Monika: What would you recommend to all trans women struggling with gender dysphoria? 
Maryanne: Be happy. It is 2020 and you have an opportunity to be your true self regardless of your age and you do not have to struggle for decades to discover that you are not mentally ill or broken. You are indeed special.
Be patient. Remember that through the years you may have suffered from gender dysphoria you had to put in a lot of energy trying to be your assigned gender. Once you begin your transition put that energy into what it takes to reach your goal. Please remember the rewards are there and a shortcut is not always the best path.
Get involved. Find a Transgender or LGBT Non-profit group that is dedicated to building awareness with others that do not know or understand that we are here, and always have been. Help others along the way. The rewards to you will only enhance your confidence and existence. Find a mentor, someday you can be one too.
Trust. Associate yourself with those that truly care and love you no matter who you are. Avoid negativity by learning how to turn your own doubts and fears into positive experiences. Negative people want negative people around them. Trust yourself to make decisions and by only knowing what no is, will you ever get to yes. If you need professional help do it. You have the resources in your smartphone to search the world even if your funds are low to none, there is help out there. Dream and make it a reality.
Monika: Maryanne, thank you for this interview.
Maryanne: Like so many, I have also have made personal discoveries through your interviews. Thank you for what you do, for all of us.


All the photos: courtesy of Maryanne Marttini.
© 2020 - Monika Kowalska

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