New Zealand-based Ren Lunicke (formerly Michelle Grube) grew up on San Juan Island part-time, then full-time, then in holiday time, and returns regularly to their home in Roche Harbor. After attending university in neighboring British Columbia, Canada, they started their professional career with the island’s own Stage Left, but relationships and opportunities drew them to Seattle and they eventually moved to another little island chain in the Pacific Ocean: New Zealand.
Now an award-winning international touring writer/performer, they bring two of their highly entertaining, thought-provoking autobiographical works “Blood Relative” and “Ze.” The double-bill show is from 7-9 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 6 and Friday, Sept. 7 at the San Juan County Fairgrounds Marie Boe building. Tickets for a single show are $10 for students and seniors and $15 for adults. The double show pass is $20 for students and seniors and $25 for adults.
“Blood Relative” is about Ryan’s life as “Michelle,” a newly married lesbian caught between the modern ideals of a diverse and loving “chosen family,” the normative assertion of a nuclear family and the ongoing call to connection with ancestors. While evaluating a painful fertility disease and the possibility without any future children, Michelle receives the call from her right-wing American evangelical mother, that Michelle’s loving grandmother is dying. In the overlapping time of caretaking the last of one generation and the limitations surrounding any future generation, Michelle must decide which definition of family she can depend upon to create family for herself. The show is recommended for ages 12 years or older for dramatic intensity.
“Ze” is a dark comedy about sex, gender and the expanding parade of labels and identities Michelle/Ryan claims on “zir” way to pride. “Ze” and “zir” are gender neutral pronouns. In this international queer origin story, Michelle/Ryan rips the bandage away from zir startling American Puritan upbringing and is catapulted by zir experiences through a complex and surprising “coming out” process as a genderqueer, kinky, femmesexual, polyminded, gay divorcée. Along each step of the way, ze discovers each new beloved community is at times, is just as ridiculous and pigeon-holed as the one ze’s just left. Part theater, storytelling and stand-up, Lunicke both uses and parodies the labels meant to help an individual embrace their truth in a modern world desperate for definition. “Ze” brings the audience along a rarely told journey of gender fluidity and micro-identities in a pride-worthy celebration that exposes the tension between being authentic to oneself and belonging to one’s community. The show is recommended for ages 18 years or older for coarse language and explicit sexual reference.