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‘Transparent’ takes the stage

Faith Soloway plans a musical adaptation of the hit TV show

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
‘Transparent’ takes the stage
Faith Soloway (Photo: Photo: Courtesy Faith Soloway)

In between performances of her eclectic show at Club Passim last Wednesday evening, Faith Soloway chats with friends in the Cambridge alleyway where the arts venue lives. They discuss the energy of the performers and the supportive audience who came out to support that evening’s cause: Voices United for Separation of Church and State. Soloway is not only a composer and musical extraordinaire, she’s a co-writer of the popular TV show “Transparent.”

The show is based on a true story. Faith and her sister Jill had their parent come out to them when she was almost 70. To cope with and process the experience, the sisters took to the pen. Amazon picked up the proposal almost immediately. “It was a life-changing artistic opportunity for me,” says Soloway.

The most challenging aspect of creating “Transparent” has been accurately portraying a transgender woman. Though Soloway is gay, both she and her sister are cis-gendered. “The most difficult part is knowing we need to be politically correct, but wanting to get real, and sometimes ugly,” says Soloway. “We need a trans writer in the room every day, every moment.” The sisters have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the trans community regarding the show, including their parent. The one gripe they hear is that the main actor, Jeffrey Tambor, is a cis man.

Local start

Soloway’s career in comedy began in the ’90s at Club Passim, where she would perform sketches. “My first love was musical comedy,” she says. “‘Jesus Has Two Mommies’ originated on this stage.” Last week Soloway returned to the familiar club to talk about “Transparent,” her experience writing it and her plans for the future. A number of other performers joined her, including her daughter Betsy and the Butterfly Music Transgender Chorus, a Boston-based support group designed for transitioning people looking to bolster their experience with music and community.

Faith and Jill initially considered writing “Transparent” for the stage, and Faith is now working toward that as she crafts a musical adaptation of the show. The musical will be Soloway’s signature blend of humor, heart and depth. Last Wednesday she gave the Passim crowd a preview with a song between Sarah Pfefferman and her mother. Sarah begs her mother to be less judgmental and obtrusive, saying they need to establish boundaries. Her mother responds with a chorus of “Your boundary is my trigger.” It’s at once a humorous exchange between a mother and daughter and the bleak portrayal of a mother whose children are pulling away from her.

“Transparent” has broken countless boundaries in its portrayal of transgendered people in mainstream media. Soloway hopes to continue this in a positive but realistic manner. If it’s anything like her previous work, the musical will be sensitive, timely and above all, funny.