Exact Change

Exact Change

Written and Performed by Christine Howey
Directed by Scott Plate

January 09, 2014 - January 25, 2014

7:00pm, James Levin Theatre

90 minutes, no intermission


A moving play about finding your voice and championing your identity, "Exact Change" is the powerful and personal story of noted Cleveland actor, journalist and critic Christine Howey (formerly Dick Howey). Before transitioning in 1990, Ms. Howey was a celebrated stage actor in Cleveland, known for playing such heavy-hitting male roles as Lucifer, Goebbels,"Terrible Jim Fitch," Richard Nixon, God and others. Developed in part through CPT's New Work Development Series, "Exact Change" is a one-woman tour-de-force spiced with political rants, historical reflections, personal stories and an incisive wit that packs a punch. WORLD PREMIERE/NORTHEAST OHIO CREATOR.

“With astonishing, visceral imagery and insight, Ms. Howey hews away at her Photo: Steve Wagnerhuman facade and personal privacy to reveal the terrifying, confusing, brutal and often hilarious musings of a trapped soul. [She] stands before us with such vulnerability and unvarnished courage, our own aching humanity is soothed and touched.

With this courageous and timely production of Exact Change, written, performed, directed and designed by northeast Ohio’s regional talent, the Cleveland Public Theatre proves once again that it is a theatre of the people, giving voice to the silent pain in our society, transforming the minds and hearts of the region. In that, CPT is performing the most profound purpose of theatre.”
Tom Fulton, Special Correspondent, Cleveland Scene

Friday, January 10th and Saturday, January 11th are SOLD OUT

Saturday Talk Back Schedule:Photo: Steve Wagner

Saturday, Jan 11
Community panel: Jacob Nash, Stacey Parsons, Mike Parsons, Cindy Yu

Saturday, Jan 18
Q & A with Christine, moderated by Juliette Regnier, Inaugural Nord Playwright Fellow

Saturday, Jan 25
Community panel: Jacob Nash (moderator) with Karen Gross, Madeline Hoyle, and Zoe Renee Lapin

Christine Howey is a Creative Workforce Fellow. The Creative Workforce F<a href=http://www.cultureforward.org/>Community Partnership for Arts and Culture</a>ellowship is a program of the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture. The Fellowship program is supported by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.

Christine is the theater critic for Cleveland Scene and also posts reviews on her blog, Rave and Pan. She has been named Best Critic in Ohio by both the Press Club of Cleveland and the Society of Professional Journalists. She has had numerous articles published in The Plain Dealer, Northern Ohio Live magazine, Cleveland Free Times, Newsweek/Daily Beast, NBC News.com and many other publications.

Christine’s poetry chapbook is titled If You Find Yourself Submerged in a Pond Under Ice. Her poems have appeared in Pudding Magazine and Muse, and in the collections What I Knew Before I Knew and Open Earth. She qualified to be on the four-person northeast Ohio slam poetry team, Lake Effect Poetry, and competed in the National Poetry Slam in Boston in August, 2013.

Christine is a former stage actor and director, primarily at Dobama Theatre. Her roles included Richard Nixon in An Evening with Richard Nixon by Gore Vidal, Bitos/Robespierre in Poor Bitos by Jean Anouilh, Givola/Joseph Goebbels in The Resistible Rise of Artuo Ui by Bertolt Brecht, Lucifer in The Creation of the World and Other Business by Arthur Miller, and God in Steambath by Bruce Jay Friedman.

Formerly, Christine was an award-winning copywriter and creative director at major advertising agencies in Cleveland and Minneapolis.

Transformation: An Interview with Scott Plate

The thing that’s really tricky about transformation is that you don’t know what you’re going to become.

Christine’s story is really interesting because she started off life as a very defended man because she knew from very early on that she wasn’t supposed to be in that body. She developed these, as she calls them, “steel walls” that are really sardonic, sarcastic exteriors that kept people away, including her own family- her wife and her daughter. But now they’ve got a wonderful relationship and it’s interesting when you meet Noelle; she’ll say “Well, my dad she…” in the same sentence and it’s normal and natural and she watches you very closely to make sure that you’re following. The fact that those pronouns are so comfortably interchanged in this family, is really interesting to me. There’s a wonderful acceptance.

I remember getting to know Christine as a critic; she would write reviews of my work whether I was acting or directing and she was always really removed and kind of stand-offish and shy. But I always thought she was a good writer. I didn’t always agree with her assessments but then, what the hell? So it really kind of startled me when she approached me to do this, and as I began to work on it, I became completely absorbed. It was weird, it happened around December this time last year. We scrounged up rehearsal space, but that’s Big Box, you just kind of do it however you can. But I remember the sessions and Christine’s willingness to go with what I was giving her to do and realizing her life really did depend on this in some way.

What was interesting to me in working with Christine on this piece, (and we’ve laughed about this quite a bit) is that she’s a lot more comfortable with the male characters. I have more of an affinity with the female characters; characters that are more female or feminine. I remember trying to coax more femininity out of Christine and her kind of squirming, “I don’t want to do this”. I could just see it in her eyes. So it’s an interesting thing for me; to see what I gravitated toward, what she gravitated toward and that we both began lives as men but she went on and transitioned into being a woman. I think the funny thing, a transformative thing for me, was watching this woman who started life as a man, walk on stage. The Big Box light plot had a lot of side light which was great, so what you could see was not someone’s face, but the outline of them. It was transformative just to look objectively at a human being and then watch them become what they really are.

Interesting Links straight from Christine Howey<a href=http://www.cacgrants.org/>Cuyahoga Arts and Culture</a>

Mariette Pathy Allen, good friend and photographer who lives in New York City, has captured many compelling images of transgender people in her books.”

“This is where I was re-born, in the welcoming environment of Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod, and among the loving and helpful people at the annual, weeklong, seminar-laden Fantasia Fair transgender event.”

“This ignorant, mocking and insensitive article about transgender people, written in 2013 and published in The Observer in Britain, shows why I feel the need to reach out and communicate.”

Becoming Me: An Interview with Christine Howey

As an actor, I kept thinking if I portrayed enough men, different kinds of men (especially tough men) I would eventually cobble together a person I could be in real life. But it didn’t work that way. I figured this out and I needed to do something else; I needed to become a person.

I eventually realized I was sad all the time and I just said, “If I can’t be happy for an hour or for even 10 minutes, how can I be happy for three seconds?” I tried to make myself happy and I did it by looking at flowers. I always loved flowers but I never allowed myself to actually have them because that was feminine and therefore, wrong. So I looked at flowers and I completely broke down; it was an immense shattering experience. I didn’t even have real flowers; they were on a calendar or something. And that was where I started. And I remember after that I said, “Ok that’s 3 seconds. How can I be happy longer? What can I do? What can I buy with flowers?” Because I was still a guy at that point, I was thinking, “I can’t go buy flowers, people will see!” So I decided to go to a store like K-mart and buy something with flowers on it. At the store, I see potholders with flowers and it took me 45 minutes to pick up them up. I would push the cart by and say, “Oh there’s flowers! I shouldn’t get the flowers… I should get these other ones because they’re not as effeminate.” And I pulled the cart back and forth, looking at them and finally, after about another half hour, I threw them in the cart and I quickly pushed the cart over to the automotive section and I threw in cans of oil and a wrench and all this guy stuff, so I could say, “Oh, these potholders? My wife wanted me to get potholders, she likes flowers, I wouldn’t buy these flowers”.

And that was happening ALL the time, all the time, all the time, all the time, always checking; “What am I? How am I standing? What am I doing? How do I look?” And it’s exhausting. So that’s where it started.

I always liked the name Chris. There are so many things to think about. It’s been a whole life of constantly trying to monitor all my actions, all my moves, all my everything, and even now, I still do it because I don’t have that history. I didn’t have a girlhood. So I have to keep track of it because I can easily slip back into guy stuff and that’s not particularly where I want to be; it’s not how I feel but it’s just there. I learned it all. And I studied, I mean, I STUDIED. You could say I took advanced courses in masculinity and studied men and sports and all that stuff. I built up this wall where nobody penetrated; nobody could ever guess and nobody ever did. People were absolutely dumbfounded when I told them because I created a pretty seamless, impenetrable disguise. They were shocked.

More Interesting Links

Check out web-based video blogs by kyford23 that document his gender transition over a one year period. Peruse the videos that range from the first steps of change, to a full year on testosterone and 2.5 months post-operation.

“Don’t Call Me Ma’am; On the Politics of TransCasting.” An article that explores gender in the arts community; “Let’s welcome this opportunity to break down barriers.”

100 Amazing Trans Americans You Should Know
“The inaugural Trans 100 List celebrates groundbreaking work being done by trans people across the country.”

21 Times Actors Who Aren’t Transgender Have Played Trans Characters>
“Despite Laverne Cox’s success on Orange Is The New Black, Hollywood still has a lot of work to do regarding trans visibility.”

Christine speaks about the popular transgender character on Orange is the New Black

“She’s a character and I think the actor is amazing. I think she does a great job but it’s hard to take one character and say, “how is this character representing all of us?”; it’s just a character in that particular story. And I think it’s good; she’s integrated well into the story and she’s not a joke.

From a lot of standpoints, it’s pretty positive. Then again, she’s a convict and not living in the real world so she’s in a kind of “hot house” environment. It’s just like all the stories and plays about transgender people in night clubs and performers in rave caves and all these places. It’s not hard to exist in those places. It’s hard walking into a department store on Saturday afternoon, that’s the hard part. It’s pretty easy being different in clubs and all these exotic locales, which a prison kind of fits into. It’s a very artificial environment while the hard part is just fitting into the world and walking out the door and existing. I think the actor and the way it’s written are good and strong. [But the characters on the show] are not everyday people like the person across the street mowing the lawn and working in your office and going to the grocery store. That’s much closer; hits closer to home.”

Speaking of the character on Orange is the New Black

Transgender model Carmen Carrera and Orange is the New Black actor Laverne Cox appeared on the ABC show Katie hosted by Katie Couric last Monday. Check out this article that discusses Katie’s focus on the women’s transition and the state of their bodies. Carmen and Laverne both reacted calmly and explained that by focusing on transitions and body parts, we don’t see people for who they are and we avoid the state of transgender affairs which is surrounded by discrimination and oppression.


What Does the * Stand for?

The GenderBread Person V2.0

Health Disparities Faces by the Transgender Community


“[Exact Change is] a no-holds-barred exploration of one man’s journey to womanhood told through poetry and prose with comedy, drama and poignancy. In short, it is brilliant.”
Mark Horning, examiner.com

“Howey stands before us with such vulnerability and unvarnished courage, our own aching humanity is soothed and touched.”
Tom Fulton, Special Correspondent, Cleveland Scene

“Absolutely riveting storytelling.”
Bob Abelman, Cleveland Jewish News

“This is a tour-de-force performance well-deserving of the heartfelt concluding standing ovation.”
Roy Berko, News Herald