We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Success! You're on the list.


Herculine Barbin was a good convent schoolgirl in 19th-century France. Sure, she was a little intellectual for the nuns’ taste, and yes, she did visit the beds of her classmates and a teacher. But her life seemed fairly happy until the day she was examined for abdominal pain and discovered to have male sex organs. Her small-town doctor insisted she move to Paris and start life again as a man. Her memoirs were novelized by Michel Foucault, and her story forms one of the main threads of Kate Bornstein’s comedy/exploration, Hidden: A Gender, now being performed by the Trumpet Vine Theatre Company. The play’s other main character is Herman Amberstone (Katie Atkinson), a veiled stand-in for the playwright. Amberstone’s troubles with gender identity begin when he tries to line up with the girls in kindergarten and is informed to his dismay that he needs to join the boys, and no, there is no third queue. Amberstone, living in modern times, has options Barbin (played by Sarah Fischer) didn’t, but his sex-change operation leaves him no more comfortable in her new identity than Barbin was. Controlling the parallel stories and intermingled sketches is a bustier-clad, mustachioed master/mistress-of-ceremonies, Doc Grinder (Ghillian Porter). In hir (the pronoun Bornstein prefers) exploration of the social roots of gender assignment, Bornstein takes comic aim at religion (Amberstone is for a time a missionary for “Diabology”), patriarchy, and modern marketing. Join the fight against genderfication at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays (with a matinee at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 10), through Saturday, April 30, at Theatre on the Run, 3700 South Four Mile Run Drive, Arlington. $20. (703) 912-1649. (Janet Hopf)