A particular role in the Unicorn Theatre's newest production is perfect for Kansas City actor Ahafia Jurkiewicz-Miles.
“I've always wanted to play someone like me on stage,” Jurkiewicz-Miles told host Gina Kaufmann on Tuesday's episode of KCUR's Central Standard. “The fact that I get to do that now makes it so exciting to go into work every day.”
Jurkiewicz-Miles is one of the leads in Unicorn’s production of “Hir,” which the theater's program describes as a subversive family drama about a veteran who returns from Afghanistan to find "a household in revolt." His mother has "been liberated from an oppressive marriage," and is "passionately dismantling the patriarchy" with her newly "out" transgender teen, played by Jurkiewicz-Miles.
The title of the play — "Hir" (pronounced "here") — is the alternate pronoun used by Max, Jurkiewicz-Miles’ character. Max is trans-masculine, not male or female but on the masculine side of the the gender spectrum.
Jurkiewicz-Miles is non-binary and genderqueer, identifying as neither male or female. The Kansas City native is majoring in piano performance at the University of Central Missouri.
Assigned female at birth, Jurkiewicz-Miles felt uncomfortable during puberty, and suffered from body dysmorphia. That feeling intensified, and they began a transition around age 18.
“Body dysphoria is when you feel like the body that you are in is not a reflection of who you truly are inside," Jurkiewicz-Miles said.
"So you see yourself in the mirror or in a picture, and you're like, 'Oh, that's not me. That's not how I should look.'"
Jurkiewicz-Miles took testosterone treatments for six months, just as Max does in the play. They say this allowed them to really connect with the character.
“I know how it feels to have to do my testosterone shot, and I know what it (feels like) going through the physical changes of that, and having to really explain to everybody what is happening,” Jurkiewicz-Miles said.
They said they are excited by “Hir” not just because it has a transgender character, but because of how playwright Taylor Mac uses the character in the story.
“What's so good about ‘Hir’ is that it allows this trans character to be a person, rather than the problem,” they said. “You're used to seeing trans characters in all of the drama centering around them.”
In "Hir," Max is not the sole source of conflict but one part in a dysfunctional family.
But that role had real-life resonance for members of Jurkiewicz-Miles' real-life family.
“The first time (my brother) saw the show he said, ‘Wow Ahafia. What that really felt like was you in 2015 when you were on T (testosterone). You were Max, and everyone else was me.’"
Listen to the full conversation here.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include more specific language regarding the gender identities of Ahafia Jurkiewicz-Miles and the character Max.
Trevor Hook is an intern for KCUR's Central Standard. You can reach him on Twitter at @trevorahook.