Nonbinary Broadway performer talks gender in the arts

By Jay Roberson

THOUGH they have been on Broadway in shows such as “CATS” and “Bob Fosse’s Dancin,” Kolton Krouse, who goes by they/them pronouns, noted that their gender identity made it difficult to participate in the audition process, as a majority are split into male and female categories. Krouse spoke about their experiences being a nonbinary performer on April 4 at 7:30 p.m. in the Yvonne Theater in the “Conversations in the Arts” speaker guest series.

Krouse began by explaining how there have been improvements in spaces for nonbinary actors and characters, but there still needs to be improvements to accommodate those who don’t exactly fit in the binary.

“It’s great that we’re starting to get more representation like that on Broadway, but it’s still slowly but surely. I’ve had conversations with the creative team in my show because when I’m not on, the fact is binary, they separate it male and female, which is confusing to me and I think to everyone,” said Krouse during their presentation. 

After a short introduction to their background as a performer, Krouse opened up the floor to audience members to ask them questions. 

Senior musical theater major Joe Love spoke about why he found the speaker to be so engaging and relatable. 

“I loved the raw personality and really encouraging everyone to be themselves, just like at the point of showing who they are and bringing not only industry knowledge, but also personal knowledge gained,” Love said. 

As Krouse answered questions about being nonbinary and being on Broadway, the audience was captivated and spent the hour asking them about their career. Krouse spoke more about their relationship with gender and movement. 

“The internal dialogue I always had was playing with the masculine and feminine ideas of movement which I think is really fun, and everyone can do that. When I think of movement, I almost think of the duality of how can it be masculine and how can it be feminine at the same time,” Krouse said. 

In the show “Bob Fosse’s Dancin,” Krouse was given a nonbinary track. A track is all the performer’s actions and movement on stage, more particularly for ensemble roles. This role was a step forward for Krouse, but, they said, there are still many ways that Broadway can be more inclusive. 

“It’s just hard, because there’s not as many [nonbinary] characters. They don’t want to tell that story so when I did get this, I actually get to tell the story of the character. It’s great that I get to do that, but also in a way the industry isn’t really changing that much,” said Krouse.

Krouse told the audience the different ways they deal with ignorance regarding their gender, which is mostly self-advocating. They encouraged non-gender-conforming performers to always be that advocate for themselves, even though they shouldn’t have to. 

“Unless they’re being held accountable, they won’t try. Because it doesn’t affect them in their everyday life. … So you just have to be a spokesperson for yourself, which sucks. A lot,” Krouse said. 

Some nonbinary audience members were particularly touched by Krouse’s presentation because they could see themselves in what they were saying. Junior musical theater major Grace Bradbury, who uses they/she pronouns, explained why they thought having these discussions involving gender identity is important not only to performers, but to every person. 

“I’ve been here for three years now … Like I’ve never had to have these conversations. Especially gender identity and how that intertwines with the industry, and also just like the way we exist in the world,” said Bradbury. “That’s really important for us as performers, and also just us as individuals because, you know, more representation is better.”

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