Identities in Flux: An Interview with Jess Chanliau on August 21, 2020


  • Alexa Alice Joubin George Washington University
  • Jess Chanliau



This interview with non-binary actor Jess Chanliau, conducted by Alexa Alice Joubin, explores genderplay onstage. A bilingual actor, Chanliau spoke candidly on their experience of either being tokenized or being cast frequently as cisgender women. Despite being asked disproportionately to perform the emotional labor of speaking on behalf of trans communities, Chanliau has created meaningful dialogues with industry professionals to address equity issues regarding gender, race, and disability. They reflect on the duality of being marginalized while enjoying certain privilege and offer suggestions on how to hold ourselves accountable and help to dismantle transphobic practices in the entertainment industry.

Author Biographies

Alexa Alice Joubin, George Washington University

Alexa Alice Joubin (, she/her/hers) is the inaugural recipient of the bell hooks Legacy Award (Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association) and recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award. She writes about race, gender, cultural globalization, Shakespeare, and film and theatre. She is Professor of English; Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies; Theatre; International Affairs; and East Asian Languages and Literatures at George Washington University in Washington, DC, where she cofounded and codirects the Digital Humanities Institute. Her recent books include Shakespeare and East Asia (Oxford University Press, 2021), Race (with Martin Orkin, Routledge, 2018), Onscreen Allusions to Shakespeare: International Films, Television, and Theatre (coedited, 2022), Sinophone Adaptations of Shakespeare: An Anthology, 1987–2007 (edited, 2022), Local and Global Myths in Shakespearean Performance (coedited, 2018), and Shakespeare and the Ethics of Appropriation (coedited, 2014). She is editor-in-chief of The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Global Shakespeare and, starting 2023, the general editor of The Shakespearean International Yearbook.

Jess Chanliau

Jess Chanliau has played Viola in Twelfth Night and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. They trained in Santa Maria (California), Glasgow (Scotland), and Paris (France). They played the lead role of Stone in Inmate Zero (dir. Russell Owen, Golden Crab Film Production, 2020) and performed more than twenty characters in Martin McCormick’s autobiographical play South Bend (dir. Ben Harrison) at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019. Drawing on the techniques of Jerzy Grotowski, Jacques Lecoq, yoga, and acrobatics, Chanliau has performed in physical theatre as well as been featured in a video game called Chorus for Xbox.