UCF musical theatre major Alaric Frinzi crosses gender gaps through performance

Alaric Frinzi demonstrates a dance move to actors during a rehearsal of "The Tender Land," an opera performed by UCF Opera. Frinzi said she uses her work as a choreographer to express her love for performance, expand upon her knowledge in the industry and gain more experience in the arts. 

Before she knew she was transgender, UCF student Alaric Frinzi said she knew three things: hand holding was terrifying, loud singing was good singing and bow ties were impossible.

When she was told by her director of “The Emperor's New Clothes” she was to hold hands with the her longtime crush — the princess — at the end of their duet, it came as quite the shock. At 8 years old, this was one of her very first theatrical performances. 

“I felt like Charlie Brown and the princess was quite literally the little red-haired girl that he was so love-struck with,” Alaric Frinzi said.

Alaric Frinzi was to play the prince, in a green shirt with a matching elastic bow tie. Little did the director know, she and the princess had plotted to cup their hands right next to each other to make it only appear they were holding hands.

Now, 21-year-old Alaric Frinzi is a senior theatre major on the musical theatre track at UCF. She said her biggest struggle today is being transgender in the entertainment industry.

“The entertainment industry is very appearance-based, and oftentimes you are cast only as what you look like, not on who you feel you are or who you feel that you can be with your skills,” Alaric Frinzi said.

Alaric Frinzi said her early life was pretty regular for someone with her level of intense shyness. She grew up in Mayville, Wisconsin, a small community with thriving musical programs.

She liked to keep to herself and although she was encouraged to participate in the arts, her academics always came first at home. Though this was frustrating at times, she said it did her well in the end.

Throughout her adolescence, Alaric Frinzi said she went through multiple traumatic experiences including eating disorders, self harm, manic depression, anxiety, abusive relationships and sexual assault. She said while she believes some of these issues can be traced back to her internal struggle with self identity and gender expression, others were unrelated.

“It’s tough to say when I first began to feel uncomfortable in my own skin,” Alaric Frinzi said. “I remember being about 4 years old and wishing that I was a girl.” 

In 2017, a friend of Alaric Frinzi’s asked her if she was transgender. She came out soon after.

“The question really got me thinking, and after considering how I view myself and what made me happy, I realized that I am transgender,” Alaric Frinzi said.

Alaric Frinzi said while her mother didn't have a positive reaction to her coming out and her father hasn't been in her life since an early age, her aunt and grandmother have been her biggest supporters throughout her transition.

While visiting her grandmother shortly after coming out, Alaric Frinzi said her grandmother took her to her old job and introduced her to everyone as her granddaughter for the very first time.

“It was such a simple thing, yet it had more meaning to me than she will ever know,” Alaric Frinzi said.

Alaric Frinzi’s aunt, Lee Frinzi, said her niece is hardworking and dedicated to her craft. Lee Frinzi described her as a "sweet, loving, practical and realistic person" with "the most wonderful laugh in the world."

“I know that I am naive in thinking that everyone in the family can all just get along and accept Alaric for who she really is, but she surrounds herself with accepting people and a craft that brings great joy into her life,” Lee Frinzi said. “She seems to be embracing herself, and she is living her life as true as she can, and that is what life is truly about.”

Alaric Frinzi said learning the differences between sex, gender and sexuality has influenced her greatly in her journey. According to the American Psychological Association, "gender" is defined as the behaviors that culture associates with a person’s biological sex, "sex" is a person’s biological status, and "sexual orientation" is whom one is sexually and romantically attracted to.

Rather than worrying about what other people think of her identity, Alaric Frinzi said she thinks more about what gender means to society and the arts.

“Like most people involved in the arts, I was an outcast,” she said. “The arts gave me a home where I could be myself.”

Alaric Frinzi said she has chosen for now to build her career primarily in male roles since that is what her repertoire is mostly composed of.

She is currently working on UCF's productions of “The Street of Crocodiles” as the characters Leon and an instrumentalist, “Titanic” as a choreographer and “The Tender Land” as a choreographer. She is also involved in an independent study with the working title “Summer’s Breath,” which she conceived and choreographed herself.

Since moving to Florida in 2015, Alaric Frinzi has been in 20 other productions. Out of them all, she said her role as Brad in “Hairspray” has been one of her very favorites.

“During the time of the show, I was doing a lot of self-realization, and as I recognized that I was transgender, I saw the show and my character in a different light than I ever had before,” Alaric Frinzi said.

Mark Brotherton, tenured associate professor in performance, has directed and taught Alaric Frinzi throughout her years at UCF. He said she has shown dedication, commitment and drive by showing up early, taking copious amounts of notes and remaining open to learning more about her craft.

“To be a theatre major, you must be willing to fail, get up, give everything you got and then fail again,” Brotherton said. “[Alaric] Frinzi is willing to fail to be even better, and her work shows it.”

Jared Sierra, UCF alumnus with a bachelor's degree in biology and a minor in dance, met Alaric Frinzi through the theater and dance program at the university. He first worked with her when she was cast in a production he was asked to choreograph.

Sierra said Alaric Frinzi was quick to assist in the choreography because of her extensive knowledge in some of the folklore dances that were used as inspiration for the piece. The two have been close friends ever since.

“While on stage, [Alaric] Frinzi always stands out, no matter what role she’s undertaking,” Sierra said. “The professional manner to which she approaches her craft is inspiring, and you just know she’s someone you want to work with."

As a professional performer and choreographer, Alaric Frinzi's work outside of UCF involves searching local theaters, going to auditions, leading choreography, teaching tap dance classes and experiencing the art.

She said it is the job of a theatre major to remain well-rounded by being able to use psychology to create characters onstage, studying literary analysis to analyze the work of playwrights, practicing vocal utilization and remaining physically fit to perform high-stakes scenes.

“Being a theatre major is making your body into the best instrument it can be,” Alaric Frinzi said.

She said that as time passes, more actors and actresses are beginning to be portrayed in their correct genders in roles that are not transgender characters.

“The world is not perfect, but with each person, we can begin to see more of a change in how the world sees and represents transgender people," Alaric Frinzi said. 

After Alaric Frinzi graduates either spring or summer 2019, she plans to travel the world performing before moving to New York City.

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