More Punk Than Steam – The Journey of Bringing a “Non-Steampunk,” Show to a Steampunk Con

More Punk Than Steam

The Journey of Bringing a “Non-Steampunk,” Show to a Steampunk Con

By Ashley Lauren Rogers


“Why are you bringing this to a Steampunk convention?  Is there any Steampunk in this?  Is anyone actually going to show up?  I mean you are performing this at a Steampunk con, what are you expecting?”  These were questions I was sure I’d be asked when my friend Leanna pushed me to perform my one person show PASS/FAIL at the International Steampunk Symposium a few weeks ago in Cincinnati.  I’m no Steampunk purist, when I was most active in the scene four or five years ago all the groups I worked with had the common goal of not forcing a limited definition of Steampunk on anyone, yet as I was being asked to perform the piece in front of a group who paid money to be entertained by Steampunk entertainment.

The show itself is me having an argument with my own powerpoint presentation (and often, the person running the presentation) where I recount all the times in my life I feel like I’ve failed as a means to both break down the pervasive nature of passing privilege within transgender circles and to promote learning through failure.  The elevator pitch I gave to people is that “It’s basically me doing an 45 minutes of stand up comedy but I cry sometimes.”  While I don’t think I’ll ever come up with a better elevator pitch for anything I create, it still didn’t “feel,” Steampunk to me.

I accepted the offer International Steampunk Symposium generously put forth to me to perform the show there and put forth an offer to perform it at Steampunk World’s Faire (which would occur two weeks after) and to my surprise World’s Faire also had interest in PASS/FAIL, as did Motor City Steam Con (coming up in July).  Even though I didn’t view this show as Steampunk, there was something in the show that rang true to event organizers who knew their audiences.  The show itself might not have goggles, gears, or even top-hats (I basically just wear jeans and a nice jacket) but I’ve been a part of the Steampunk community for almost ten years at this point so maybe I Steam therefore I am?  As I prepped for the show I started to realize there was a deeper reason this “Non-Steampunk,” show fits at a Steampunk convention.

Punk is about resistance and the upheaval of oppressive social constructions.  Punk is a middle finger to the face of convention.  While some folk in the community might look at the word Steampunk and feel that the punk aspect is irrelevant others (Myself included) view it as the most important part of that compound word.  If Pith helmets can exist without pithy commentary about their use and history, then my punk and trans AF show can exist in the same space without goggles and gears.

When I finally got to Symposium and World’s Faire the most surprising aspect of it was not only how receptive the audience was to the show but how no one questioned why it was there.  Every now and again I got some variation on a “Huh?  Awesome!”  No one I talked to questioned, as I had to myself, why it belonged there.  Performing the show was also very different from performing it on a stage in NYC.  The theatregoing audience and a convention audience are very different.  I designed the piece to ignore a fourth wall, to be able to read my audience so I can adjust, add, or subtract bits and pieces depending on how they’re reacting to what I’m saying.

In a theatre I found myself having to give more prompts to react, after all they’re in a theatre and one must behave…  Whereas at a Steampunk convention, we’ve all be having a good time partying and caught up in a collective energy of excitement.  People have been asking questions and interacting all weekend they are PRIMED to respond.  I found my piece being verbally interacted with in a way that I hadn’t anticipated but was very welcome for the challenge, after all I open up the show saying if you feel compelled to respond you should!

After the shows I got a series of congratulations from many people I’d been doing conventions with for years who had never seen this side of me.  They’d seen me vulnerable, as anyone who’s been doing the convention circuit for a long period of time can attest you’ll see some shit, but they’d not seen my theatre.  They’d not seen my actual work.  I was their fun, joking, drinking buddy who occasionally put on a puppet show with actors who couldn’t be bothered to read the script before it was put in front of them.  I received congratulations from people who became fast friends during the weekends but who helped form my view of Steampunk.  Cherie Priest, the first author I actively sought out and read under the banner of Steampunk, personally gave the show a glowing endorsement, Gail Carriger publicly gave PASS/FAIL one of the most touching endorsements on her blog and KW Jeter (You know, who coined the term Steampunk) stated multiple times to me and to the crowd the day after, unprompted, how much the piece moved him and how much it belonged at an event like this.

I don’t bring them up because I’m trying to name drop (Though it doesn’t hurt to I suppose ^_~) but because so much of the journey of this play has been about the fear of failing.  I was afraid the show wouldn’t read at a Steampunk event but to have the support of attendees, guests, staff, and some of the people who helped form my view of what Steampunk is has helped me solidify that of course this is Steampunk.  Of course this belongs here.  I celebrate the fact that I failed to see this piece as Steampunk because that experience helped me analyze it and my relationship with Steampunk further… and I’m happy I didn’t pass on the opportunity.



Ashley will be performing PASS/FAIL and a few other pieces at Motor City Steam Con in Detroit July 14-16


Ashley is actively looking for opportunities to share PASS/FAIL with a wide range of audiences.  If you are a student/faculty/employee of a college, university or High School and would be interested in Booking Ashley you can visit her website for more information


Ashley’s new Steampunk body horror play ODDITY premieres this July as part of The Brick’s Trans Theatre Fest.  For tickets and availability click here


Link to relevant media:


Promo Ad for booking Pass/Fail


Intro at the Steampunk World’s Faire “Too Many Samosas”


Intro from University of Wisconsin “In Flight Pasta”

Ashley on Stage at The Brick

Ashley on Stage at The Brick

Ashley on Stage at The Brick

Ashley Performing for students at the University of Wisconsin

Ashley Performing for students at the University of Wisconsin

Ashley Performing at International Steampunk Symposium

Ashley Performing at International Steampunk Symposium

Ashley Performing at Steampunk World’s Faire

Ashley Performing at Steampunk World’s Faire


Published in: on May 15, 2017 at 7:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

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