Lawrence Arts Center show ‘10,000’ tells story of how Black trans woman found her identity

photo by: Marlo Angell

Victoria Taurean Smith performs in "10,000," a Lawrence Arts Center show about Smith's acceptance, experience and resilience as a Black trans woman.

In a new one-woman show from the Lawrence Arts Center, actress and writer Victoria Taurean Smith tells the story of how she accepted her transgender identity.

The show, “10,000,” will premiere virtually on Saturday and run through Nov. 15. The production is pre-recorded and is being called a new play development, both because the show is using new technology due to the COVID-19 pandemic and because the show is only the beginning of Smith’s story as a Black trans woman.

“Fingers crossed if it’s successful enough we’ll be able to continue to grow the show and add on to it,” Smith said.

Smith grew up in Lawrence as a gay Black male. Born into a Southern Baptist family, Smith said coming out as gay in high school was hard enough. She was transphobic until a traumatic event in 2013 brought her right into a community of Black trans women.

In “10,000,” Smith explains how she ended up in the trans unit of a Los Angeles jail for seven days. She entered the space “terrified and furious,” but left “free and courageous.”

As she says in the play, Smith was in jail because her roommate tripped near train tracks after the West Hollywood Halloween Carnival and ended up getting hit by a train. Police arrested Smith, who was with her roommate at the time, for attempted murder, and then decided she was trans and placed her in that unit, Smith said. Smith’s roommate did not die from the accident and was able to tell the police a week later that Smith was not involved, Smith said.

photo by: Marlo Angell

Victoria Taurean Smith performs in “10,000,” a Lawrence Arts Center show about Smith’s acceptance, experience and resilience as a Black trans woman.

While in the trans unit, “all of these amazing Black trans women … kind of circled me with compassion and love,” Smith said. It made her realize she had been hiding the truth of her identity for years.

“Out of a traumatic experience came the reward of knowing who I truly am,” she said. Smith ended up coming out as transgender in 2016.

The show gets its name from Smith’s favorite Maya Angelou quote: “I come as one but I stand as 10,000.”

“Our ancestors have sacrificed so much so that we can be free today,” Smith said, adding that she finds the quote especially relevant in the midst of the racial tension and “race wars” in America. Smith said she does not want Black trans women to be ignored during this time.

“I want Black trans women to know that though history does not proclaim our existence in the West we most surely are standing on the shoulders of 10,000 trans Black women who never got to live their truth in their day,” Smith said.

Though Smith is an experienced actress, “10,000” was her first time writing a play.

“Do you know, it was a very tumultuous experience writing this show because I had to relive the trauma that the show is based around every day,” Smith said.

Smith began writing the show in February of 2020 but didn’t find her true voice until July. Prior to then, she said she was “only giving therapist material.” In July, Smith had an emotional breakdown — which she said she now refers to as her emotional breakthrough — in which she allowed herself to deal with the hurt she had bottled up. Smith said she checked into Topeka hospital Stormont Vail so that she could have medical supervision around her as she ventured into the dark parts of her life. While there, she rewrote the show.

“It took a mental collapse to really get this show out on paper,” she said.

Smith said she hopes her show will call attention to violence against Black trans women and also inspire Black trans women who are scared to come out or currently struggling with their identity. The show is about resilience, strength and hope, Smith said.

photo by: Marlo Angell

An image of Victoria Taurean Smith performing in “10,000,” a one-woman show that she wrote about her experience as a Black trans woman.

“10,000” is recommended for people 16 or older. The play includes conversations of anti-Black, anti-trans violence, as well as sexual violence and other sexually explicit material.

The show is a pay-what-you-can performance, with options to pay $10, $20 or $40. Every ticket purchased will receive a secure log-in to view the filmed performance for 30 days. Three percent of ticket funds will also go to Smith’s Go Fund Me medical fund to help her complete her journey as a trans woman.


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.