MAN LESSONS: The Live Show

BATS Theatre, The Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

11/08/2022 - 20/08/2022

ONEONESIX - 116 Bank Street, Whangarei

13/10/2022 - 14/10/2022

Whangārei Fringe 2022

Production Details

Performed by Adam Rohe
Film by Ben Sarten

A coming of age story that transcends the patriarchy, values wellbeing over sanity, and absolves you of the pressure to “just be yourself”. 

Over the past six years, a feature length documentary has been in production following Adam Rohe’s transition. In this brand-new live show, Rohe takes us through the wild and earnest behind-the-scenes.

Man Lessons is a bold, beautiful film by close friend and filmmaker Ben Sarten, who has followed Adam through doctor’s appointments, surgeries, psychosis, and the day-to-day.

Captivating storytelling and documentary that celebrates finding empowerment in the making of one’s self.

Man Lessons contains scenes of mental distress, including dysphoria, anxiety, depression, psychosis, and suicidal ideation. It also contains minor nudity and reference to alcohol misuse.

Man Lessons: The Live Show was funded by Nōku te Ao: Like Minds with support from the Mental Health Foundation, and Wellington City Council’s Arts & Culture Fund.

You can read more about the making of Man Lessons the film on The Spinoff here.

BATS Theatre, The Dome
Thursday 11 – Saturday 20 August 2022
FULL price: $25
GROUP 6+: $22

Whangarei Fringe 2022

ONEONESIX Bank Street Whangarei
13 October 2022
7.30 to 8.40pm
14 October 
7pm to 8.10pm
$18, $22

Performed by Adam Rohe (he/him)

Film by Ben Sarten (he/him)

Dramaturg - Eve Gordon (she/her)

Light Designs - Molloy (they/them)

Technical Realisation - Tony Black (he/him)

Technical Operation - Stevie Hancox-Monk (they/them)

Script Advisor - Daniel Goodwin (they/them)

Production/Publicity - Eleanor Strathern (she/her)

Live show originally devised by Adam Rohe & Neenah Dekkers-Reihana (they/them)

Film , Theatre ,

70 minutes


Review by Damian Pullen 14th Oct 2022

As a society, we are trying to have an important and difficult and overdue conversation about identity, and we can celebrate that.  It’s a work in progress and there’s still a way to go, but awareness, understanding and acceptance that identity is constructed from a diverse range of categories including ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender and ability, is reasonably well established. The idea that identity can be fluid not fixed, and discovered rather than assigned at birth, is still less well accepted. The small but attentive audience at Man Lessons: The Live Show is taking part in a conversation about that important aspect of identity.

Man Lessons: The Live Show is a straightforward presentation of the story of Adam Rohe’s gender transition from female to male, which began in 2015. Adam (he/him) is the performer, supported on stage by Ben Sarten (they/them) a documentary film-maker who films the performance and occasionally participates in it. The set consists of a pair of car seats mounted on a wooden frame and castor wheels, perhaps to suggest and support a journey metaphor, and which Adam moves around the stage and sits on occasionally. Upstage is a large screen where extracts from the feature-length documentary that Ben is making are shown as part of telling the story.

Adam speaks directly to us, introducing Ben as the “most consistent character,” along with his dad David (he/him), mum Sharon (she/her) and ex-partner Briar (she/her), and on-screen, his cat Daphne (she/her), and these are the significant beings in the telling of the transition story. It’s clear how critical their aroha and awhi has been and continues to be for Adam, and easy to imagine how much more difficult this journey might be for a trans person who doesn’t have that unconditional love and support.

Adam is an articulate and energetic performer who works hard to tell his story in a rapid-fire, occasionally manic monologue, and communicates the challenges and triumphs of his experience to us. Ben’s calm, low-key presence feels like an anchor for Adam who, as the thread of the story threatens to unravel and emotion runs high, turns to Ben for support, requesting that they “ask me some questions” to help him recentre himself and resume the telling.

And it’s a detailed, honest, and compelling telling, including the emotional highs and lows, the doubts, the uncertainty, an account of the impact on the people around him, and, briefly, the medical details of the physical transition. It is necessarily selective – 7 years condensed into 70 minutes – and climaxes around a mental health crisis and hospitalization which Adam describes as “an illness of my spirit,” out of which the journey to healing has been about “building a platform of my own identity… which is feeling more secure and more articulate.”

Man Lessons: The Live Show feels like a rehearsal and a performance of this new identity, and Adam states that through telling his story, his intention and hope is to “increase trans visibility,” to make it easier for other trans people to be understood, accepted, and appreciated.

We live in a time when it is at last possible, socially and medically, for gender transition to happen, and when marginalised voices and stories are beginning to be heard. Man Lessons: The Live Show is a celebration of that, and as Adam and Ben take their bow, it feels celebratory.


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An exceptional act of affirmation and generosity

Review by John Smythe 12th Aug 2022

Once famed as the voice of Juliet calling to Romeo four times a day, from the glockenspiel clock tower in the small Taranaki town of Stratford, Adam Rohe is now sharing his story on stage and screen. He knew he was “a dude” in 2015 and a year later, when he was in Auckland training as an actor, he began to transition. The quest to ‘become’ other people as a vocation morphed into the quest to become his true self – which sets a particularly interesting challenge when it comes to making a theatre show about it.[1]

Rather than tell the story in linear fashion, Adam – with co-devisor Neenah Dekkers-Reihana and dramaturg Eve Gordon – has found a way of sharing the experience that strips away the artifice usually associated with making a play, and recreates the complexity and confusion of how it played out in a non-linear mash up of the physical, emotional/mental and spiritual elements.

A key component is clips from the Man Lessons film being made by filmmaker Ben Sarten, who has become a close friend while following Adam through times spent with his girlfriend Briar, his Mum and Dad, his other friends, doctor’s appointments, surgeries, the psychosis that hospitalised him and his to-camera updates of what he is thinking and feeling at certain stages.

Ben is present in the live show with his camera, presumably recording more content, and engaging in the odd interaction. The re-enactment of their initial phone call is very fuckin’ blokey, mate: just one of many elements that may raise eyebrows and cause you to judge, assess, analyse and sharpen your senses for further investigation, understanding and empathy. I doubt anyone could just be a passive observer of Man Lessons: The Live Show – which makes for a highly engaged relationship between ‘performer’ and audience.

I say ‘performer’ in quotes because Adam is fully committed to being himself, being real, right now in the present, talking directly to us, and in his recollections of critical parts of his journey. The only stage props are car seats on a trolley which serve various functions throughout and a ukulele used for a couple of songs.

Alongside Adam’s relationship with himself, his relationships with Briar, his parents and other friends are vividly recreated. We can only imagine how others responded when, having graduated from drama school and in the midst of his transitioning journey, Adam was working full time as a house painter, moving house and involved in four plays. As for performing in The Vagina Monologues, which celebrates all things female, before he’d ‘come out’ as trans … Something had to give – and it did.

The show is peppered with ‘once upon a time’ fables, including the lizard who never shed its skins, the lump of coal that felt invisible, the man whose memory kept everything – all offering pertinent pearls of wisdom.

Everyone can relate to the quest to find and be your true self. Man Lessons intensifies the experience in an exceptional act of affirmation for Adam and generosity for anyone wanting to understand transition, be they on the journey themselves, needing to support someone who is, or simply alive in the world.

[1] See Josie Adams’ Spinoff article


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