Approximately 200 people filled the Heritage Hall in East Vancouver Jan 23 to recognize the area’s Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal recipients. Among the honorees were lesbian human rights activist Ellen Woodsworth and accomplished lesbian filmmaker Elaine Carol.
“It’s been totally awesome and overwhelming. I started shaking,” Carol says. “I’m just not used to this kind of recognition of my work.”
“I’m still in shock about getting it,” she says. “The medal is not just for me; it is for my organization. It’s about our work in the community.”
Carol is the cofounder and artistic director of Miscellaneous Productions, a youth-focused, non-profit performing arts group that collaborates with diverse artists and communities.
Through Miscellaneous Productions, Carol has brought together teams of professional artists to mentor queer, refugee and at-risk youth aged 14 to 28 in theatre and other forms of artistic expression.
Last May, Carol’s film Stock Characters: The Cooking Show screened at Vancouver’s DOXA documentary film festival. The film, which satirizes the Japanese television show Iron Chef, followed a cast of tough indigenous and immigrant youth as they navigated the tumultuous terrain of an intense musical-theatre and dance boot camp.
More recently, Carol wrapped up a theatre tour of Miscellaneous Productions’ Kutz and Dawgs, a hip-hop version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet set against a modern urban backdrop. The musical has also been adapted to film and will be accessible online in coming months, Carol says.
An artist, writer, solo performance artist and director with more than 35 years of experience, Carol is a pioneer in interdisciplinary, community-engaged art. She was honoured with a medal for her dedication and connection to the culturally diverse communities she works with, especially among multi-barrier mainstream youth.
“She does extraordinary work with youth at risk,” says Vancouver East MP Libby Davies, who distributed the medals. “You can tell that she loves the theatre and she loves empowering young people, and she makes it, in many instances, a life-changing experience for them.”
Carol “works day and night,” Davies continues. “She’s an amazing, dedicated cultural artist and producer in our community. She’s also a great queer activist in the community, and the passion she brings to who she is, what she does and how she empowers other people means a lot to the community. I’m very glad to have recognized her.”
Carol says she is proud to be recognized as a queer artist.
“I think it’s really important that we celebrate our work as queers and that we are out and proud,” she says, adding that it’s also important to connect with many other communities and a wide range of people.
“I think we’ve come of age,” says Woodsworth, who also received a medal from Davies. “It’s wonderful to see the diversity of people being acknowledged.”
Davies says Woodsworth’s zeal for activism and defending the marginalized is more than worthy of a medal. “To me, Ellen is in many ways a sort of symbol of a person whose principles are really put into action.”
“There’s not an artificial bone in her body,” she says. “She doesn’t have a big ego. For her, it’s about working with people and accomplishing social justice and change . . . She’s very authentic . . . she’s the real thing. She’s so deserving of this award.”
Davies, who is openly queer, says she specifically chose to acknowledge fellow members of the queer community when handpicking the 30 medal recipients in her area.
“It’s very important for activists in the queer community to be recognized,” she says. “This is a community that is often undervalued and not celebrated enough. [Carol and Woodsworth] are role models in the queer community, so we need to celebrate that.”