Arts & Entertainment
4 min

Four for Fringe

Xtra’s picks from this year’s theatre fest

The cast of Love Is a Poverty You Can Sell 2.

After Pride ends, a whole other kind of queer party takes over the city. Every year the Toronto Fringe Festival becomes bigger, with increasingly ambitious shows, which means even more queer content for the throngs of theatregoers. Michael Lyons checks out some of this year’s queer Fringe choices — from small towns to Weimar-era Berlin, from public nudity to time-travelling homos, and so much more.

Love Is a Poverty
You Can Sell 2: Kisses for a Pfennig

The audience will be transported back to 1920s Berlin in Love Is a Poverty You Can Sell 2: Kisses for a Pfennig, the sequel to the smash hit 2010 Fringe production of the same name. Creator Justin Haigh promises an evening of quintessential cabaret, with some twists: “1920s Berlin was a strange and vibrant city full of grit and joy, and we want audiences to feel as though they are getting a taste of that when they walk through the doors.”
He says the show will be MCed by two characters who pop out between numbers to chat with the audience. “They will also tell a dark folk tale about a young butcher’s apprentice who becomes the mayor of his small town,” he says. “It’s a story that stands on its own two feet, but politically savvy Torontonians may find it resonates on more than one level.”
Haigh wants the cast to play with the sexual liberation and queerness of Weimar-era Berlin. “Having said that, our director has come up with some spicy choreography for a few of the numbers, and some of the costumes are pretty eye-catching, too.”
Love Is a Poverty You Can Sell 2: Kisses for a Pfennig
Bite, 423 College St


Fort Isabel
Small-town Canada comes to the big-city stage in Fort Isabel. When two children discover a dead body, their town descends into panic and their lives are changed forever. “Fort Isabel deals with the aftermath of a hate crime in a small town,” says playwright Sarah Miller-Garvin. “I started writing the show after finding out that hate crimes against queer people are actually on the rise, even though we hear so much less about it in the media.
“The children find a male body in women’s clothing, although the identity of the person is unknown,” director Evan Vipond says. “Jen and Clinton both struggle to understand the motivation behind this hate crime and are deeply affected by it. The play explores growing up in rural Ontario and the homophobia, and transphobia, that remain prevalent today.”
Fort Isabel tackles the dark subject matter with fearless realism. “The show explores the ways in which events from our childhood shape our understanding of ourselves and our identities as adults,” Vipond says. “In a way, we can never really escape our childhood or our past because it affects our perception of the world and who we are.”
Fort Isabel
Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace,
16 Ryerson Ave


The Dance Without Pants
A good artist bares all, and The Nakedme Show’s The Dance Without Pants takes this idea to a whole new level. Nakedme is Sam Hatfield and Fiona Skelton, an Australian performance-art duo that stages guerrilla-style dances in the buff.
“Through our art we hope to reveal there is nothing inherently immoral or shameful in naked bodies,” Hatfield says. “Perhaps even more importantly, we are tackling issues of fear and self-limitation. It is quite scary for us to take off our clothes and perform in public.”
The two have driven across the Sydney Harbour Bridge on a scooter in nothing but helmets and boots; they’ve danced naked on the suspended railway train in Wuppertal, Germany; they shook their junk in front of Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and Abbey Road; and in their recent performances at the NXNE Festival and now, at Toronto Fringe, they’ll be polling patrons about a potential naked endurance dance on the last days of the festival.
The Dance Without Pants is about using political systems to push social norms and reconfigure moral boundaries,” Hatfield says. “It is about our right to use our bodies as a form of expression, and it is also about the equality of all bodies.
“In addition to this, our art is fun, flamboyant, colourful and, indeed, a little risqué . . . so for this reason alone it is worth checking out!”
The Dance Without Pants
Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst St


The Effects of Time Travel on Neurotic Homos
If you could go back in time and talk to your awkward, confused, adolescent self, would you offer comfort? Impart some critical wisdom? “The inspiration came from the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign,” says actor Neil Cameron of his play The Effects of Time Travel on Neurotic Homos. “It made me stop and think . . . and realize that my 15-year-old self would be disgusted with the behaviour of my 35-year-old self.”
Through the magic of time travel, an idealistic 15-year-old finds himself in a conversation with himself, successful and cleaning-product-obsessed, at 25, and then — unemployed, slutty and addicted to his iPhone — at 35.
The brand-new comedy by Fringe favourite Cameron focuses on how our identities evolve as we get older. “Given that the show tracks an individual over three different ages, there is a lot in it for people to relate to,” Cameron says, “from sexual awakening at 15 to some of the depravity that occurs later in life. The overlying theme is about owning the choices you make/don’t make and defining what it means to be queer in your own terms.”
The Effects of Time Travel on Neurotic Homos
George Ignatieff Theatre,
15 Devonshire Place

Six more must-see plays
God Is a Scottish Drag Queen
The pope, power suits, pop stars: Mike Delamont’s character skewers everything, then serves it with a side of haggis.
Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst St
Making Love with Espresso
A multicharacter show serving up dark, sexy roasts. A series of bizarre online dates take a young man on a worldwide adventure.
Robert Gill Theatre, 214 College St
MSM [men seeking men]
A sexy dance-theatre piece inspired by transcripts of online conversations between men who seek men.
Randolph Theatre, 736 Bathurst St
Gender theory and cuddling. Andrew and Charles embrace and deconstruct roles and preconceptions in their homo relationship.
Glad Day Bookshop, 598A Yonge St
Stealing Sam
Sam and Jimmy were planning to face “gay middle age” together, but when Sam dies, it’s up to his friend to plan their final picnic together, complete with stolen cremated remains.
Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse, 79 St George St
Liza Live!
That’s Liza with a “Z.” A heartwarming, toe-tapping tribute to one of the most dynamic female stars of our age.
Annex Theatre, 730 Bathurst St