While much attention is focused on achieving equal marriage for gay and lesbian couples, we don’t often hear the unconventional stories of queer relationships that explore other options. One Side of an Ampersand introduces us to four characters in complex, often trying relationships; some feel the pressure of mainstream society to tie the knot, while others ditch the status quo and are content in a label-free situation. Sounds complicated? Well, so are relationships.
The play shines a light on Alice (played by Zoe Brownstone) and Helen (Hilary McCormack), who are content in their label-free, no-strings-attached relationship. Awkwardness and drama ensue when Helen offers Alice the key to her apartment. Alice isn’t ready for this official step, and the two women butt heads over whether this takes things to the next level and makes them too "official" or whether their situation will remain unchanged. When their newly engaged friend Daisy (Rebecca Perry) pays the two a visit, a heated debate about marriage comes up. When Helen’s former university lover and recent divorcé (Chris Whidden) shows up to revisit a spark between them, this doesn’t help an already-complicated situation.
Presented by Flying Radio Theatre, One Side of an Ampersand is co-directed by Julie McCann and Jasmin Goode. The show features a cast and production team of current and recently graduated Ryerson Theatre School students, and this is their debut presentation as a company. Ampersand is actually McCann’s brainchild – she originally wrote it as a short story back in high school and the characters stuck with her as she began her studies at Ryerson.
“The character of Alice just came to me one day, so I wrote the short story for a creative writing class in Grade 12 and based the story off of this one character,” she says. “The story grew out of this character and what a person does when they fall in love with her. [The character of] Alice is complicated because she was all for the openness of the relationship, while for Helen, it’s consistency and comfort.”
Alice and Helen’s characters evolved into a submission by McCann that was published in a short collection of queer literary works by Queen’s University. Throughout her university years, she has developed it into the full-length production.
“The original story shows a short snippet into Alice and Helen’s lives, and it's the two of them having a go at each other. It explores how two characters who are so anti-relationship get into one,” McCann says. “It is not traditional and shows that there are lots of different ways to have relationships. Some characters identify as queer, and the two main ones are label-free about their sexuality.”
One Side of an Ampersand leaves audience members to form their own opinions on relationship labels. The show provides a unique and humorous look at relationships in non-traditional formats and hopes to get us talking more about them in our daily lives.