If Megan Hutton’s play, The Letters, is as charming as she is, Vancouver audiences should be in for a pleasant surprise at this year’s Vancouver Fringe Festival.
One of only two queer themed-shows in this year’s Fringe lineup, Hutton’s play is a nostalgic examination of her own coming-of-age and coming out in Vancouver in the ’60s. It was the realization that she has more years behind her than ahead that moved her to bring her story to the stage now. “It’s a soul-bearing kind of play,” she says. “I just wanted to put it all out there.”
The work was inspired by a 45-year correspondence between Hutton and a straight woman.
“She was originally supposed to do the play with me,” says Hutton, “but she backed out at the last minute.” Without her muse, Hutton decided to write the entire show on her own. “That’s when I realized: ‘Shit, I’ve had a pretty interesting life.'”
At 60, she has a lot of experiences from which to draw.
She began acting in the ’60s as an apprentice with The Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company before she came to terms with her sexuality. “I used to read poetry at The Bunkhouse and hang out with draft dodgers from Kentucky,” she remembers. “I’ve been attracted to girls from the age of five but didn’t have a clue how to make it happen, so I did what was expected of a girl brought up in the ’50s. I got married and had two children, then I left my husband for a woman and he died of a heart attack.”
Although this is her first play in the Fringe Festival, Hutton did workshop a coming out story, Sins, with the Kamloops Players. She has also published a few short stories and brings with her to Vancouver Sandra McAndrew, with whom she staged The Vagina Monologues in Grand Forks, BC.
Hutton lives in the Kootenays with her partner of 21 years, Autumn Abrahms. She describes being gay and 60 as “awesome, but it’s nice having a partner who is young enough to carry the groceries.”
The other queer Fringe Festival offering is PeepShow, which comes to Vancouver from Winnipeg’s Out of Line Theatre. It explores the world of Hugo (Ian Mozdzen) and Sabina (Mia van Leeuwen) who, according Mozdzen, “play-out queer fantasies in a peepshow box of their own making.”
The show is a combination physical theatre and multimedia presentation. “We sing, we dance, we strip,” says Mozdzen.
Billed as an erotic comedy, PeepShow is based partly on the erotic writings of Anais Nin and the Marquis de Sade, and partly on the lives of peepshow men who Mozdzen describes as, “buskers from as early as the 13th century who traveled from town to town with boxes of illusions strapped to their backs.”
PeepShow is influenced by “1980s visual, sexual, and fashion sensibilities” as well as a Siouxie and the Banshees album of the same name.
“The show is really a peepshow within a peepshow within a peepshow, a structure which allows the audience to constantly change its role in relationship to the actors,” says Mozdzen. “Now you are an audience, now you are a peeping tom, now you are a strip club patron, now you are a moviegoer, now you are a voyeur and so on.”
First produced in 2004 at the Winnipeg Film Group Studio with the help of a Manitoba Arts Council production grant, this is the third incarnation of the play. The Vancouver Fringe Festival marks the end of a cross-Canada tour after which PeepShow will be laid to rest to make way for Out of Line’s next production, WITCH, set to premiere in 2007.
Of Winnipeg’s theatre scene Mozdzen says, “Like any city there are pockets of people–gay, queer or queer-friendly–that really appreciate the shows we produce. However there are also people who are afraid of them. Nevertheless, we are not afraid to take risks both in terms of content and aesthetic orientation. By pushing the audience, we hope to conquer these fears.”