Halifax is quickly becoming a hub for queer theatre. The annual Queer Acts Theatre Festival struts into town during Pride Week, July 17 to 24, with tales of everything from women cyclists to what it means to be undone. This year’s lineup includes Big in Germany, El Camino or the Field of Stars, Naked and Spin.
“Queer Acts Theatre Festival can help the artist bring their vision to life by easing some of the promotional or technical burdens normally associated with producing a show,” says Adam Reid, festival director. “Artists are allowed to focus on the creation of a project. They grow as artists, their work reaches its full potential, and their reputation, along with that of the Halifax theatre community, benefits.”
Queer Acts highlights both local and touring shows, with an emphasis on the offbeat. For the past three years, all shows have been held at Bus Stop Theatre. Neptune Theatre has climbed on board this year, partnering with Queer Acts to host Spin.
“Primarily, I’m looking for productions of particular interest to the queer community because we are such a diverse community; though, that mandate allows me to program a range of exciting pieces,” says Reid. “I’m certainly interested in presenting stories that reflect the [lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer] experience, past or present. I’m also interested by pieces that connect with the queer community for other reasons.
“I look to program a range of comedy and drama by new and established artists, all while maintaining a balance between the number of shows by local and out-of-town artists. It really does come down to finding a balance and offering as many people in the community as possible the opportunity to see something that appeals to them.”
Queer theatre production isn’t limited to Pride. With nine plays, three staged readings and one festival, Plutonium Playhouse recently celebrated its first anniversary. Founded by artistic director Thom Fitzgerald and associate producer /playwright Lee-Anne Poole, it’s only natural that audiences have gravitated to unique and compelling stories from our community.
“Plutonium Playhouse is successful for the same reasons any kind of theatre, film and literature is important in any kind of city. It’s one way we share stories,” Poole says. “And there’s obviously a need for it. I’ve stood in the lobby watching audiences enter to see many different productions in Halifax. The audiences are often the same familiar faces over and over again. The theatre that I see new faces coming out to the shows is queer theatre. I think people are starved for stories that reflect their lives. When one is offered to them they come out in droves.”
ABOUT THE SHOWS
Toronto’s Big in Germany (Ten Foot Pole) is as cocksure as they come. This rock ‘n’ roll comedy at Bus Stop Theatre is sure to rouse audience members who adore a story about fame, sex, love and friendship – think Nirvana meets Lady Gaga.
Halifax’s Stewart Legere and Christian Barry team up for El Camino or the Field of Stars (Plutonium Playhouse), a play that highlights a man weighted by guilt and a new pair of shoes.
It doesn’t get any more stripped down than Naked (Forerunner Playwright Theatre), written by Lisa Rose Snow. Once an Atlantic Fringe Festival hit, director Richie Wilcox has queered the original version to explore a relationship between a housecleaner and homeowner’s spoiled daughter, questioning love and seeing what it takes to be undressed together.
Inspired by Annie Londonderry, the first female to ride around the world, in 1894, Spin (Outspoke Productions) blends history, social change and music. This musical must-see sold out its run at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto early this year and surely will fill the seats of Neptune Studio Theatre, a new space for this year’s festival.