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How one Toronto artist is on a mission to arouse our city’s buried sexuality

Ted witzel’s LULU is inspired by Europe’s thriving sex culture

Credit: Courtesy Helen Yung

Major cities exist across the globe that are home to sex-positive, progressively-minded venues that offer safe spaces for queers to express their sexualities without inhibition or fear of judgment. While Toronto has a handful of bathhouses and fuck-friendly bars that continue to survive despite relentless gentrification, the city remains devoid of the large-scale, sex-positive parties associated with cities like New York City, Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin.

Playwright ted witzel has been an artist-in-residence at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre since 2014 and hopes to make a dent in Toronto’s staid sex scene with his new project. The next instalment of his multi-part theatre series LULU — inspired by queer German playwright Frank Wedekind’s Lulu plays (Earth Spirit, Pandora’s Box) — returns to Buddies with a full-facility warehouse-style party in the vein of Berlin’s Berghain and Kit Kat clubs for one night during Pride Month. LULU v6 All The Fucks I Never Gave is a continuation of the experimental theatre series and is presented by witzel’s theatre company the red-light district.

The artist, who divides his time between Berlin and Toronto, hopes the event will give the local queer community the jump-start it desperately needs.

“Torontonians aren’t notoriously great at letting go and not giving a fuck,” witzel says. “People give a lot of fucks here and I wanted to create a night where people would feel free to step in and lean into an experience, like sex-forward. That doesn’t mean you have to be banging someone in the bathroom, although you could. Who am I to say you shouldn’t?”

With the lion’s share of Toronto’s nightlife scene aimed at providing men who have sex with men venues in which to socialize and hook up, All the Fucks I Never Gave is focused on providing a space for trans people and queers of every stripe a night of pure indulgence and inclusion.

Courtesy Helen Yung

Parts of the theatre will be repurposed as dark rooms and for peepshows and the emphasis is on creating a safe, consensual space for people to observe and engage in a sex-positive environment.

The playwright wants to bulldoze through the withdrawn, polite atmosphere he says is prevalent in Toronto’s local queer scene with his event and encourage people to glance up from their cellphone screens.

“People tend to hide in their phones when they want to hit on people,” witzel says. “In Berlin, someone will look you in the eye when they want to fuck you and I wanted to create a room where people could, you know, quite possibly go home with someone. If not, they’re also in an environment that’s asking them to encounter it with their sexuality.”

Top-tier DJs Denise Benson, Dre Ngozi and Karim Olen Ash have worked closely with the red-light district team to design a soundscape more in line with Berlin’s early-morning queer warehouse parties.

With oyster bars and on-site tattoo artists and stylists at the ready to primp up looks in need of an extra sparkle, All the Fucks I Never Gave looks to be the Pride party Toronto never had.

While there is no dress code in effect, people are strongly encouraged to put some thought into their outfits, even if that means showing up naked. Witzel hopes to emulate the infamous Berlin KitKatClub’s approach to wardrobe.

“Put some duct tape on your nipples and wear a spiky belt, or you could create a whole outfit out of saran wrap or you could show up wearing nothing at all, or you could just string a chain from your earring to your nose ring to your dick ring to your toe, and that would be your outfit,” says witzel.

“And if you don’t come in an outfit, some bossy person in a fishnet onesie is going to come and be like, ‘take off your pants.’ And then you just have to check your pants, and that’s your night.”