Arts & Entertainment
2 min

How to delve into gaybashing then shake it off with love

PuSh Fest presents Stewart Legere’s play-vigil-dance party

Stewart Legere invites people to come to his production, Let's Not Beat Each Other to Death, face the ongoing prevalence of gaybashing, then stay for what he hopes is a cathartic release. Credit: PuSh Fest/Mel Hattie

How does this sound for an evening out? Get together, listen to reflections on gaybashing, discuss it, then party like it’s 1999.

It may sound strange, but that’s what Stewart Legere is bringing to the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival in Vancouver this month.

Legere and his Halifax-based Accidental Mechanics Company have developed the event over several years, and it doesn’t quite fit into categories.

He describes Let’s Not Beat Each Other to Death as “a play, a vigil and a dance party.”

The beginning of the show starts off in a fairly traditional way, he says.

“It’s kind of a monologue, but it breaks down as the show goes along, with it ending up being just a party at the end,” he explains. “So it certainly doesn’t follow any traditional play structure.”

The project emerged after two people Legere knew were victims of shocking, unprovoked homophobic attacks in Nova Scotia.

“In Halifax a few years ago, there were two major things that happened very close to each other,” he says. “One was the murder of Raymond Taavel, who was a prominent queer activist here, and the other was an attack on a friend of mine, Scott Jones, who is now a very vibrant and active queer activist today, but he was almost paralyzed. He was stabbed in the back in a town [New Glasgow] about two hours outside of Halifax.”

But getting your groove on right after confronting the realities of sometimes fatal violence against LGBT people?

“So often I see a show or I see a piece of art or a piece of performance and I walk off into the night with all this new information and all of this experience and sometimes I’m wondering where to put it and how to unpack it,” Legere says. “I was wondering if there is a way to have that experience of delving really head-first into tough subject matter, into sharing and talking about very central and core things about human experience and then not just ending it and sending people off into the night . . .

“Let’s talk about this, let’s have a conversation and then let’s stay together, let’s turn the music up, let’s turn the lights down and in a way shake it off — not in any kind of flippant, disrespectful way at all, but now that we have this information, let’s lay the pain down for a few minutes and kind of gather energy and strength and love and joy from each other and then go off into the night rejuvenated.”

He hopes it is a cathartic experience, including for people in Vancouver, who might be under the impression that this is a place that is free from hate-motivated violence.

“The reality and the truth is that all of this still exists everywhere,” he says. “In some places, such great strides have been made, especially in large urban centres, but those strides are not for everyone and those strides are sometimes for the privileged few.

“In no way is this show an attempt to forget or ignore the strides that we’ve made, but it’s also to say that in the places where we’ve made strides it’s important to say – as in the conversation right now with people of colour and the Black Lives Matter movement – just because some people have made strides doesn’t mean everybody has made strides,” he continues.

“It’s our responsibility. Those who are in the privileged position of being safe, or feeling safe, or at least feeling you have a voice to speak about it, just keep our eyes open, our hearts open, to continue to be vigilant and continue the work.”