Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Move over, bare ass — it’s time for some serious cock talk

TotoToo’s latest production explores The Irish Curse

The Irish Curse stars, in front, George Rigby (as Fr Kevin Shaunessy) and, in the back, from left, Geoffrey Wale (as Joseph Flaherty), Lucus Kenny (as Stephen Fitzgerald), Nicholas Fournier (as Rick Baldwin) and Jeremy Piamonte (as Keiran Riley). Credit: Courtesy of TotoToo

In the theatre, a successful show requires bums in seats, but some people think gay theatre is all about bare bums onstage.

“When gay theatre started to emerge back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, a lot of times gay theatre was used as an excuse to sort of parade nude males onstage under the guise of it being art,” says Denis de Laviolette, producer of TotoToo’s The Irish Curse, at Arts Court from Feb 12 to 15.

The assumption that gay theatre exists merely to showcase firm, disrobed male bodies remains a hurdle to this day for many queer theatre companies, including TotoToo, he says. Attracting and retaining a core audience takes more than nudity, which is why the new board of TotoToo is committed to putting on plays that explore universal themes that queer and heterosexual audiences alike can relate to, de Laviolette says.

“This is a new iteration of TotoToo,” he says. “There was a previous organization of TotoToo which, for one reason or another, basically disbanded, so we are a brand-new board and our direction this time has been to present plays that have a much deeper meaning or message than just the aspect of being gay.”

The Irish Curse is about five men who meet weekly in a church basement to discuss their shared problem — the “Irish curse” of having an unusually small penis. They use terms like baby corn, baby dick, bottle cap and cocktail wiener to describe the body part that so embarrasses them.

Written by Martin Casella, The Irish Curse premiered at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2005 and has since charmed critics and audiences alike around the world. The comedic play doesn’t shy away from making people laugh, but it also explores how the stigma of not “measuring up” has affected these men’s lives, de Laviolette says.

“If your ego is immediately curtailed at a young age because you feel that you are not as good as the next man, then this will obviously affect your choices throughout life,” he says.

The play is the second production for the new TotoToo board. After a cancelled season, the theatre company made a successful comeback with Confessions of a Mad Drag Queen, which was staged during Capital Pride last August. Whether a play centres on a drag queen or men with small penises, what’s key is excellent writing and universal themes, he says.

Male or female, LGBT or heterosexual, just about everyone can relate to having insecurities about their bodies or the fear of rejection or feeling different from other people from a young age, de Laviolette says.

“In The Irish Curse, out of the five characters that come to the self-help group, only one of them is gay,” he says. “So you have four straight men and a gay man all discussing a similar problem, and for us that was the interesting psychological message that transcends the boundaries of gay or straight.”