Halifax’s annual Queer Acts theatre festival this year boasts an eclectic selection of shows — everything from a country ballad to a play that charts the trials and tribulations of teenaged girls.
The four-day queer theatre event kicks off July 18. Xtra chatted with several performers about what audiences can expect.
This year, award-winning playwright Lee-Anne Poole makes her onstage debut in Country Song: A Queer Ballad. Part autobiographical, part gloomy serenade, Poole’s one-woman show takes the writer out of her comfort zone and puts her centre stage, playing an acoustic guitar.
“Part of the challenge was to learn more about country music and music in general,” Poole says. “I've been trying to learn to play the guitar. I learned how to play a G chord back in January and have tried to soak up as much as possible since then.”
For someone who used to loathe country music, Poole takes audiences through loss, longing and how the cure for heartsickness, sometimes, can be found only in a country tune. Raised in Halifax, Poole recently temporarily relocated to Montreal, where she has garnered a new perspective and muses about the meaning of home. “My father loves country music, and I was working on some short monologues of memories of him,” she says. “Exploring country music and telling these stories of my father and fatherhood seemed like a good marriage.”
Queer Youth Creations offers a double header from two emerging artists. The first, Shaista Latif, is a Toronto-based writer whose play Graceful Rebellions follows three Afghan women as they search for a place to call home, both within themselves and in the world.
The Halifax portion of Queer Youth Creations is from Aisha Sommer Zaman, who was inspired by DaPoPo Theatre’s Acting Out workshop last year. She took her monologue Cosmo-Girl, a one-woman look at the beauty industry and glossy magazines, and turned it into the play Seventeen. In a society that expects teenaged girls to be thin, sexy and straight, Zaman offers her own take in the form of a unique trio of teenagers.
“I feel that queer theatre breaks down barriers between people of all sexual orientations and challenges stereotypes,” Zaman says. “I get to see queer folk front-and-centre stage when we're so commonly forgotten or misrepresented. I especially love that it creates a haven for queer writers, actors, directors, production managers, et cetera. It's a place within the theatre community where everyone is fully able to express themselves.”
Local comedy troupe Cabin Crew — Margot Durling, Krista Davis and Megan McDowell — will host the annual variety Pride show at The Company House's Paradise City July 23. The group will also perform the saucy Jet Legs for three nights at the festival.
“Jet Legs traces back to a pillbox hat I picked up in a charity shop in London,” Davis says. “Now we have a crew of flight attendants, makeshift flying machines, unicorn admin assistants, a slew of proposals for a queer utopia and some heartfelt moments for our queer chosen families.”
Jet Legs is Cabin Crew’s first theatre production. “It’s important to us because it represents a demographic in which we are a part. It gives our stories that perspective,” McDowell says. “It's an innate part of who we are, and we put a lot of ourselves in our shows, so it brings honesty and an openness to our performances.”
Evan Brown’s Litmus Road is a theatrical ode to the pursuit of perfection — the perfect house, perfect street, perfect newlyweds. And, naturally, how perfection ultimately fails.
Toronto creator, performer and director Evalyn Perry is also in town for Queer Acts. She’s offering a free workshop, Queer Bodies As Source, and invites emerging and established artists to kick-start a new project with her July 20.