In a conservative place such as New Brunswick, offerings of queer theatre are few and far between, but for the third year in a row the Saint John Theatre Company (SJTC) will do its part to change that.
Each summer the company, led by artistic producer Stephen Tobias, hosts the Theatre on the Edge Festival. In 2006, it began a relationship with Port City Rainbow Pride (PCRP) to present Out on the Edge, running this year from Aug 12 to 14.
“We often partner with other community organizations here in Saint John,” says Tobias, “regardless of subject matter.”
Since PCRP usually began as Theatre on the Edge was wrapping up, he says, it made sense for the organizations to join forces. While the two groups enjoy a mutually beneficial partnership, they have remained independent of one another.
When the PCRP committee announced last month it would cancel this year’s festival, Tobias wasn’t worried. The show must and will go on.
“They’re a promotional partner. Even if the festival wasn’t going to proceed as planned, the community was still there.”
Company members two years ago developed an “original script” based on personal stories they collected from people in the local queer community. The result was a performance titled Out on the Edge, a monologue-driven piece featuring personal stories from in- and out-of-the-closet.
The response to the Laramie Project style endeavour was tremendous, he says, and the company wanted to continue working with the queer community. It intended to mount the same production the following year, but couldn’t due to scheduling conflicts with some actors.
Tobias made the commitment to keep Out on the Edge going, as a part of the greater theatre festival, even if the production wasn’t the same.
Last year, he filled the slot with Nina Arsenault’s The Silicone Diaries, a series of monologues based on articles she wrote for fab magazine. This summer, comic-writer Diane Flacks is bringing her one-woman show, Bear with Me, to the company’s stage at 112 Princess St.
Year after year, Tobias is impressed with the audiences attending the productions. And, he adds, feedback to Arsenault’s show was tremendous.
“When we look through the cards and letters and emails,” he says of the reaction Diaries, “It was impressive how she [Arsenault] really kind of impacted people.” He calls the feedback “life changing.”
He has the same hopes for Bear with Me. Flacks’ story about having a baby with her partner. It’s the first time she’ll perform it in the East.
The audience for Out on the Edge creates a cultural mix, says Tobias, between those attending it as a Pride event and SJTC’s regular theatre-going crowd.
“To me it’s about education. You bring people together and they realize they’re not really that different,” he says, “The subject matter may be different, but there’s a kind of universality that works.”
Looking ahead, Tobias would like to see SJTC further develop relationships with artists, such as Arsenault and Flacks, and companies, such as Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times, to bring more queer-themed theatre to the city.
“It’s just helping us serve what is a huge segment of the community, here in Saint John, that a lot of other theatre companies aren’t paying attention to.”
Bear with Me.
Wed, Aug 12 to Fri, Aug 14. 9pm.
Saint John Theatre Company, 112 Princess St.