“It’s really exciting to be part of the beginning of something like OUTStages,” says Anthony Johnston, who will return to the West Coast in July to perform in Victoria’s first queer theatre festival.
Johnston moved to New York where he and his straight best friend Nathan Schwartz created the indie theatre company AnimalParts in 2009 after they graduated from Langara College’s Studio 58 theatre program in Vancouver.
Sean Guist, from Victoria’s Intrepid Theatre, points to two reasons why his company, which is also the organizing force behind Victoria’s Fringe festival, thinks the timing is right for a new theatre festival dedicated to queer content.
Guist says there’s a “lack of professional theatre in Victoria being done over the summer, and every time we do our other festival and events that have a queer lens, or LGBT content, or performers, the shows have always done really well.”
An open call for shows for the curated, eight-day queer theatre fest was answered by theatre companies from Halifax and Toronto, in addition to New York.
The festival also includes a multidisciplinary cabaret, and an evening of play readings featuring Vancouver playwright Dave Deveau’s My Funny Valentine (inspired by the tragic murder of 15-year-old Lawrence King after he asked a classmate to be his valentine), and The Bad Touch, a new work by Victoria playwright Kat Taddei exploring the connection, or lack thereof, between two people over the course of a one-night stand.
Of the four mainstage shows this year, Guist is most excited about Let’s Not Beat Each Other to Death from Halifax’s The Accidental Mechanics Group. Described as part monologue, part concert, part vigil, part electro-pop dance party, the show is inspired in part by the brutal killing of a Halifax queer activist and an attack against an outspoken gay musician.
“We have four shows that are really exciting and different, but Let’s Not Beat Each Other to Death is a really interesting presentation that deals with difficult content in a unique way,” Guist says.
From AnimalParts comes two shows: Revenge of the Popinjay, which tells the story of a gay rap star/serial killer who is targeting heterosexuals, and A Quiet Sip of Coffee (or, this is not the play we’ve written), which explores the sometimes fine line between truth and fiction.
According to Intrepid Theatre’s program, A Quiet Sip of Coffee is based on two weeks of gay conversion therapy the duo experienced 11 years ago in rural BC. “Years later, still struggling to come to terms with the events of that summer — and finding it impossible to agree on what exactly transpired — the friends reunite on stage to tell their conflicting stories.”
“The whole thing is an experiment in truth telling, and experimenting with the idea of docu-theatre,” Johnston says. “Both pieces are just as much true as they are fiction.”
Rounding out the festival mainstage is Catherine Hernandez’s one-woman show The Femme Playlist, a multi-disciplinary work that explores everything from masturbation to motherhood and body shame to burlesque through the lens of a queer woman of colour.