2 min

When the frank takes centre stage

Celebrating 20 years of Vancouver’s queer theatre

Presentation House Theatre will host several events, including frank theatre’s new production, Walt Whitman’s Secret, starring Kamyar Pazandeh and Tom Pickett. Credit: Raymond Shum/frank theatre

Diverse, outrageous and thrilling, the plays from the frank theatre company have always been no-holds-barred productions which promote positivity around queer culture and sex. And after 20 years of tour-de-force storytelling on the stage, the frank is throwing a gala to celebrate two decades of queer art performances.

On Oct 19, 2016, Presentation House Theatre will host a night full of revels, with food from Taste Catering and live music from 16-year-old pianist Markus Masaites, a reading from former Vancouver poet laureate George Fetherling and a performance of Walt Whitman’s Secret.

“We’ve been able to promote queer acceptance through our plays while also creating quality live theatre, advancing new and emerging artistic voices, providing channels for voices that have historically been marginalized and engaging in a way that reflects the incredible diversity of the city we live in. And sometimes we’ve been able to achieve all of this simultaneously, all at once,” says Chris Gatchalian, artistic director since 2012. Gatchalian has been onboard since 2009, when the company was still known by its previous name, Screaming Weenies Productions.

The frank has also become known for its work around difficult issues like racism within queer communities, which is highlighted by its young performers’ program called Telling It Bent, while still greatly recognized for gracing the stage with memorable works. Its reach has branched to Vancouver suburbs such as Richmond and North Vancouver, and further east to Toronto and Winnipeg. Productions have also been mounted in bars, nightclubs, on sidewalks and even on iPods.

Gatchalian hopes the frank gets a space of its own in the near future. “One thing we have pegged as a priority for the longer term is a performance and administration space that we can call our own, and that can also serve as a live, physical hub for Vancouver’s queer community,” he says. “We need more such spaces in our city.”

But for now, a celebratory space is on the horizon. To fully fathom the impact of the frank, we take a look back at some of the company’s most illustrious productions:

The Bacchae — An Electronic Opera

In 2005, a story of the battle between suffocating restraint and destructive debauchery took the stage as a Screaming Weenies production. It was a retelling of Euripides’ tragedy which was backed by driving tribal house beats composed and live-mixed by Tracey Draper, and featured performances by some of Vancouver’s best underground MCs and R&B and spoken word performers.

Falling In Time

Premiering in 2011, this finalist for a Lambda Literary Award found critical acclaim for its powerful script, which poignantly explored love, masculinity and the ravages of war. Centred on a non-stereotypical Asian gay man and his Caucasian lover, Falling In Time eventually became the frank’s biggest hit to date with record-breaking houses for the company.

Ga Ting

This play was performed in both English and Cantonese, and originally ran in 2014 with a revival in March 2016 with a refreshed script. In it, a Chinese couple struggles to come to terms with the death of their son, Kevin, when they invite his Caucasian boyfriend over for dinner. Issues such as cross-cultural differences and sexual racism are touched upon in what has been lauded as a Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner with a queer, tragic Asian twist.

Miss Understood

This play is the tale of Antonette Rea and her journey from a suburban middle-class father to a drug-addicted, brutalized sex worker in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Written by and featuring Rea herself, Miss Understood was a popular success when it showed at the 2016 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. The play was recently showcased at FemFest in Winnipeg in September 2016.