Tag Archives: Calgary Herald

It Gets Louder: YYC’s Proud Theatre History

{Kevin is on a book tour currently in Toronto and Ottawa – check out dates/times: here!}

I was fortunate to be invited to the opening night of The Louder We Get. The musical is Theatre Calgary’s exploration of a true story, which was precedent-setting for the LGBTQ2 human rights struggle in Canada. The Louder We Get portrays the 2002 battle between high school student Marc Hall and the Durham Catholic School Board. The drama inherent in the story is whether Marc will be able to take his boyfriend to prom. His legal case made Canadian and international headlines – and he won – making for a triumphant ending. The long-standing ovation and visibly moved audience at opening night augers well for a long-life for The Louder We Get: go see it!

Louder Cast

The artists of The Louder We Get celebrating on Opening Night

Calgary’s theatre community has been brave historically in showcasing gay stories, even when there was public hostility to their staging. Furthermore, the theatre was one of the earliest safe places for gay people to find work and also be open about their lives. For example, Ken McBane, a Theatre Calgary set designer was one of the five founders of Calgary’s Club Carousel in 1970. It was Ken who came up with the circus-themed look of the Club, and the Carousel was the site of many performances of musicals, plays, and stage-nights.

Roger Perkins

A “Stage Night” at Club Carousel circa 1972

The Loose Moose Theatre Company, founded in 1977, was an early adopter of gay content in Calgary. In March 1980, it co-produced with Gay Information and Resources Calgary (GIRC), Fortune and Men’s Eyes at the Pumphouse Theatre.

Fortune and Men’s Eyes is a play set in a Canadian prison for youth and deals with society’s injustice towards gay people. Written in Canada’s Centennial Year, 1967, by John Herbert, the play shocked audiences and helped force Canadian society to acknowledge the existence and rights of homosexuals.

In 1991, Theatre Calgary presented a highly lauded production of playwright David Stevens’ The Sum of Us. Described as frank, funny and touching, the play explored the relationship between a widowed father and his gay son, set in a working-class suburb of Melbourne, Australia.

Theatre Calgary secured impressive talent for their production. Gordon Pinsent played the widower Harry, and Ted Atherton, his son Jeff. Theatre director Eric Steiner was engaged to bring The Sum of Us to the Canadian stage. Steiner, who came to Calgary, via Stratford, Chicago and Toronto had worked with Theatre Calgary before, directing The Normal Heart in 1986, one of the first plays about AIDS ever presented in the city.

Playwright Stevens was on the record that the Theatre Calgary production was the finest his play had been given. And Calgary audiences liked it too; the show tripled its expected revenues at the box office. Theatre Calgary then leveraged its success and opened the play in Toronto that November at the Bathurst Street Theatre for an open-ended commercial run.

The gay play that attracted the most controversy in Calgary was Alberta Theatre Projects (ATP) staging of Angels in America in 1996. Before even opening, the play attracted a wagonload of controversy. “Why are taxpayers still having to hand over hundreds of thousands of dollars to a company that stages a self-indulgent production many feel is abhorrent? It is simply not right,” expressed the Calgary Sun.

Calgary-Shaw Tory MLA Jon Havelock suggested that plays offending community standards should not receive public funding. He added, “It seems to me that in some instances people confuse sexual expression with artistic expression.” Calgary-Fish Creek Tory MLA Heather Forsyth called Angels obscene and about ATP said: “If they can’t come up with better shows than this, maybe they shouldn’t be getting funding.”

There were heartfelt published defenses of Angels in America too. A well-known educator, Dariel Bateman, wrote a guest column in the Calgary Herald. She described the play as: “a glorious opportunity to stare down despair, to make sense of things, as we must.”

Ultimately, ATP found themselves rewarded. The controversy put extra bums in seats and attracted almost $50,000 in individual “Angels Consortium” donations. The play doubled expected ticket revenues and was sold out in its final weeks—setting audience records for the company.

{KA}

One year later #OurPastMatters

Our Past Matters launched one year ago today at the Central Library. I wanted to take a moment to thank readers, history buffs, and Calgary Gay History Project supporters for their positive embrace.

Here are some highlights from the book’s year.

On November 22, 2018, hundreds of Calgarians attended the book launch and filled the Central Library’s Theatre with warmth and enthusiasm for queer history.

Noel photo

Book launch at the Calgary Central Library: Photo Noel Bégin

Our Past Matters stayed on the Calgary Herald’s non-fiction best seller’s list for months, eventually hitting #1 in February 2019.

Thank you Number one

From the Calgary Herald – February 2, 2019

The University of Calgary’s Joe Kadi selected Our Past Matters as a course textbook for his spring class: LGBTQ+ Social Change History: From Stonewall to CalgaryIn June, we were invited to attend a lecture. It was a genuine honour to receive insightful questions and pertinent observations about the book from this group of engaged readers.

In September the Our Past Matters received national attention when the Calgary Gay History Project made the shortlist for the 2019 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Community Programming. (We just learned that we were not selected for the award, but remain grateful to have been given the nod).

GovernorGenerals-History-Award

So, it has been an absolutely lovely year. Upcoming plans for Our Past Matters include the imminent launch of the e-book edition and a book tour to a handful of Canadian cities in the New Year. (As a preview of touring, we just went to Fort Macleod’s inaugural Get Lit! festival last weekend and had such fun meeting local readers and pride organizers). Thank you again for believing in the Calgary Gay History Project and making Our Past Matters a “good read.”

Kevin @ shelflife

StarMetro Cover Story by Madeline Smith – December 3, 2018

{KA}

Wishing you a restful holiday!

2018 has been quite the year for the Calgary Gay History Project. A film. A book. A residency at the new Central Library. Thanks to Calgary readers, Our Past Matters hit the number two spot in the Calgary Herald’s best-sellers list this week.

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Calgary Herald Non-Fiction Bestsellers: Dec. 22, 2018

I am truly grateful for all of the support of the History Project and the warm reception the book received. I am wishing everyone a joy-filled (and restful) holiday season and a very Happy New Year.

Our Past Matters Cover santa

Merry Xmas

As a final website post for 2018, I thought I would share some images of Calgary gay history in Christmases past. It evokes for me, a line I used in the book: “We were here, and we always have been.”

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Myrt’s was a gay bar located at 808 9 Ave. SW
Modern Pink Xmas
Modern Pink was a publication that grew out of Lesbian and Gay Youth Calgary (LGYC)
Clue! Xmas
Clue! Magazine was published in Calgary from 1992-1995.

 {KA}