Tag Archives: theatre

Homos on the Range

{Calgary Gay History Project’s Tereasa Maillie is working on a memorable history event – one night only – Friday, December 4th at Loft 112 – read the press release below and we hope you can join us – Kevin}

Supposedly, lightning never strikes twice in the same spot. But after 21 years apart, Calgary actors Barry Thorson and Steve Gin are challenging that notion.

In 1994, Thorson and Gin self-produced Harry Rintoul’s searing AIDS drama Brave Hearts, set atypically in the back yard of a party in Saskatoon. Equally uncharacteristic for the time were the play’s blue collar characters: a bitter, closeted seismologist and an openly gay ranch hand.

“At the time, AIDS was still a white-collar crime,” reflects Gin, who played the wise-cracking, Glen

Campbell-loving ranch hand GW. “Most of the AIDS dramas at that time were about well-to-do White gay men who lived in New York, San Francisco or Fire Island. AIDS – let along gay men – were still an invisible presence on the prairies.”

“These (characters) are people that an Alberta or a prairie audience identify with readily and understand,” adds Thorson. “They’re so down-to-earth, which I think is very appealing.”

On the evening of December 4 as part of events honoring World AIDS Day, Brave Hearts receives a staged reading at Calgary’s Loft 112 in Calgary’s East Village, with Thorson and Gin back in the saddle as GW and Rafe. A panel discussion follows, with representatives from the Calgary Gay History Project, HIV Community Link and Chromatic Theatre participating.

Brave Hearts first opened at Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in 1991 at a time when a diagnosis of AIDS was still considered a death sentence for many. Three years later, the prognosis wasn’t much better when the play premiered in Calgary at The Pumphouse Theatres. The actors rehearsed at the AIDS Calgary offices, and resource personnel from the organization facilitated talkbacks after each performance. Critical response to the production was positive, with the Calgary Herald proclaiming it “an act of courage.”

teatro berdache

“AIDS claimed a lot of the people we got to know through that show,” remembers Gin. “But others we came to know, especially the ones who were just recently diagnosed, are still here. They’re fine. And that’s so encouraging.”

So why revisit the show two decades later?

First and foremost, it’s a great script, garnering a Dora Mavor Moore Award nomination in its Toronto production. And for both actors in the Calgary production, there’s a feeling that people need to be reminded of the impact of AIDS in the community, especially the younger generation of gay youth who never witnessed its devastation first-hand.

Gin went on to helm Teatro Berdache, which ran professional productions in Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal from 2000 to 2008. This year, it re-emerged as an interdisciplinary arts facilitator, running the successful Warhol-inspired Factory 112 series at Loft 112.

“We’re definitely older and greyer than we were in 1994,” laughs Gin. “And there’s no damn way we could ever pull this off onstage, ‘cause the characters are 26 and 31. “

“But so much of this play is about loneliness, and the need to reconnect. And I think that’s gonna resonate even more now, especially when the audience has a chance to talk about it with us afterward in the intimate space of the reading.”

Factory 112: Lonesome Cowboys & Brave Hearts runs for one night only at #112, 535 – 8th Avenue SE on Friday, December 4, 2015. Doors open at 7 pm with a 7:30 pm start. Admission is by donation, with all proceeds going to support HIV Community Link. Find the Facebook Event: here.

Borderland: Gay Iranian Fringe Show comes to Calgary

Izad Etemadi, a 23-year old Iranian-Canadian, will be featured at this year’s Calgary Fringe Festival with his one-man play, Borderland, August 3 – 10th.

Borderland Image

Contemporary Iran is a dangerous place for queer people.  It is one of a handful of countries currently with the death penalty for being a convicted homosexual, and has conducted widely condemned public executions in recent history.  Not surprisingly, homosexuality is driven deeply underground in Iran, and many flee the country to seek refugee status in the West.

Although Izad grew up in Canada, he grew curious about how his life might have been in Iran.  “My parents often remind me how lucky I am to live in Canada, not only being gay but even working as an artist would not have been possible,” he explains.

Borderland tells the story of Navid, a gay Iranian man running from himself and his home. He arrives at Borderland – a secret hiding place – in search of acceptance. There he meets Leila and Zia (also played by Izad) and the drama unfolds.  Borderland has received critical acclaim, described as a Tour De Force in its current run at the Hamilton Fringe Festival.

“Many audience members have been quite moved by the play, at least the ones I have talked to.  When I started researching the play online, I found people living like me in Iran had really horrifying lives.  Yet many people do not realize how scary and dangerous it is over there,” Izad remarks.

Although Canadian audiences might feel relief that they do not suffer these indignities, similar threats, incarceration and legalized discrimination of homosexuals is part of our collective past as late as the 1960s.  Similarly there were executions of gay men in the British common law system, which included the Dominion of Canada until the death penalty was removed in 1861.

Izad remains hopeful that progressive social change can spread, noting the changes that are occurring in the United States.  He also wants to sensitize his audiences to the fact that Canada is playing an important role in the resettling of those who are fleeing Iran.

A Toronto-based charity, the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees (IRQR), exists to support Iranian queers around the world.   The organization supports Iranian queer refugees from when they decide to leave Iran until they resettle in a safe country, and have affected the outcomes of hundreds of lives.  IRQR’s name is inspired by the underground railroad: an informal network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th century black slaves in the United States to escape to Canada with the aid of abolitionists who were sympathetic to their cause.

Izad says, “One of my biggest fears was the response to my play from the Iranian-Canadian community, but I have been overwhelmed by their support and their pride in my work.  One day, I would love to go to Iran myself, but currently it is not possible: I would have to do three years military service and if [the government] Googled me they probably would not like what they’d see.”

He concludes, “This has been my first time writing anything, and I have produced and put together the whole play myself.  It has been the biggest growing experience for me as a person – and one of the coolest summers I have had.”


A Trans Pioneer Making Excellent Theatre at the High Performance Rodeo

Belgian artist Vanessa Van Durme is in Calgary this week performing in her autobiographical play, Look Mummy, I’m Dancing, at the High Performance Rodeo.

One Yellow Rabbit presents: Look Mummy, I’m Dancing

The play is a heartfelt monologue that leaves the viewer with a lingering insight into her life as a transsexual woman; leaving an artistic impression of both the pain and triumph it caused her.  Born male in 1948, Van Durme struggled with her gender identity, coming into conflict with her parents and society at large.  As a young adult, she turned to prostitution in order to survive in an ignorant and marginalizing society.

However in 1975, her life took a turn when she travelled to Morocco to undergo a sex change operation.  The operation was conducted at the Clinique Du Parc, in Casablanca, which for decades was a spot of international pilgrimage for those suffering from “gender disphoria syndrome.”

Clinque du Parc was founded by Dr. Georges Burou, an innovator and pioneer of modern male-to-female sex reassignment surgery.  He invented the technique in 1956, and by the time Van Durme had her surgery the clinic had performed more than 3000 operations.

British born April Ashley (née George Jamieson) underwent the gender reassignment surgery at Clinique Du Parc in 1960 and found herself later in high-profile divorce proceedings with her aristocratic husband. The case hinged on a court deciding her gender and caused ripples through the Commonwealth.  Her husband was successful in nullifying their marriage by establishing that she was not legally a woman (whose precedent in England did not get overturned until 2004’s Gender Recognition Act).

Clinique Du Parc had Canadian patients as well.  In the early 1970’s, Canadian Provinces struggled to amend their vital statistics laws to allow transsexuals to change gender on their birth certificates – controversial in its day.  Alberta amended their Vital Statistics Act in 1973 to allow post-operative trans-sexual persons to be able to change their birth certificates.

I will be interviewing Van Durme about her artistic practice this evening at 6:30 PM in the Laycraft Lounge, EPCOR CENTRE for the Performing Arts, 225 8th Ave SE (2nd floor).  Please come out to this free event.