The importance of a queer scene

This is a first: a new pan-Canadian queer and trans cell for playwriting was launched this year. Objective: renew and above all diversify the theatrical repertoire. With a view, ultimately, to diversifying the offer. Because it is “vital”, argue the instigators of the project, in which a Montreal theater participates. Maintenance.

Where is queer theatre? Where are the plays and, above all, the playwrights from the 2SLGBTQ+ community? This is the basic “selfish” question asked by the artistic director of the Zee Zee Theater in Vancouver, in need of productions, which is at the origin of this unusual initiative (National Queer and Trans Playwriting Unit) .

“Maybe there is an institutional problem: queer theaters don’t find queer plays! “Summarizes Cameron Mackenzie, at the end of the line, whose small theater is devoted exclusively to” stories of diversity “.

“There are a million Canadians who openly identify as queers,” says Cameron Mackenzie. It’s a million people who would benefit from seeing these stories, a million people who need to recognize themselves on stage. It’s good for the soul! »

The fact of not seeing each other is not without consequences. It’s bad for the soul! If we don’t provide more representation, we are actively hurting these populations.

Cameron Mackenzie, Artistic Director of Zee Zee Theatre, Vancouver

Hence the idea, supported in particular by the Canada Council for the Arts and the TD Bank, to launch a call for applications across the country (in English only) from emerging and non-emerging authors last spring. Ultimately, five candidates will be chosen, supervised, followed up (via Zoom) and above all paid (a luxury, when you know the precariousness of the industry), and this, for ten months. The names of the winners will be known in the fall.

The participating theaters (ten in total, including the Buddies in Bad Times Theater in Toronto, the Neptune Theater in Halifax and Imago Théâtre in Montreal) have also committed to produce the plays resulting from the project. If we hope that the program will be recurring, nothing is certain for the moment.

“We didn’t hesitate, we said yes right away,” reacts Micheline Chevrier, artistic director of Imago Théâtre. It must be said that the initiative is perfectly in line with the “values” and the “mission” of its own feminist theater, with its notorious militancy.

We, too, seek to establish equality, or fair representation, on our stages. That’s why this project falls perfectly into our values.

Micheline Chevrier, artistic director of Imago Théâtre

As we know, “there is a predominance of the male voice on stages all over the world. It’s international. A mainly white representation, especially hetero, and we have been trying to establish a better representation for a long time, ”recalls the one who took over from Imago in 2013 (and who bows out in the fall) for him give this feminist turn. “But you still have to have works to present! »

It is that there is a sacred “vicious circle”, she believes. “How can a community be encouraged to develop if it cannot be seen, if it does not recognize itself in theatres? »

Big names in Quebec

Certainly, in Quebec, distinct society obliges, we already have, and for a long time, big names from the gay community mounted on our most prestigious stages. We think of Michel Tremblay, of course, or Michel Marc Bouchard. “But Michel Tremblay’s theater is not necessarily seen that way,” believes the artistic director. Above all, it was revolutionary in terms of Quebec identity and Montreal identity. »

As for Michel Marc Bouchard, it’s a name, a vision, “but the idea is to allow theaters to have more choice”, continues Micheline Chevrier. “Not to always be in the same conversation. But to have diversity within the conversation! The idea is to create diversity within the community! Because it’s true that we have many authors [au Québec], but that does not mean that there is a great diversity of representations. »

And why is this famous “diversity” so essential, by the way? “Because when you present works whose perspective is less well known, you enter a universe that you don’t know,” replies Micheline Chevrier. Your understanding of the world expands. It creates empathy. From the understanding of differences, fear is eliminated, and prejudices are eliminated. The idea is to really understand everyone’s perspective. »

And in doing so, she concludes, “theatre, for me, and art in general, is thus an instrument that can change the world”. One piece at a time.

The opinion of the CEAD

Beware of “amalgams”, however warns Sara Dion, dramaturgical adviser at the Center for Dramatic Authors (CEAD). “Queer subjects, there are still quite a few, queer artists too. We must be careful not to have expectations that queer people necessarily write about queer issues! Certainly, she agrees, it is true that there are more queer men than lesbian women or non-binary people who sign theater texts today. And no, the “queerization is not performed on all stages in Quebec. “But a changing of the guard in different artistic directions is likely to shake things up,” she believes.

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