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QUEER ACTS Theatre Festival seeks to inspire, educate

Halifax Pride continues theatre tradition

by Katie Toth

DaPoPo Theatre: photo by Ashley Marie Pike
DaPoPo Theatre: photo by Ashley Marie Pike

Adam Reid acknowledges that some audiences might be intimidated by Berend McKenzie’s nggrfg.

It has a “provocative title”, he concedes, but “it’s an important message, and [McKenzie] gives the message with humour, poignancy, and real emotion.” Besides, “if we ban these words, if we can’t use them in the discussion of our history…our struggle is forgotten.”

This simultaneous desire to provoke and educate seems to be the driving force behind this year’s Queer Acts Theatre Festival. For three days during Halifax Pride, audiences will have an opportunity to see “quality productions which speak specifically to queer experience”, as Reid describes.  

Clare Waqué is the manager and co-owner of the Bus Stop Theatre, the home of Queer Acts, and is “delighted” to be doing the festival again.  

“The Bus Stop is suited to provide a really important place for the showcasing of marginalised identities that have a home on Gottingen Street” and in the wider community, she says. “There are a lot of issues surrounding racism and homophobia in Nova Scotia…it’s really important to face those head-on and encourage people to deal with their discomfort or feel uncomfortable, and it’s only when you feel uncomfortable that you learn”.

But, some might argue, how uncomfortable is an avant-garde theatre audience going to become? Does a world as gay as theatre really need a festival that speaks specifically to queer experience?  

Waqué thinks so. “We as a theatre community are often isolated from the rest of the community and larger issues, and often appeal to a pretty safe audience.” Within the context of an environment like Queer Acts Theatre Festival comes an opportunity to make art that is unabashedly political.  

Reid also points out the importance of giving local and queer artists “an opportunity to have an environment that is friendly to their needs”. Queer Acts presents queer artists in an environment that celebrates and prioritizes their stories, rather than merely accepting their existence within an entertainment business. 

Within the context of the recent struggle against the de-politicization of Toronto Pride, this seems to mark a contrasting move for Halifax: one wherein Pride Week, and its featured events, remain both fun and relevant. 

However, it’s not just an opportunity for artists. A burgeoning queer audience will be in this city this week, many from rural communities or outside of Halifax. Many people who will be coming in for Pride haven’t seen a lot of great interpretations of queer identities in entertainment, unless they really enjoyed the L Word.

The festival’s push towards showcasing uncomfortable and challenging representations of queerness has resulted in an eclectic and exciting mix of shows. Café DaPoPo, at Menz Bar, challenges the distinction between audience and performer by offering gay-drama menus and waiting on spectator requests. The (sad) Ballad of Oliver Hugh and Company fuses drag kings, burlesque, and the circus arts to create a surrealist romp; Logan and I  is the tale of one man’s memory of his first sexual experiences; and the audaciously named nggrfg is about being a gay black man in a world that, as Berend McKenzie writes, “doesn’t have room for either”.

With this kind of provocative line-up and enthusiastic team, Halifax Pride’s Queer Acts Theatre Festival should be sure to fulfil its mandate of making raw, thought provoking queer art that is both entertaining and enlightening.  

QUEER ACTS Theatre Festival runs from June 20-23 at the Bus Stop Theatre, featuring:
Logan and I, The Doppler Effect, 7:00 
nggrfg, Small Brown Package Productions, 8:oo
The (Sad) Ballad of Oliver Hugh and Company, 10:oo
It also featured a special edition of Café DaPoPo at Menz Bar Monday June 19th. 

Tickets are $15 each ($10 for students, seniors and underwaged); festival passes are available for $30 at Venus Envy.

For advance tickets, email qareservations @ gmail.com.


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Topics: GenderArts
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