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Thrillers, fear, sex—and masturbating to Princess Leia

With close to a million audience members during its long history, 64 Dora nominations, 25 wins, and the distinction of being the largest and longest-running queer theatre in the world, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre has a lot to be proud of.

Its 36th season of queer programming promises to excite, titillate and continue to define the parameters of queer theatre and identity, carrying on a tradition of expanding definitions of queerness. And the 2014/15 season fulfills the company’s thirst for powerful new queer work.

 

“If you distill everything down, it’s freedom for all people to just be who they need to be,” says artistic director Brendan Healy. In the upcoming season this need to be, and let be, ranges from a group of women struggling with breast cancer, to orgasms prompted by Star Wars characters, a lesbian divorce, and the haunting quest of a young man in rural Quebec as he discovers the horror and the beauty that violent homophobia can embody as it struggles with intense erotic desire and socially constructed hatred.

FREDA AND JEM’S BEST OF THE WEEK
Playwright Lois Fine takes on lesbian marriage with heartwarming familial insight and examines gender roles and the ways in which butch/femme relationships have evolved. Brendan Healy sees the script as a testament to changing views surrounding gender identity.

“The play is also about the disappearance of butch culture; the butch character is asking herself if trans might have been her thing,” says Healy. Lois Fine gives a heartfelt analysis of being butch in one of Jem’s speeches: “Us butches, we recognize each other on the street, but we don’t say anything. That would be like breaking the butch code. But there’s something—it’s in the eyes, a look that passes between us—and we wonder in that moment about each other. What happened to you? Did you find someone to love you?

Did you let her touch you deep down inside? Did you manage to hang on to her? Or did she leave you in the dust with her name on your tongue?”

Freda and Jem’s Best of the Week. To Oct 5.

THE FEMME PLAYLIST
“It’s about embodying—without apology—the femininity that’s often shut down and silenced in societies around the world,”  says creator/performer Catherine Hernandez, an artist who brings a unique, diverse strength to femininity. “As a queer femme of colour and single mama, I embody what is raped, what is impoverished, what is oppressed, and I do so through my self-adornment and display of my sexuality with the clear message that I am unstoppable; that my song will be sung by me and my sisters proudly.”

Humour and music play a strong part in this 45-minute tour de force. At one point in the show, Hernandez eroticizes her childhood discovery of her own queerness: “I was masturbating thinking about Luke Skywalker, but what made me orgasm was the thought of Princess Leia.”

THE FEMME PLAYLIST runs Oct 10-25.

BLOOD WEDDING
Queer Spanish playwright and poet Federico Garcia Lorca’s iconic 1932 script, Blood Wedding, tackles themes similar to Michel Marc Bouchard’s Tom at the Farm. Healy sees the script as a fiercely poetic text.

“Sexuality, and how society gets in the way of it, reveals how desire can be an alienating and destructive force,” says Healy. He refers to the beauty of a monologue delivered by a character personifying the moon as a prime example of the play’s searing powerful poetic message: “Who can escape? Who sobs in the valley’s tangle? The moon leaves a knife behind in the air… that seeks blood’s cry… so my cheeks this night…. Who’s that hiding! Speak out! No! There’s no escape!”

Blood Wedding (directed by Soheil Parsa). March 11-29

THE STRONGER VARIATIONS
Creator/director Allyson McMackon takes Strindberg’s play The Stronger and explodes the misogyny at the core of the original text. Healy sees the production as “a really special blend of theatre and dance.”

The strength of friendships forged between women flows through the piece as it examines issues surrounding marriage and family betrayal. Performed by an intergenerational cast of five women, McMackon’s script explores the nature of loyalty, feminine rage and what it means to be a strong woman.

Says McMackon: “Theatre Rusticle is an alternative theatre company that forges a community that is expansive and inclusive, this time with a little ‘Christmas play’ that challenges all the supposed to bes of the holidays and ourselves.”

THE STRONGER VARIATIONS runs from Nov 26-Dec 7

TOM AT THE FARM
“Homosexuals learn to lie before they learn to love, we are courageous mythomaniacs.”
So writes acclaimed French-Canadian playwright Michel Marc Bouchard in the preface to his edgy thriller Tom at the Farm.  

Director Eda Holmes sees the script as a tender look at painful humanity. “The play is a terrifying dream where the main character’s naiveté drives him to connect with the family of his dead lover only to find the dark world of rural hatred,” says Holmes. Healy is excited that Holmes and Bouchard approached Buddies for the English language premiere. “The nexus of fear and sex is always of interest to me, where these two drives meet,” Healy says. In the French language film version of the play, that harrowing sense of men loving and hating each other at the same time plays itself out in beautiful and haunting ways.

Tom at the Farm (translated by Linda Gaboriau). April 11 to May 10.

SPIN
Rob Ford might like to take a crack at attending one of the performances of Evalyn Parry’s Spin where he might just learn a bit more about the importance of bicycle culture in an urban centre. The re-mount of Parry’s popular solo show, with a live cello player, intertwines personal and political liberation, and how the bicycle connects the two. One song reveals the clever mixture of sung verse and political import: “You can’t ride a bike in 30 pounds of petticoats, you don’t have a voice in a democracy without a vote, a wheel would collapse if it wasn’t for the spokes.” The script uses the metaphor of the bicycle wheel and its accompanying spokes as an example of individual parts working together to create a larger communal force through strong feminist principles. Says Parry, “I think the bike is such an important symbol of alternative culture, of  liberation, autonomy, self-determination, power and fun.”

Spin runs Nov 19-23   

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