Tarndeep Pannu writes, The DART Mainstage talkback is an integral part of the mandate of our Dramatic Arts degree. It brings the praxis element of theatre, the...
By Alex Jackson
“A queer and trans-gender guide to help the survival of the quirkiest!” That’s how upcoming graduates of Brock’s Dramatic Arts Department describe their performance piece about LGBTQ issues, Awkward and Uncomfortable, coming out to Brock University on April 16th! Students in the fourth-year class DART 4F56 have been working very hard since September developing this original piece that dives into the difficult, inconvenient truth of how society perpetuates negative gender and queer-based stereotypes.
Professor Gyllian Raby teaches the class and has been working with student Sean Rintoul as assistant director. Rintoul, who is also a fellow DARTcritic, took some time out of the production’s technical rehearsals to offer insights on the show:
Alex: Getting to the easy question first, what is this piece of theatre?
Sean: The only thing I could say, it is a mash-up of different styles of theatre. I call it immersive theatre with mix of physical theatre, live music, spoken word poetry, and sprinkles of Brecht.
Alex: Why Brecht?
Sean: We have to subvert a lot of tropes that we bring up. A lot of plays in fringe festivals tend to victimize the queer population. We’re trying to draw attention to that with a bit of Brecht… we are not trying to stage stereotypes; we’re trying to stage fully fleshed out characters that have multiple levels of conflict.
Alex: How long have you been working on this particular piece?
Sean: We did 12 weeks altogether… six weeks starting at the beginning of the year, in September to October, but then we had to take a break for the [DART] Mainstage. We created a workshop performance that was closed to the public and invited Gyllian’s scholarly friends. Also called Awkward and Uncomfortable, it was much, much shorter [than the final piece], and we got a lot of feedback on that. We came back after the Mainstage in January, looked at the feedback we got, did some rewrites, another round of improvs, and really developed some of the characters that were sponsored by our audience. We also shifted some characters that weren’t really aiding the story we were trying to tell.
Alex: What do you people to leave with after seeing the show?
Sean: We want people to leave with the fact that it’s not just queer people that struggle with identity — it’s everyone at some point in their lives struggling with who we are. Everyone is trying to figure out who they are as they get older. Especially when you’re around the age of 8-10 years old, there is that question of Am I a boy or a girl?. That’s an important issue. I would say one of the core issues we’re touching on especially is trans politics and queer politics. Because of these politics and because of trans theory and queer theory, there is a new wave of human rights these days. Gay rights were back in the ’80s, and that was a huge deal, but queer identity is the new thing. As one of our characters, Eris says, it’s a changing world.
Alex: Can you give an impression of the plot and setting; and your goals for the piece?
Sean: It’s about an imaginary queer bar in St. Catharines and about the battle for safe space for queer people to go to. It also touches the conflict on trying to pass in a heteronormative society. We recognize that identity is such an important issue to look at, surpassing orientation. It’s at the political forefront right now. We really want to represent the queer community as individuals, not victims, as everyday individuals that have multiple layers of conflicts of their own, and we want to stage them as people — not as people that have problems, just other people.
Alex: Anything else you’d like to tell the Niagara community about Awkward and Uncomfortable?
Sean: There’s lots going on at 7 o’clock, so don’t be late!
Come along on the characters’ journey of self-discovery on April 16th-18th at 7 pm in ST107 (Studio Theater), Schmon Tower, Brock Campus. Pay what you can!
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