With queer-themed plays and performances now a fixture on stages across the country, what do we mean when we talk about “queer theatre and performance in Canada?” How might we sum up the state of the field: where we have been; where we are now; and where we are going? This conference and workshop event, to be held at Simon Fraser University’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts in downtown Vancouver from July 21-24, 2016, and timed to coincide with the frank theatre company’s Clean Sheets Reading Series, will attempt to answer these and related questions by bringing together leading artists, academics, activists, producers, curators,
and critics for a series of provocative roundtable discussions and staged readings of new work.
The starting point for our conversations will be an interrogation of the very terms that make up our conference title. In our post-(post?)identity politics 21st century, what aesthetic and political traction is
to be gained—if any—in retaining the label “queer” to describe contemporary theatre and performance practice made under the LGBTTQ banner? In a country as regionally, linguistically, and culturally diverse as
Canada, can one even adequately account for all of the material produced under such a label? And in a performance landscape increasingly crowded with ever more queer idioms (burlesque, cabaret, stand-up), does the gay- or lesbian-themed play seem impossibly quaint? In short, where is here now? And is here still queer?
Conference and workshop presenters are invited to explore these questions in relation to some of the following possible topics:
· History: What is Canada’s queer dramatic heritage? Does it make sense, in 2016, to speak of a queer theatrical canon in this country? If so, who would be included? What other voices still need to be
recovered? What archival projects have been—or need to be—undertaken to document and preserve past work by queer companies and artists in this country? What are some of the more important stories we would find in such archives?
· Geography: Does Canada’s de facto literary and cultural regionalism apply to queer theatre and performance as well? To what extent does place—including the urban/rural divide—continue to define the content of and audiences for queer live art in this country? What are the impediments to touring work produced by queer artists/companies? How much cultural transfer/collaboration takes place between queer theatre-makers in English Canada and their counter-parts in Quebec? And/or are all of these questions rendered obsolete via the globalized/financialized/festivalized international performance circuit for art—queer or otherwise?
· Economics: Money, money, money: who has it, who wants it, and how does one get it? As public funding for art and culture in Canada shrinks generally, how has this specifically impacted queer theatre and
performance? What kind of corporate, public/private, and/or crowd-sourced funding models are producers turning to in order to fill the gap? Relatedly, can we make any correlations between diminished budgets and
the kind and quality of material we are now seeing on stages? Why is it important to do the basic statistical analysis and forensic number-crunching to answer these questions?
· Politics: In an era of same-sex marriage, anti-retrovirals, and sex-positive anti-bullying campaigns, what does Canadian queer performance still need to get angry about? Is there a danger in becoming too
complacent? How might the history of grassroots queer activism be allied to other pressing causes, including environmentalism, First Nations rights, (trans*)gender equity, homelessness, the decriminalization of
· Equity: Like most in North America and Western Europe, Canadian theatres continue to remain predominantly white and male and able-bodied—both in terms of the folks on stage, and those behind the scenes. How has queer theatre and performance in Canada, historically, responded to the challenge of gender and cultural diversity? What still needs to be done? And what specific productions/festivals/collaborations/events might speak generatively to these questions?
· Aesthetics: What characterizes the kinds of queer performance being made in Canada today? How do we assess a work of dramatic naturalism alongside the spectacle of “boylesque,” or Nina Arsenault’s Silicone
Diaries, or the retro-media storytelling of Daniel Barrow? Is contemporary Canadian queer performance nationally distinctive? If so, how?
· Technology: How have new media technologies changed queer theatre and performance in Canada, both in terms of the production and dissemination of new work? Who are the performers and companies who are
embracing this technology and using it most cannily? And, how, specifically are they making the technology queer?
· Criticism: How has queer Canadian theatre and performance historically been received and what new work/performers are being anointed today? As arts reporting in print journalism continues to decrease, how
have the blogosphere and social media changed the critical landscape for queer theatre and performance? How has the academic discourse also evolved? What studies are being produced and what material is being
taught in university classrooms?
· Industry: Who are the major players (actors/performers, writers, producers) in Canadian queer theatre and performance today? Where are they being trained, where are they showcasing their work, and who is
paying attention? As importantly, who were the mentors and pathbreakers for this current generation?
In order to encourage as much dialogue as possible, the format for the conference will be a series of curated roundtables, each made up of a mix of academics, artists, cultural presenters and critics, etc.
Participants will be asked to submit their completed 8-10 page papers/presentations/manifestos/statements by the end of May 2016, at which point they will be posted to the conference website for everyone to read.
Then, at the conference itself, in lieu of reading their papers, participants will give a brief 5-minute summative statement and response to their fellow panelists’ work, after which things will be opened up to a
general conversation. Finally, each evening will be dedicated to a staged reading/presentation of new work by some of the leading queer artists in the country.
Following the conclusion of the conference, selected participants will be invited to revise and expand their papers for possible inclusion in a dedicated volume to be published by Playwrights Canada Press in 2018
as part of their New Essays in Canadian Theatre series. A companion volume of plays will also be published.
Interested participants should send a short 250-word abstract of their intended presentation to firstname.lastname@example.org, along with a brief bio, by 15 May 2015. We will inform you of your proposal’s acceptance by 15 August 2015, at which point conference organizers will begin the process of applying for additional conference funding. Please note that our ability to fund in full participants’ travel and accommodation costs to Vancouver is contingent on receiving the bulk of this funding. We will inform participants about travel booking procedures by early February 2016 at the latest.
For more information, send enquires to email@example.com.
The Queer Theatre and Performance in Canada Organizing Committee:
Jan Derbyshire, Vancouver and Toronto
Peter Dickinson, Simon Fraser University
Chris Gatchalian, the frank theatre company
Kathleen Oliver, Langara College
Dalbir Singh, University of Toronto
Dr. Peter Dickinson
Department of English
Simon Fraser University
8888 University Drive
Canada V5A 1S6