It would be natural to think that the Fringe Festival (fringe def: not part of the mainstream, unconventional, peripheral) would have its fair share of queer artists (queer def: odd, strange) to contribute to the longevity and depth of Winnipeg’s (Winnipeg def: medium size city in the heart of the prairies home to numerous talented artists) version of this performance festival. So we asked the 2012 Fringe Festival organizers who are the queer artists and productions involved in this year’s milestone festival; 25 years is worth celebrating. The organizers quickly produced an impressive list that we at OutWords are proud to put forward to you. We apologize for any omissions, but we do not apologize for highlighting talented members of our community and their contributions to our artistic powerhouse city. And may I suggest: come out and enjoy the Fringe!
THE SHOW: Body Language
WHO IS INVOLVED: local sketch comedy troupe Hot Thespian Action
WHAT’S IT ABOUT: a series of three-minute vignettes has way too much content to condense into a few sentences. With no props, costumes or sets, Hot Thespian Action rely on their physicality to present various scenes that will make you react out loud… most often through laughter. Past sketches included a gay best-friend musical number, an awkward travel planning conversation between two married couples, and a recreation of Caesar’s famed assassination.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: Young and queer aside, Garth and Ryan are among Winnipeg’s best current crop of stage performers. And they are serious about being funny. The slightly less queer but equally talented girls of Hot Thespian Action (Jaquie, Shanon and Jane) should not go unmentioned, either. All have honed their acting and comedy skills to the point where they are highly marketable. Proof exists in the TV pilot they are currently writing, as well as performances alongside Allan Thicke at this year’s Winnipeg Comedy Festival. In other words… go see them now, as Canada is about to discover Winnipeg’s not so secret funny bone.
THE SHOW: Pilgrimage: Why I’m not an Indian
WHO IS INVOLVED: Written and performed by Elaine Magree, directed by Rebecca Fisher, developed with David Ford.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT: A 60-year-old mixed-heritage intrepid lesbian women attempts to untangle her story. Profound self examinations from this self-described turkey-baster mom, provides ironic insights on family and social dysfunctions. The process allows the audience to laugh at what life often offers us as the story is held together with sentiments of love and hope.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: The truth and reconciliation committee asked all Manitobans to understand the impact of residential schools. I’m not sure this play is what Justice Sinclair had in mind, but with a play so rich in history and politics, I’m sure it can’t hurt.
THE SHOW: Fishbowl
WHO IS INOLVED: Written and performed by Mark Shyzer, directed by Evalyn Parry, produced by Sarah Olmstead.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT: A one-man performance showcasing four different characters that offer a slice of their existence. The four people may not meet on stage, but common threads can be drawn between the gawky schoolgirl, the angst-filled teenager, the gin-soaked divorcee and the acerbic octogenarian. True-to-life struggles, complicated relationships and sexual orientation feed some of the dialogue in Fishbowl.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: The show grew out of a series of one-off character monologues written and performed at Queer Cab, a monthly youth open mic, and eventually premiered at Buddies in Toronto a few years ago. This will be the first showing at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival.
THE SHOW: Strange Dreamz
WHO IS INVOLVED: Kevin J Thornton
WHAT’S IT ABOUT: Stream of consciousness standup comedy from a queer artist is bound to have a few elements that resonate with each of us. Take your pick of topics: AIDS, ‘90s hip hop groups, sexting, straight guy sex toys and Lady Gaga.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: Kevin was born in Fort Knox and raised on the Indiana/Kentucky border – this guy is bound to cross boundaries with the purpose to make you laugh. His bio states that he chose “cocks over Christ”… so some of you are bound to agree with the choices he makes in his comedy routine.
THE SHOW: Lulu: A Monster Tragedy
WHO IS INVOLVED: Little Echo Theatre
WHAT’S IT ABOUT: This is an adaptation that maintains all the “racy German stuff” from the original script. Which is good, because Lulu is a prostitute who climbs the social ladder by keeping the company of men who are easily infatuated with her. But it’s not only men who are infatuated with Lulu… and these relationships are amply tackled as well.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: Classics exist for a reason. Drama classics with a lesbian twist are rare. A good combo to motivate you not to miss out.
THE SHOW: Pretending Things are a Cock
WHO IS INVOLVED: Jon Bennett
WHAT’S IT ABOUT: The title says it ll. It’s a photographic journey, so if you want more, Google it, or walk around your neighbourhood spotting things that could become your cock. Aussie accented Jon does provide the narrative to his walk about and in such, this comedy is somewhat framed.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: The show has been performed in Melbourne, Adelaide, Montreal, Vancouver and Edmonton to positive reviews, proving that people everywhere have a boyish fascination with their cocks. Or, as Jon hinted … for some strange reason gay men really seem to enjoy the subject of this play. Duh!
THE SHOW: Redhead Stepchild
WHO IS INVOLVED: Written and performed by Johnie Walker, directed by Morgan Norwich
WHAT’S IT ABOUT: A contemporary take on Anne of Green Gables. A student is bullied at school for having red hair… but this time it’s a boy and it’s set in contemporary times. This means themes such as same-sex crushes on your English/theatre teacher can be explored. The play can also utilize references to Facebook, X-Men action figures, juice boxes and many other contemporary cultural staples for teenagers.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: As part of an ongoing dialogue on gay bullying, this play gives a voice to the redheaded teenager. If people around the world still read about Anne of Green Gables, why can’t Canada offer a queer red-headed boy with something worthwhile to hear in 2012?
THE SHOW: Threads: The True Story of an Indiana Farm Girl in Vietnam
WHO IS INVOLVED: Written and performed by bisexual artist Tonya Jone Miller
WHAT’S IT ABOUT: A true story about the parents of the author. The play highlights risks associated with an American women and a Vietnamese man sharing a life while these countries were at war. Taking a unique perspective of an American women travelling to Vietnam alone and facing scenarios most fictional writers aren’t capable of imagining.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: This will be the first performance of Threads at a Canadian festival. It creates an argument that true stories are more dramatic than fiction.
THE SHOW: Against the Wall
WHO IS INVOLVED: Prairie Q Productions
WHAT’S IT ABOUT: Themes such as bullying and gay males coming of age will be part of the many stories presented in this piece that is inspired by real events. A collective work in writing and performance, this small group offers up a Greek approach to theatre story telling.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: Prairie Q Productions is a project from Adam Jennings that seeks to tell the stories from the LGBT community. And utilizing playwright Primrose Madayag Knazan guarantees solid content.
THE SHOW: The Distance Between Trees
WHO IS INVOLVED: Written by Harry Rintoul and Chantele Fry
WHAT’S IT ABOUT: Human struggle, human triumph. Set in Riding Mountain Park, it’s a dialogue-rich play that seeks to examine different ways we deal with trauma and positive events in our lives.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: Commissioned to mark the 25th anniversary of the Fringe, and the 10th anniversary of the Rintoul award, it will be featured by the festival.
– Eric Plamondon is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer.