Who decides which stories are worth telling?
Are some stories worth more of a telling than others?
How can we ensure everyone’s stories are being told?
Spotting the underrepresentation of works by queer and trans communities, a theatre collective has launched Canada’s first-ever National Queer and Trans Playwriting Unit: a 10-month paid mentorship and play creation programme open to emerging and mid-career LGBTTQ+ playwrights.
Interested artists are invited to submit applications by July 5 2022.
"Theatre in this country — as elsewhere — has been disproportionately dominated by white, Euro-Centric, often also cis-male and hetero modes and voices which, despite being so dominant for so long, actually represent the minority of the global human experience," says Suzie Martin, artistic director at Theatre Projects Manitoba which is part of the consortium.
"We need more well rounded representation because then more people seen and are represented. It’s important to move the conversation towards a place when queer characters are allowed to live a full range of human experience without having to apologize for it."
Led by Vancouver’s Zee Zee Theatre the consortium includes Vancouver’s the frank theatre company, Whitehorse’s Gwaandak Theatre, Theatre Outré in Lethbridge, Saskatoon’s Persephone Theatre,Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Montreal’s Imago Theatre and Neptune Theatre in Halifax.
"As an industry and art form theatres across the country have begun working to correct this imbalance and better reflect all the identities, voices and cultures that make up our population and shared experience," Martin continues.
The national collaboration is a way forward towards true inclusion and equity, championing and elevating diverse communities so they see themselves represented, valued, and celebrated through art, she says.
The consortium will sift through the applications, choosing five successful playwrights to participate in the virtual unit. Each selected artist will be paid a living wage for the ten-month programme, during which they will work as a collaborative cohort and with an assigned dramaturg mentor in a one-on-one relationship.
"It’s really great to have ten different theatre companies that are all collaborating like this. The support is quite extensive for the playwrights. The theatres have committed to produce the shows fully and to be able to say that we are all going to take this on together is really bold move," Martin says.
At the end of the process each artist’s play will be produced as a staged reading by one of the consortium members while the other companies will offer streaming access to their communities. The fully-developed plays will then be performed live and streamed online in September 2023.
"The end result will be five new plays which celebrate and amplify 2SLGBTQ+ voices. Another aspect is that the artist is asked to create a workshop which will be presented to the communities. They get a chance to speak more about their work and more about the process — not just a chance to write the play," Martin says.
One million Canadians who belong to the LGBTTQ+ community do not have adequate opportunities to see themselves, their lives or their families reflected on stage, says Cameron Mackenzie, artistic and executive director of Vancouver’s Zee Zee Theatre.
"We’re at a time when we are becoming way more cognizant about who is missing from the table. Intersectionality is key. Audiences are demanding more diverse stories that represent more diverse experiences.
"For me this is one way to address that. Invest in queer and trans playwrights and they will create roles that require a multitude of lived experiences and the entire ecology can grow together. And when you have more queer and trans work on stages you build more allies in the audience to support queer and trans rights," Mackenzie explains.
"I hope playwrights are able to put forth work that truly reflects their artistry and their individual voice. I expect that will lead to a diverse range of submissions and that is exciting. The Unit is meant for early-mid career playwrights with a specific project in mind. There is a strong will across the country to support your work so keep writing and send it in," Martin says.
Interested applicants should visit Theatre Project Manitoba’s website (www.theatreprojectmanitoba.ca) which details the application materials and process. They can then submit application packages as a single PDF to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Unit Application" in the subject line. The closing date for submissions is July 5 2022.