Dear Mr. Klein: 10th Anniversary Reading & Panel

DSCF0058Dear Mr. Klein: Special 10th Anniversary Reading & Queer Rights Panel

Part of the queerRites Reading Series

Thursday, November 6 at 6:30pm.
At Contemporary Calgary (Stephen Avenue location)
Admission by donation.
Join the FaceBook Event

Dear Mr. Klein was first produced in November 2004 at The Pumphouse Theatres by Teatro Berdache, Calgary’s first gay, lesbian and two spirited theatre ensemble. This 10 year anniversary reading will be followed by a special panel to discuss Alberta’s policies on queer rights and how we are faring as a city and province 10 years after the play premiered and 16 years after the Delwin Vriend decision (see below for more).

Country boy meets city boy in this collision between an openly gay Calgarian and a handsome rural cowboy. Set against the real life events of the pivotal Delwin Vriend decision of 1998, where Alberta was ordered by The Supreme Court of Canada to further protect gays and lesbians in their Human Rights Code because of a teacher being fired for his sexual orientation as a gay man.

This 10yr Anniversary Reading & Panel is coupled with Contemporary Calgary’s Kim Dorland “Homecoming” exhibit running until January 18th, 2015. Dorland’s art reflects many of the poignant formative moments in Kim’s early adulthood in Alberta. The Dear Mr. Klein commemorative reading and panel on queer rights, when set against the Dorland exhibit, highlights and accentuates Dorland’s artistic focus where he pushes the boundaries of representation through exploration of memory, material, nostalgia, identity and place.

Playwright Bruce Chambers originally called his play Dear Mr Klein because he noted that homophobia in Alberta in the early 2000s largely hinged around then Premier Ralph Klein’s public behaviour and stances as an elected official. Klein was somewhat notorious for making threats and in turn giving others permission to think that there was something wrong with gay rights. Chambers (and many others) noticed Klein had instigated a huge hate dialogue−especially on radio talk shows−but was ultimately shown to be hypocritical because he back-peddled his rhetoric immediately when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of Mr. Vriend stating that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had been breached and sexual orientation would now be added to the Alberta Individual Rights Protection Act (IRPA).


DelwinVRIEND vs. ALBERTA: The Delwin Vriend Decision Backstory

The Vriend decision was pivotal to point out that sexual orientation was not part of the Alberta Individual Rights Protection Act (IRPA). Delwin Vriend launched the original lawsuit against Alberta because when he went to argue his right for job protection when after being dismissed because of his sexual orientation, he found that there was no protection for gays and lesbians in the Alberta Individual Rights Protection Act. The case spanned 7 years and the Alberta Government under Klein’s leadership was vocally opposed to having sexual orientation being read into the IRPA. Because of the opposition, the case went to the Supreme Court of Canada. Criticism across the country resounded in sentiments like the following: “It is a sorry day for the Province when the Government of Alberta is so committed to discrimination that it has to be dragged before the highest court in the land rather than extend equality.” Opponents of the Vriend vs. Alberta case were bold enough to argue sentiments such as: “We believe that lying, adultery, fornication, drunkenness are harmful and so is homosexuality…

Finally in 1998, the Supreme Court determined that the Alberta Individual Rights Protection Act violates the federal Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They “read into” the existing law a clause giving equal rights for persons of all sexual orientations. Defeated, Premier Klein did an about-face from his previously vocal opposition to the case and stated, “Right or wrong, I’ve drawn my line in the sand. I’ve said personally I feel good about it. I feel comfortable, that I will accept the ruling. I think it’s wrong, morally wrong, to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.” His about-face was in direct opposition to many of his previous statements.

After the decision was finalized, Albertan anger appeared to be the wide held opinion in the media towards Vriend, Klein and the Supreme Court. The outrage centered around the sentiment that the ruling was intrusive and activist bent and that the courts shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions for politicians. The well-known Dave Rutherford radio program in Calgary covered the ruling, on which responses ranged from, “a prediction that this ruling is the first step on a slippery slope towards moral decrepitude; others said it was a watershed in Alberta’s growth towards a just society; others were angry that unelected judges at the Supreme Court are pushing the province around. Several listeners were particularly distressed because they feel that the ruling will lead to schools teaching tolerance towards gays and lesbians. Many quoted the usual Bible passages often interpreted by conservative Christians as condemning gays and lesbians.”(

Edmonton’s Kings College, Vriend’s former employer, reacted to the ruling by stating, they “have the right to offer employment only to heterosexuals, and to fire homosexuals wherever they are found.” Many conservative religious organizations lobbied for Klein to invoke the notwithstanding clause−a clause that exists to this day that allows governments in Canada to revoke rights and freedoms and has been criticized as making the Charter of Rights nothing more than a scrap of paper−to appeal a reverse in the decision, but Klein refused to budge after the nation criticized the tolerance and equality standards of the Alberta government. In spite of sexual orientation being “read into” the IRPA back in 1998, it wasn’t until 2010 that  the new human rights code for Alberta actually physically had the words “sexual orientation” written into it. 

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X Marks the Spot with Rave Reviews

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 11.41.49 PMX is a “dazzling, unique, creative and innovative…a show conceived, created and performed by a gay artist but its reach and appeal are universal.” – Louis B. Hobson, Calgary Sun

Click here to see the shining 4 STAR review from the Calgary Sun

Click here to see the great Calgary Herald review


International Touring Show Takes on Addiction and Fixations Hard to Quit

Projection, stop-motion animation, and puppetry combine in whimsical look at addiction as seen through the eyes of the LGBTQ community.

x by sunny drake low res photo by Leesa ConnellyThird Street Theatre was thrilled to present the critically acclaimed X by Sunny Drake, a recent festival winner at Toronto’s prestigious SummerWorks Festival currently on a cross-Canada tour. Sunny’s one-man show is unique humorous and honest look at addictions and vices and is the first show in Third Street Theatre’s 2014-2015 Season. A special matinee on Saturday, September 20th will include an American Sign Language interpreter (ASL). All performances are wheelchair accessible.

X is a magical, imaginative and honest look at addiction not to mention a multimedia feast by transgender artist Sunny Drake; a recent transplant to Canada from Brisbane.

Ever seen a drunk puppet? Sex. Booze. Facebook. Carbs…Fess up: what’s your guilty pleasure? Stunning stop motion animation, whimsical puppets, and sharp live performance meld in this fast-paced international touring one-man show grounded in but not limited to LGBTQ experiences and informed by over forty interviews with community members (featuring struggles with alcohol, sex, and pop star obsession). With sold out shows in San Francisco, rave reviews in Australia, a SummerWorks festival award winner in Toronto and a cross-Canada tour, X comes to Calgary for a limited engagement of six performances.

X by Sunny Drake photo by Dahlia Katz-2Creator Sunny Drake says of his show being included in Third Street Theatre’s namesake 3rd season, “I am really thrilled to be doing work that is presented specifically by a queer theatre company, as much as I absolutely love non-queer presenters presenting my work, there is definitely something very special to entrust my work into the hands of queer theatre presenters. For me it’s really important to be responsive to what local folks think will be received well and I really trusted Artistic Director, Jonathan Brower’s opinion that X would be relevant, engaging and exciting for a Calgary audience.”

Artistic Director Jonathan Brower says his love for the show emerged when he saw Drake’s use of “distinct, unique puppetry and projection animation to relay the story of it’s leading characters Jamie and Caitlin.” The two are childhood friends dealing with issues related to sexuality, addiction, and gender identity. “Sunny morphs his own hands into realistic human puppets. Combined with his other multimedia, these scenic elements materialize into compelling representations of the characters’ fleeting grasp on their behavior and their susceptibility in the face of substances and circumstances beyond their control.”

Artistic Associate Alyssa Bradac says it is “important for our community to hear international voices and broaden our perspective because there is commonality amongst us all and X is a bold, creative and fresh look at issues that affect our community internationally.” “It’s also very theatrically exciting,” adds associate Kyall Rakoz. “X demonstrates so perfectly what live performance can do that television can’t. Drake’s integration of puppets and projections is absolute magic!”

Sunny Drake photo by Tania Anderson Big File***PUBLIC MENTORSHIP WORKSHOPS on Sept 21st.
TRANS* 101 & Telling Your Story facilitated by Sunny Drake.

Sunday, September 21st, 2014
Hillhurst United Church
1227 Kensington Close NW.

At the tail end of the Calgary run, Third Street Theatre and Hillhurst United Church have partnered to present two workshops by Sunny Drake Trans 101 and Telling Your Story.

TRANS* 101: 1:00pm – 3:00pm. Free Admission
An introductory workshop about trans* (transgender/ transsexual/ genderqueer) identities exploring different trans concepts and the diversity of trans communities including key strengths and challenges. Unpacking how gender concepts affect everyone in similar and different ways will show how trans liberation can be revolutionary for everyone. We will also explore the key political moment trans movements are in and how we can all be part of this exciting time. The workshop will create a space of genuine exploration, where every question is welcome.

TELLING YOUR STORY: 3:30– 5:30pm. Admission by donation (suggested $25)
A hands-on workshop to explore creating performance and/or writing from your own personal experience, including autobiographical work and fictionalized autobiography. We will explore processes, challenges, joys, ethical considerations and personal wellbeing/safety. Participants will be guided in short (low pressure!) creative activities to begin to generate their own written and/or spoken content. No prior writing or performance experience needed!

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