Big Idea: Bringing LGBTQ Voices to Calgary’s Stages
By Greg Beneteau, Avenue Magazine, August 30, 2012
Third Street Theatre aims to provide training and mentorship to the next generation of queer actors, directors, producers and playwrights.
In a time when Alberta’s premier is marching in gay pride parades and the “It Gets Better” video campaign is confronting homophobic bullying, you’d still have to head west to Vancouver — or even farther east, to Toronto — to find a performing arts group whose express purpose is to tell the stories of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
“There’s not a lot of stuff coming out of Calgary right now” in terms of queer theatre, notes Jonathan Brower, a Calgary actor who took part in The 3rd Annual U of C Coming Out Monologues in March.
As a result, he says queer youth in the city are only exposed to “pop culture representation of queers, which tends to be very one-sided… the flamboyant, comic relief character or the tragic, self-repressed character.”
A new LGBTQ theatre company
Enter Third Street Theatre, a new company founded by Brower and playwright Paul Welch that had its soft launch earlier this month.
In addition to bringing LGBTQ voices to Calgary’s stages, Brower says Third Street will aim to provide training and mentorship to the next generation of queer actors, directors, producers and playwrights.
Their inaugural season includes the formation of a “queer theatre creation ensemble,” made up of artists, musicians, actors, writers and other creative types. The ensemble will meet regularly to develop performance skills and explore personal and professional artistic development, culminating in a public performance in March 2013.
The ensemble is accepting applications until September 15, and is open to everyone. “You don’t need to identify as queer in order to participate,” Brower notes.
The company is also hosting a new playwriting competition starting in September. The winning entry will receive a two-day workshop with professional actors and a public staged reading of their work.
Of course, Third Street is also about the theatre. Brower says the company is finalizing plans for a one-person show featuring Paul Welch and directed by Kevin McKendrick, an artistic associate at Ground Zero Theatre.
Exploring diversity through theatre
Third Street is not Calgary’s first LGBTQ theatre company. That title belongs to Teatro Berdache, which operated from 2000 to 2008. (Brower says he’s been in contact with Steve Gin, Theatre Berdache’s former artistic director, to “bounce ideas off one another.”)
The company’s name refers to the non-existent Third Street in Mission, and reflects the fact that the LGBTQ community is often an invisible minority.
Though Alberta has had a mixed history of supporting LGBTQ causes, Brower says he believes Calgary has the capacity to become a centre of queer-focused performing arts, like Toronto’s famed Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.
“Third Street’s motto is ‘Exploring What it Means to be Human.’ Well, being queer is being human, and theatre is a just a really great way to explore the diversity of human existence,” Brower says.