Queerness on the Stage

Photo Credit: TWTF

Celebrating diversity in drama 

Kushagrata Goel, The Mike Contributor

The first month of classes drew to a close with the eighth annual Toronto Queer Theatre Festival (TQTF) on September 27 and 28. Originally established in 2012 under the name Gay Play Day, TQTF presents plays written by Toronto-based LGBTQ+ playwrights at the Alumnae Theatre.  

For those of you who missed out on the festival, I will be giving you a little sneak-peek of what the festival was like by reviewing three of my favourite plays from the Lavender show. The show consisted of six short plays — J.C. Superstar, His Body Language, Unbroken Ties, Outward, Defiled Doe at Teatime, and Mother’s Day. Each play that was presented was meaningful and a brilliant fusion of humour and grief.  

Outward, written by Winston Stilwell, directed by Liz Best 

This play is a comedy revolving around a married gay couple stranded in the middle of a small town. Forced to spend their anniversary in a bowling alley, they are afraid to show their affection for one another in a crowded room. Outward challenges the assumptions that people form without any concrete basis. This play has an in-depth conversation between Jesse and Lisa, both members of the LGBTQ+ community, on the fear of being harmed simply for being their truest selves. The flawless acting and unpredictable storyline kept the audience on their toes, with emotional responses ranging from amusement, shock, and sympathy. 

Unbroken Ties, written by Erika Reesor, directed by Erika Reesor and Jen Frankel 

Opening with a scene between two ex-lovers attempting to make it as friends, this play has the audience in stitches right from the get-go. Starring the directors of the play, it is about two women, Alex and Helena, attending couple’s counselling to “get through their break up.” At one point, Helena compares their previous relationship to a star, doomed to implode when it was burning the brightest, creating a black hole in its wake. The play is set around the idea of Alex not accepting the end because “just because you [Helena] broke up with me doesn’t mean I broke up with you.” It concludes with the happy ending of the two lovers reuniting.  

J.C. Superstar, written and directed by Darren Stewart-Jones  

This tragicomedy is based on the life of the late Joan Crawford (J.C.), a 20th-century Academy Award-winning actress, and her final meeting with her son, Christopher Crawford. From her bibliography Not the Girl Next Door, we know that Crawford adopted five children. Christopher was adopted in 1943, the third child Joan adopted. The play depicts Christopher’s dislike and apathy toward his mother, and even shows him confronting her for being an unavailable mother throughout his childhood. His sister Christina’s book Mommie Dearest, shows a similar abusive and authoritative picture of Joan as a mother. During the play, we learn that this last meeting did not take place out of affection, but out of Christopher’s need for money. Despite all the criticism Joan has received, the play ends on a tearful note, showing a glossy-eyed J.C. coming to terms with her estranged relationship with her son.  

The 90-minute show was an absolute delight to watch and the limited seating set-up of the theatre added to the ambiance of the plays, and is definitely worth returning to! I hope to see such festivals celebrating diversity and inclusivity in theatre and literature taking place globally soon.