Georgia Straight :: Queer Arts Festival expands repertoire

WHILE WE’RE TALKING about the Queer Arts Festival, let’s get one thing perfectly straight: it is not an official part of Vancouver’s annual Pride celebration. Although it grew out of an earlier community-based visual-arts exhibition, Pride in Art, after five years Queer Arts has become, as director of operations Rachel Iwaasa notes, a stand-alone event of considerable depth and diversity.

“A number of the artists involved—and a few performers who hadn’t been involved in the past—sort of went, ‘It would be really great to provide an outlet for queer arts that’s beyond the outdoor stages and bars and parties that are provided in Pride,’ ” the pianist explains from her Vancouver home. “Really, in many ways it exists to show a facet of the queer community that’s kind of beyond what Pride has been able to offer.”

This year, the queer creations on view include dance phenomenon Noam Gagnon’s autobiographical Thank You, You’re Not Welcome; transgender activist and monologist Kate Bornstein’s On Men, Women, & the Rest of Us; Jan Derbyshire’s new play Turkey in the Woods; and Boulez Contra Cage, Felix Culpa co–artistic director David Bloom’s theatrical take on the long-running and well-documented aesthetic dispute between Zen trickster John Cage and serialist pioneer Pierre Boulez, two of the many gay men who advanced music during the 20th century.

“It’s been thrilling to watch David distill this down into a script,” says Iwaasa, whose Tiresias duo with flutist Mark McGregor will provide the live soundtrack for Boulez Contra Cage, which stars Bloom and fellow actor Simon Webb. “When you read the letters, there are elements that are really quite dry and very theoretical. But David’s done a remarkable job of pulling out the human element. He’s really managed to make it into a very engaging show.”

Iwaasa has equally high hopes for another festival production: a workshop performance of When the Sun Comes Out, billed as “Canada’s first lesbian opera”.

“It’s remarkable,” she says of the new work, a collaboration between composer Leslie Uyeda and poet Rachel Rose. “As a measure of that, as I was writing grant proposals for it I found myself weeping, just weeping, out of the beauty of the libretto.”

Uyeda and Rose’s premise does indeed have great dramatic—and emotional—potential. Set in the fictional country of Fundamentalia,When the Sun Comes Out explores the love triangle between Solana, a Canadian teacher; Lilah, a closeted lesbian; and Javan, Lilah’s equally repressed gay husband.

The complexities of love, Rose says in a separate telephone interview, are her main focus. Even so, it’s impossible to discuss desire in a fundamentalist country without getting political. “I can see where one might draw conclusions, but I do want to resist that,” she says when asked whether Fundamentalia might be a stand-in for Afghanistan. “In fact, I was just looking in the Pride brochure about the seven different countries where there’s still a death penalty for homosexuality. So if it’s a specific country, then all those other countries are off the hook, right?”

More alarming, perhaps, is the notion that Fundamentalia is everywhere—but Rose, Iwaasa, and other Queer Arts Festival participants are doing their best to keep it at bay.

The Queer Arts Festival presents When the Sun Comes Out at the Roundhouse Performance Centre tonight (August 2), while Boulez Contra Cage is at the same venue next Sunday (August 12).

Article by Alexander Varty. Link to Original Article.

Vancouver Sun | Alien Sex: a transgressive work of the Oscar Wilde variety

Alien Sex: a transgressive work of the Oscar Wilde variety

BY ART SEEN Published Thurs, May 22, 2014ORIGINAL ARTICLE:

ALIEN SEX has met its goal of $10,000 on Kickstarter. In fact, it raised a little more than that as the fundraising team persuaded 200 donors to pony up $10,297. It’s a tough way to bring performance to the stage in the contemporary world. Congratulations.

My previous post is below.

(Updated Thursday, June 5.)

* * *

David Bloom was on the phone. He sounded harried.  After saying hello, his first words were: “I’m just composing an email about Alien Sex to beg a friend to ask him for money.”

Then he added, really quickly: “I can’t tell you how much I hate doing that.”

Bloom is in the middle of raising $10,000 to stage the first performance of Alien Sex during the Queer Arts Festival later this summer. It’s the first time he’s been involved from the start in a crowd-funding campaign for the performing arts.

Some people have a knack for raising money. He admits he doesn’t.

“I’m much more comfortable performing,” said the actor and co-artistic director ofFelix Culpa.*

As of today, he’s not doing too bad as a fundraiser: with 10 days to go in the Kickstarter campaign, he’s already at $3,300 (That has increased to $3,882 as oftoday, Wednesday, May 28).

What Bloom and his team have going for them is a great name. Alien Sex is transgressive and naughty. It made me think of pushing boundaries on gender and sexuality which is pretty much what the project is all about. In fact, the title is so good it convinced me to write this blog post about it.

At this point in its evolution, Alien Sex is a title in search of a work. Led by Bloom who is described as the “instigator,” Alien Sex plans to be a collision of “speculative fiction that fearlessly explores, the strange, beautiful, and sometimes inexplicable territory of human sexuality,” according to the Kickstarter description of the project.

The cast includes a mix of performance poets, visual artists, writers, dancers, actors and performers. Taking part are Olivia B, Floyd VB, Eileen Kage, Sammy Chien, Robert Leveroos, and SD Holman. As well, it will include the writing of Linda Smukler/Samuel Ace and David Mamet.

The Alien Sex performance in August will be a presentation of a work-in-progress meant to evolve over time.

“This epic yet intimate collaborative project weaves together an original and contradictory collage by artists creating in words, images, movement and sound,” according to the Kickstarter description.

Queer Arts Festival 2014: ReGenerations takes place July 23 to Aug. 9.

Alien Sex

*Edited Friday, May 23.

For regular Art Seen updates, follow me on Twitter @KevinCGriffin

Georgia Straight | Artist Shaira Holman nominated for YWCA Women of Distinction award

BY JERICHO KNOPP Published Fri, May 23, 2014

Queer art has always been underrepresented in the mainstream art world, but things might be starting to change. Vancouver artist Shaira (SD) Holman has been nominated for YWCA Metro Vancouver’s Women of Distinction award in the art, culture, and design category.

“I really give the YWCA kudos for nominating a Jewish, butch, bearded dyke for the Young Women’s Christian Association award,” Holman says. “That’s pretty special. So, you know, I guess we’ve come a long way.”

Holman is a photo-based artist and the artistic director of Vancouver’s Queer Arts Festival. She recently took a yearlong sabbatical from the festival to focus on her own art, and her bookBUTCH: Not Like the Other Girls will be launched on June 19.

BUTCH features a series of black and white portraits of women who identify as butch, meaning masculine in appearance or behaviour. The idea for the project came from her late wife Catherine White Holman, as well as from her own desire to show people that they could be beautiful as themselves.

“There’s a certain view of how men should be masculine and women should be feminine,” Holman says. “And you know, masculinity has never been the sole domain of men.

“I wanted to make butches feel good about themselves and also just to show beautiful pictures of these people, not as sort of undesirable and ugly.”

For her, the project is intensely personal, since she has struggled with society’s expectations of who she should be for her entire life.

“I’ve been a performer most of my life, and I was told in no uncertain terms that I needed to conform to some sort of mould of feminine acceptability,” Holman says. “I tried to for a while, until I was just like, ‘No, this isn’t me and I’m not comfortable in this role.’”

Since then, Holman has embraced who she is, and through her art hopes to help others do the same. She reasons that if queer artists gain more mainstream recognition, the world might become a safer place.

“I don’t do my work to get recognition,” she says. “I do the work because I have to and I’m compelled to, and hopefully to change the world.”

Holman is nominated alongside Susan Van der Flier, board director of the Vancouver Opera. The winner will be announced June 3 at an awards ceremony.

Queer Songbook Orchestra

Fri Jun 28 | 7pm | Concert | $40 – $30

Celebrated national chamber ensemble Queer Songbook Orchestra unearth the queer backstories and personal narratives inspired by musicof the past several generations, weaving together stories told by local narrators with arrangements by Canada’s foremost composers.

Alex Samaras
Chelsea D.E. Johnson
Stephen Jackman-Torkoff
Joshua Zubot
Peggy Lee
Sam Davidson
Shaun Brodie
Ellen Marple
Thom Gill
Veda Hille
Daniel Fortin
Barry Mirochnik

Continue reading “Queer Songbook Orchestra”

The Wide Open

Wed Jun 26 | 7pm | Media Art with Vancouver Indigenous Media Arts Festival | $20 – $10

The Wide Open, curated by Lacie Kanerahtahsóhon Burning, continues from media art in community centres throughout Vancouver through their Trans, Gender Diverse, and Two-Spirit Inclusion team to the big screen. This media project puts LGBTQ2S+ narratives fearlessly out in the open with a focus on intersectionality.

Image credit: Lacie Kanerahtahsóhon Burning

NOTE: Entry to all QAF events requires membership to the Pride in Art Society. Memberships are available for $3 online or $5 / $2 concession at the door (or included in passes). Please allow a few extra minutes at your first event to obtain your new card.

Jesse – an ASL opera

Mon Jun 24 | 7pm | with Landon Krentz and re:Naissance Opera | Pay What You Can

JESSE – AN ASL OPERA is a workshop reading by Landon Krentz, Heather Molloy & Paula Weber resulting from a two-week experimental process that gathered Deaf and Hearing artists to explore how poetry, music, English and ASL intersect. Bi-cultural and bilingual, this experience reflects a creative process that was both riveting and uncomfortable.

Continue reading “Jesse – an ASL opera”

Technical Knockouts

Sun Jun 23 | 7pm | Multidisciplinary Music | $20 – $10

Performances by young artists from QAF’s Technical Knockouts music lab, mentored by Kinnie Starr,  DJ O Show and Tiffany Moses. QAF’s emerging artist program.

NOTE: Entry to all QAF events requires membership to the Pride in Art Society. Memberships are available for $3 online or $5 / $2 concession at the door (or included in passes). Please allow a few extra minutes at your first event to obtain your new card.

The Queen in Me

Fri Jun 21 & Sat Jun 22 | 7pm | Multidisciplinary musical Performance | Amplified Opera and Theatre Gargantua | $30 – $20

The Queen in Me explores the constraints of conventional opera roles and their reliance on gender and sex stereotypes, exploding operatic expectations of demure muses and femme fatales by turning the genre on its head.

“I had to tell her story, then I had to tell mine.”— Teiya Kasahara 笠原貞野

The curtain rises mid-performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, as the Queen of the Night’s highly anticipated aria, Der Hölle Rache, begins. However, this time, the Queen rebels against her expected narrative, refuses to finish the opera, and tells her story in her own words for the first time – at a cost.

“Somewhere our truths collide, all sung unamplified.” — Queen of the Night

Kasahara, a biracial, masculine non-binary female artist, takes inspiration from her career as a professional opera singer alongside her lived experiences as a queer, feminist, person of colour to re-imagine the Queen of the Night, one of opera’s most infamous “fallen women,” and places her in the centre of a metaphor for silenced and discarded women everywhere.

Created and performed by Teiya Kasahara

Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa, pianist

Directed by Andrea Donaldson

NOTE: Entry to all QAF events requires membership to the Pride in Art Society. Memberships are available for $3 online or $5 / $2 concession at the door (or included in passes). Please allow a few extra minutes at your first event to obtain your new card.