Queer Arts Festival’s show Relational rEvolutions questions the future

Georgia Straight by Alexander Varty on June 12th, 2019 at 1:08 PM

Although the Relational rEvolutions visual-arts exhibition sounds like it might offer controversy and confrontation, that’s definitely not the point. Instead, says curator Elwood Jimmy, the Queer Arts Festival show is the very opposite of a Twitter flamefest.

“We’ve lost the ability to disagree with each other without relationships falling apart,” he notes in a telephone interview from UBC, where he’s presenting at the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. “It just feels like we’ve ended up in this very peculiar space.”

In this pressurized time, he goes on to explain, racism, nationalism, and especially environmental collapse are dividing families, communities, and countries. Discourse is growing ugly; witness Alberta’s recent demonization of environmental activists and, by extension, free speech.

So when he was given the opportunity to curate Relational rEvolutions, Jimmy began by wondering how he might facilitate asking questions about our future—but “in a gentle way”.

“There are really many of us thinking about our environmental future: what does that look like, and what does that feel like, and what does that sound like?” he says. “And the question I ask myself, as an individual, is ‘What is my personal responsibility in this?’ I’ve been working in the arts for 20 years, and I just started thinking ‘Well, if this is the skill set I’ve cultivated within myself, how do I use the arts to further deepen my engagement with environmental issues and climate change? What does that look like on a human level? And how do we work together to do this, even in times of extreme polarization?’ ”

As its title suggests, then, Relational rEvolutions stresses the relational and the evolutionary over the revolutionary; address how we treat and mistreat each other, and change will come. And Jimmy’s “we” is inclusive. Not only does it include queer and straight, Indigenous and settler, it incorporates the nonhuman as well.

“There are a lot of works that are done in collaboration, and sometimes collaboration may not be so obvious,” he says of the upcoming show. “I’m thinking of some of the work that’s really in collaboration with the land. There’s an emerging artist from Toronto, Jessica Karuhanga, who does these lovely video works. She calls them collaborations, and I would call them collaborations as well—collaborations with the land. They’re performances and dance pieces within water and within reeds and these kinds of things. And I guess, for me, those works show how our bodies actually move through and navigate the Earth. You know, how are we interacting with the Earth and the nonhuman with our own bodies?”

Jimmy, a member of the Thunderchild First Nation of northern Saskatchewan, also cites two-spirited Ojibwa artist Raven Davis’s work It’s Not Your Fault, a video response to the vicious white supremacism that’s found a home online.

“It’s just a very simple video of somebody in ceremony, and they have an audio track of them singing over it,” he explains. “But it’s quite jarring, because they take some of the comments that they’ve read online and contrast the gentleness and the tenderness that they’re trying to cultivate within themself and within their community with this avalanche of absolute hatred coming from regular Canadians. The contrast is quite jarring, and….You’re left wondering ‘How can we ever bridge this chasm, this emotional chasm?’ How do you make people have compassion? How do we even begin to bring people’s humanity back, and how do we get people to see other people as humans again?”

For now, Jimmy adds, neither he nor Relational rEvolutions can offer any conclusive answers to these hard questions—but by asking them he hopes that we can at least begin to value the land, the “other”, and ourselves.

The Queer Arts Festival presents Relational rEvolutions at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre from Monday (June 17) to June 26.

See original article here.

Opera gets inclusive at Queer Arts Fest

Georgia Straight by Janet Smith on June 12th, 2019 at 1:27 PM

Soprano Teiya Kasahara has always had a passion for performing opera, but the singer was feeling more and more conflicted about the two-dimensional, gendered female roles offered on-stage.

“I’m racialized, queer, tattooed, I have a shaved head, and I have to cover these things to be accepted,” the LGBT artist tells the Straight over the phone from home in Toronto.

It was during her eighth time playing the Queen of the Night, in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Magic Flute, that Kasahara had finally had enough. The soprano was done with roles that portray women as either evil and strong or good, pure, and fragile. The conservative art form was feeling less and less inclusive.

“I wanted to critique that with an opera,” Kasahara explains. “And it was really important to me to comment on opera as a machine. I wanted to talk about this being beautiful work and amazing music. I love to sing and that’s the way I feel most free and most full. But the art form, in how it’s developed, also denies so much of who I am.”

The result is The Queen in Me, one of two shows at this year’s Queer Arts Festival that upend traditional opera in radical new ways.

Kasahara traces the frustration back about six years, to when the singer was again tackling the coloratura soprano part of the terrifying Queen of the Night. The character is introduced as a desperate mother whose beloved daughter Pamina has been kidnapped, but she becomes the villain of the story, demanding Pamina commit a murder to ensure her power. “It was just being plopped in at the last moment, where the whole team was overlooking the complexity of this character,” Kasahara recalls, pointing out that the Queen is on-stage for about 12 minutes total and sings what is probably the opera’s most famous aria, “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” (“The vengeance of hell boils in my heart”). But Kasahara struggled to find in-depth research or back story on the Queen. “She’s portrayed as evil and ambitious and willing to throw her daughter under the bus to get what she wants,” Kasahara says. “It’s very sexist and misogynist. So I thought I wanted to stop the opera so she could finally say who she was.”

That’s exactly what Kasahara does with the theatre-opera meld The Queen in Me, with the curtain rising in midperformance of The Magic Flute, as the Queen begins her well-known aria. Then the character rebels and refuses to finish the opera. Using a mix of spoken word, Mozart’s score, and other famous soprano music, the Queen reveals her own story.

“She starts advocating for all the sopranos that have played her over the last 200-something years and all the characters who have had to become mad or fallen,” says Kasahara. In opera, the artist points out, sopranos often either have to kill themselves out of madness (hello, Madama Butterfly) or have to die from illness (Mimi in La Bohème).

And then the character fades away, and Kasahara unpacks personal experiences of gender and racial bias in the world of opera. “My inspiration was having to discover my gender queerness over the last eight or nine years,” Kasahara explains.

Kasahara developed the work outside of the traditional opera industry, starting with an internship with Theatre Gargantua in Toronto, then in the emerging-artists unit at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

These days, the singer is devoted to projects like Amplified Opera. “Our mission is creating a space for equity,” Kasahara explains of the collaboration with director Aria Umezawa. “On an indie level my colleagues and I are having these conversations, and we’re trying to find opportunities to create conversations at the mainstream level.”

Response to The Queen in Me has given Kasahara extra motivation. “Colleagues were coming up to me—ones who aren’t even sopranos, who have complex identities too—and they were not feeling seen and not feeling that they could voice who they really are,” Kasahara says. “They were saying, ‘Thank you, someone is finally saying this.’ A lot of us are feeling these things and had not had the courage to stand up and say it.”

Landon Krentz and a creative team of hearing and nonhearing artists will give audiences a workshop reading of Jesse—An ASL Opera, with a libretto inspired by Krentz’s own experience of growing up deaf.

Vancouver’s Landon Krentz seeks to reimagine opera in an even more revolutionary way at the Queer Arts Festival.

There, he and a creative team of hearing and deaf artists will let audiences in on an early reading of Jesse—An ASL Opera. Its libretto is inspired by Krentz’s own experience of growing up deaf: the constant visits to what he calls the “black box of the audiologists’ department”, and his liberation through deaf culture and language.

While it may be hard for hearing people to imagine an opera expressed not just through music but through sign language, the fit felt natural to this LGBT artist.

“Opera is rich in culture and history that I believe is parallel with deaf culture and history,” he explains, communicating with the Straight through email. “Our language, ASL [American Sign Language], is very much like music. It has a series of movements and rhythm that have a wide musical range. The ability to express music with ASL will be seen in the opera through the way I use signs, movements, and math. It is the perfect language to portray different emotional messages that are heard with the eyes.”

With the support of local company re:Naissance Opera, he’s experimented with a group of artists who have experience with deaf culture. They include Regina composer Paula Weber (the child of a deaf adult), opera singer Heather Molloy (who has a deaf niece), re:Naissance producer Debi Wong (who has taken ASL classes), and deaf elder John Warren.

Because this is such new ground, Krentz has had to invent a way of writing a bilingual libretto, using ASL gloss (the written form of the sign language, with notations to describe facial expressions and gestures) and English. Weber has been observing the movements of the ASL libretto as it is performed and then composing the music based on that. The goal is an opera that both hearing and nonhearing audiences can enjoy.

“Historically, deaf artists have had to adapt to music and English theatre in ways that diminish the quality of our language,” explains Krentz, who sought sign-language theatrical training in Scandinavia before bringing the approach back here. “The goal is to implement intersectional practices where deaf artists like myself are leading the artistic process in order to achieve better results. To do this kind of work, it takes an incredibly skilled deaf artist who understands the demands of deaf theatre, English and ASL, and the theatrical contexts. There are not many of us in Canada.”

The goal is to debut the full opera by 2021. In the meantime, Krentz hopes the peek at this hugely ambitious project will open arts fans’ and artists’ minds to the possibilities of opera and theatre.

“We hope that the audience will walk away with a new understanding of what is possible in deaf theatre and to inspire them to consider working with deaf talents,” he says. “Deaf theatre for the deaf is vital and necessary to improve the lives and safety of the deaf community, as is the willingness and commitment from hearing artists to learn to adapt to their practice and become allies.”

The Queer Arts Festival presents The Queen in Me on June 21 and 22, and a workshop reading of Jesse—An ASL Opera on June 24.

View original article here.

Queer Arts Festival tip sheet: Queer Songbook Orchestra, Technical Knockouts, Diaspora, 69 Positions

Georgia Straight June 12th, 2019 at 1:59 PM

With the theme rEvolution, the Queer Arts Festival celebrates forms from music to media art and everything in between, from Monday (June 17) to June 28. Here are just a few of the highlights.

Queer Songbook Orchestra

June 28 at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre

Narrators tell personal stories alongside arrangements by some of Canada’s top composers, as the ensemble makes a much anticipated return to the fest. Afterward, make sure to hit Stonewall 50: Glitter Is Forever, a fete for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots that launched modern-day Pride, hosted by the Vancouver Pride Society, Zee Zee Theatre, and the Frank Theatre Company.

Technical Knockouts

June 23 at the Roundhouse

Mentored by beat masters Kinnie Starr, DJ O Show, and Tiffany Moses, the young artists from QAF’s multidisciplinary music lab rock the house.


June 25 at the Roundhouse

Discover how language, culture, and migration can affect queerness, as Frank Theatre presents an interdisciplinary evening of work by queer refugees and immigrants.

69 Positions

To August 17 at SUM Gallery

Brush up on your history with this fascinating project marking the 50th anniversary of the 1969 omnibus bill that legalized same-sex activities in Canada.

See original post HERE

69 Positions

Georgia Straight by Staff May 15th, 2019 at 12:49 PM

May 14 to August 17 at the SUM gallery

On May 14, 1969, the Canadian government decriminalized same-sex sexual activity. To mark the 50th anniversary of Bill C-150, the Queer Arts Festival brings you this fascinating cross-Canada exhibition (shown here). Presented in conjunction with VIVO Media Arts Centre and the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, the show takes a critical look at history, transporting you back to a time when the sexual revolution and gay liberation were hitting their peak, with media, memorabilia, artifacts, documentary films, and more.

To see original article, click here.

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: http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2014/05/22/alien-sex-a-transgressive-work-of-the-oscar-wilde-variety/

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
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://www.straight.com/arts/650806/artist-shaira-holman-nominated-ywca-women-distinction-award

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 including Monica Meneghetti, Jaye Simpson and Marv Houngbo 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”