RuPaul’s Drag Race star Thorgy Thor to perform in Vancouver

Thorgy Thor teamed up with conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser for a show that starts at 8 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre. (Photo from VSO)

Originally published by CTV News Vancouver June 25, 2019

A fan favourite on RuPaul’s Drag Race will take to a Vancouver stage Tuesday night.

Thorgy Thor is teamed up with conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser for a show that starts at 8 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre.

Tickets for “Thorgy Thor and the Thorchestra” were still for sale in all sections as of noon Tuesday for prices ranging from $49 to $89.

In its description of the show, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra says Thorgy “wields her outrageous fashion sense, razor-sharp wit, and virtuoso classical chops to create a thrilling, theatrical, all-new show.”

Thorgy, a drag queen from Brooklyn, N.Y., finished season eight in sixth place. She then placed 10th in the show’s third season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” – a series featuring queens who competed in previous seasons.

She’s a trained violin and viola player, and also knows how to play the cello.

After Vancouver, she’s scheduled to make stops in five other Canadian cities: Kingston, Ont., Hamilton, Ont., St. John’s, Halifax and Calgary.

“You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and your heart will throb as Thorgy slays with song, dance, and hilarious shenanigans in this can’t-miss symphonic spectacular,” the VSO says in its concert listing.

Adult supervision and audience discretion are advised as the performance includes mature themes.

The show is being put on during of Vancouver’s 10th annual Queer Arts Festival, which runs from June 17 to 28.

It’s an artist-run multidisciplinary arts festival held at the Roundhouse, featuring events including art exhibitions, readings and musical performances.

Stonewall Was A Riot – Vancouver’s LGBTTQ2+ community bands together to Remember Stonewall

Originally published June 25, 2019 by MyVanCity

Stonewall Was A Riot… Now We Dance.

With the current tone set recently in Metro Vancouver over the removal of a Pride flag, defacement of Pride flags and the heated anti-transgender protest at the Art Gallery on June 15th, there is a renewed need locally to celebrate our LGBTTQ2+ pride on the eve of the 50th anniversary of The Stonewall Riots that launched modern day “Pride”.

The Queer Arts Festival (QAF) in partnership with many of Vancouver’s LGBTTQ2+ organizations (Vancouver Pride Society, Zee Zee Theatre, The Frank Theatre Company, Qmunity, LOUD Business, Vancouver Queer Film Festival, Vancouver Dyke March, Sher Vancouver, Rainbow Refugee and more) will come together on June 28th to celebrate our diversity and pride with an evening of song and celebration; to revel in a half century of queerevolution. This event is the only major celebration of the Stonewall anniversary currently scheduled to take place in the City of Vancouver.

We welcome Vancouver’s LGBTTQ2+ community and allies to Stonewall 50 – Glitter is Forever taking place at the Roundhouse Community Arts Centre (181 Roundhouse Mews) in Vancouver. This event kicks off with the Queer Songbook Orchestra (7-9pm) and is immediately followed by the Stonewall 50 Glitter is Forever event at the same venue.

The Queer Arts Festival (QAF), Vancouver’s artist-run, professional, multi-disciplinary roister of queer arts, culture and history, presents their 2019 festival rEvolution, well underway with a stellar line up of parties showcasing queer arts, culture and celebrations running June 17th – 28th 2019.  QAF has assembled nearly 100 artists and more than 20 events and programming showcasing a variety of differing media on exhibit at the Roundhouse Arts Centre.


Original article from Sad Mag June 17. Written by Rebecca Peng.

The Queer Arts Festival (QAF) is Vancouver’s artist-run festival of queer arts and culture, held every summer at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre. Now in its 11th year, the QAF is a multidisciplinary affair, presenting an art exhibition and performance series, as well as workshops, artist talks, panels, and screenings. This year’s festival, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, is organized around the theme of rEvolution, and focuses on the transgressive and transformative potential of queer art.

SAD Mag spoke to Landon Krentz, one of the performers and creators behind Jesse: An ASL Opera, a bi-cultural and bilingual production developed by Krentz, Debi Wong, and re:Naissance Opera. On June 24th, audiences are invited to attend a workshop reading of the first excerpts of this exciting collaboration.

JESSE. Photo via QAF.


SAD: Let’s start at the beginning. What inspired JESSE – and what, in particular, drew you to the medium of opera?

LANDON KRENTZ: The operatic world has traditionally excluded the Deaf community from the experience, and I wanted to address this gap by ensuring that Deaf theatre has a domain in the arts in all artistic forms. What drew me to opera was the opportunity to challenge the social norms in artistic spaces by integrating my beautiful language into the practice. Opera is rich in culture and history that I believe is parallel with Deaf culture and history. Our language, ASL, is very much like music. It has a series of movements and rhythm that has a wide musical range. ASL has the ability to express music; I will be singing in signs by using movements and math. It’s the perfect language to portray different emotional messages that are heard with the eyes. 

SAD: What considerations did you make when creating this signed opera? How were you guided by the form and its conventions – and how did you seek to subvert or change it?

LK: We are in the beginning stages of creating this opera and we have encountered many challenges. One of them is that Deaf theatre in Canada has been in a precarious state for a long time so there is a lack of formal artistic training that manifests as a lack of confidence with regards to Deaf artists and their guiding the artistic process. After many trials, errors, and conversations, I realized that in this theatrical and operatic context, the American Sign Language libretto must be created before the music is composed in order for the practice be utilized in ways that maintain the high quality and integrity of the language. This is opposed to adapting the ASL to the music and thus diminishing Deaf culture as a whole. 

The composer will compose in real time with me during the workshop while I sign the libretto. I will be embodying the role of a singer and challenging the convention of the “voice.” In my recent interview with Ai Media, I’ve received a comment on Facebook that I have tender hands and an expressive voice. We really love this comment because it shows how we are already affecting the Deaf community by allowing new art forms. 

SAD: You’re an individual who wears many hats, and one of them includes providing interpreters and ASL consultations to theatres. How has translating the works of others influenced your own practice?

LK: ASL Interpretation bookings is a service I took on to create a source of revenue for Deaf theatre, and in particular, the ASL Opera. I believe in providing services that are equitable, and that Deaf artists have the right to select interpreters. Hearing people do not understand the barriers that are mounted when interpreters are chosen without the participation of the Deaf community. It’s important to me that we recognize that hearing-run interpreting agencies have designed a system that allows them to profit from ASL interpreters, our Deaf culture and ASL. As the only Deaf-run interpreting agency in West Canada, I rely on hearing and interpreter allies to support my artistic practice, because it is my only means for artistic survival. 

I have a confession to make. For a number of years, I thought that having a Deaf consultant on creative teams was crucial. While it is important, I realize that the role of ‘consultant’ has very limited impact. I take full responsibility for my mistake and I have learned now that what is needed is Deaf-leadership. Hearing people cannot understand the demands of Deaf theatre, and that we need skilled Deaf professional artists to guide the artistic process in order to create intersectional practices that allow both Deaf and hearing artists to be seen and recognized for who they are. I am incredibly grateful for re:Naissance Opera and the team who allowed me to lead the project in order to serve marginalized, Deaf people who do not have the privilege of experiencing theatre. I ask theatre organizations to trust us, and let us Deaf artists lead the process for the best possible impact. This is the kind of work where we ask people to give up their position of power and allow space. It is not easy to do. However, the results for production are much more ideal. 

SAD: The theme of this year’s QAF is “rEvolution” – how do you see JESSE fitting into this theme?

LK: The current Canadian theatrical landscape is slowly changing, but Deaf artists are fighting for artistic spaces to create new works. JESSE is about the decolonization of hearing culture in the Deaf experience and finding liberation. The piece is helping the theatre community to understand and change in favour of better practices. 

SAD: What do you hope audiences will take away from JESSE?

LK: Deaf theatre is the best way to educate hearing people about Deaf culture. We hope that the audience will walk away with a new understanding of what is possible in theatre and to inspire them to consider hiring Deaf talents for their work. 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. 

QAF 2019 runs from June 17 to 28.

28 things to do in Vancouver this week: June 17 to 20

Posted in the DailyHive, June 17

What: An annual artist-run multi-disciplinary summer arts festival at the Roundhouse in Vancouver, BC. QAF produces, presents and exhibits with a curatorial vision favouring challenging, thought-provoking work that pushes boundaries and initiates dialogue. Each year, the festival theme ties together a curated visual art exhibition, performing arts series, workshops, artist talks, panels, and media art screenings.

When: Monday, June 17 to Friday, June 28, 2018
Time: Various times
Where: The Roundhouse – 181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver; Sum gallery – 268 Keefer St, Vancouver
Tickets: Online

Posted in the DailyHive, June 17

7 Things to do in Vancouver Today

Posted: Daily Hive, June 17, 2019

What: An annual artist-run multi-disciplinary summer arts festival at the Roundhouse in Vancouver, BC. QAF produces, presents and exhibits with a curatorial vision favouring challenging, thought-provoking work that pushes boundaries and initiates dialogue. Each year, the festival theme ties together a curated visual art exhibition, performing arts series, workshops, artist talks, panels, and media art screenings.

When: Monday, June 17 to Friday, June 28, 2018
Time: Various times
Where: The Roundhouse – 181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver; Sum gallery – 268 Keefer St, Vancouver
Tickets: Online

See original post.


Original article from Sad Mag June 13, written by Rebecca Peng.

The Queer Arts Festival (QAF) is Vancouver’s artist-run festival of queer arts and culture, held every summer at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre. Now in its 11th year, the QAF is a multidisciplinary affair, presenting an art exhibition and performance series, as well as workshops, artist talks, panels, and screenings. This year’s festival, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, is organized around the theme of rEvolution, and focuses on the transgressive and transformative potential of queer art.

In advance of the festival, SAD Mag spoke with Shaun Brodie, artistic director of the Queer Songbook Orchestra, a renowned national chamber ensemble that unearths the queer backstories and narratives in contemporary music.

Queer Songbook Orchestra, photo by Tanja Tiziana


SAD: Can you tell about the origins of Queer Songbook Orchestra? What was the inspiration? How did the ensemble come together?

SHAUN BRODIE: The QSO formed in 2014. It came about after about a decade of working as a freelance musician with many indie-pop bands throughout Canada, and finding myself post-30 and kind of at loose ends. I didn’t feel as though the work I was doing was necessarily sustainable for a lifetime and, beyond that, I wanted to find work that I could be more invested in. I’ve long had an interest in storytelling and little-known histories, and combined with my queer identity and background in music, the idea slowly formed to create something that would allow these elements to intersect and, hopefully, be of service to the community. I started calling up friends – I was fortunate to already know many fantastic musicians, queer and allied – to see if they would be interested, and they all very enthusiastically agreed. We did our first show at the legendary – and now defunct – space ‘Videofag’ here in Toronto, a small storefront-style space for queer art and performance run by William Ellis and Jordan Tannahill. That was March of 2014, and in the five years since we’ve toured all over Canada, worked with over 150 collaborators, and shared endless stories of queer experience from the stage.

SAD: From a performer’s perspective, what makes playing with the Queer Songbook Orchestra different from other ensembles or projects?

SB:I had never played shows prior to the QSO that were so centred around narrative. There’s always stage banter from the singer/bandleader and that type of thing, but with the QSO the audience finds themselves on a journey of queer lives and experiences. Some which may reflect their own, and some which might be quite different. There is a vulnerability to hearing these deeply personal stories shared, and it ends up feeling like all of us – performers and audience – are in a safe space where we are caring for each other. That’s a unique sensation.

SAD: How do you decide what songs to play? What’s the process of creating a show?

SB: Our repertoire is largely decided by the community. Since forming we’ve had a sort of general call out for folks within the 2SLGBTQ community to send us their stories of queer experience and the songs that are most deeply connected to them. So we will receive these pairings of story and song, and will go about building our shows from them. We also include historical narratives, usually of popular songs that have a little-known queer backstory. So there is often a balance of these approaches in a show.

Queer Songbook Orchestra, photo by Tanja Tiziana.


SAD: Speaking to this year’s QAF theme, “rEvolution”: How has turning to the past in this way, unearthing or rereading queer narratives in music, changed your perspective on those eras – and shaped your visions or aspirations for queer futures?

SB:Digging into these histories and being trusted with the personal stories of our peers in the community, it’s a great privilege to carry these narratives with us and deliver them to audiences across the country. It also gives us an insight into the integrity and character of the community through the generations, and the beauty and brilliance of queer individuals even in times of great hardship and isolation. Of course we are not out of the woods in terms of hardship and isolation, and having this perspective on the past and an insight into younger generations, one can’t help but have a sense that whatever the BS of the current times and political landscape, there is within the community the strength to resist and persist towards a better and more inclusive, compassionate future.

SAD: What’s the motivation behind putting these stories, told through the music of these past several generations, with modern, local narratives? How do you feel they enrich each other?

SB:I think it’s important to emphasize lineage. There tends to be a disconnect between generations in the queer community, and so to present an evening which places stories from the past alongside more contemporary narratives it can I think help to give people a sense of this lineage: who has come before us, and where we might see ourselves within it. The hope is that this can lead to more connections forming and people feeling they are part of a broader community.

SAD: What can audiences look forward to in this year’s Queer Arts Festival Performance?

SB: We haven’t played in Vancouver since January 2016. In the past three and a half years the QSO has grown immensely and really developed our material. So, for anyone who saw us back then they can expect a very different show, but one that still delves deep into many facets of queer experience. For anyone new to our shows, they can expect an intimate, tender and joyous evening which explores and elevates queer lives and aims to unite the audience around these experiences. Additionally, we always look to the local community to find collaborators for our shows, guests to be our narrators and deliver the stories we are telling alongside the songs. So the audience can look forward to seeing their own local community and friends reflected from the stage.

Queer Songbook Orchestra, photo by Tanja Tiziana.


SAD: What are you most excited about for this year’s Queer Arts Festival?

SB:Sadly we are only able to be in Vancouver for the tail end of the festival, so what I am mostly looking forward to are the bits that we are actually able to attend. Those being our show on June 28 and the party following it. It’s really exciting to be able to present a show that is aligned with the Stonewall anniversary, and while I always look forward to QSO shows, this one just feels extra special. And, as always, I am excited to meet and work with our local collaborators!

QAF 2019 runs from June 17 to 28. For more information and the purchase tickets, visit the Queer Arts Festival website.

Original article from Sad Mag June 13, written by Rebecca Peng.

5 Things to do this weekend: Friday, June 14, 2019

By Jon AzpiriOnline News Producer  Global News

Here are five things to do around the province this weekend.

1 — 5X Festival Block Party
June 15
Central City Plaza, Surrey

2 — Queer Arts Festival
June 17-28
Various locations, Vancouver

3 — Father’s Day Open House
June 16, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Historic Stewart Farm, Surrey

4 — Father’s Day Old Car Sunday in the Park
June 16, 10 a.m.
Fraser River Heritage Park, Mission

5 — Truck Stop Concert Series
June 15
Red Truck Beer Company, Vancouver

First posted by Jon AzpiriOnline News Producer  Global News

Five things to see and do at Vancouver’s Queer Arts Festival

John Kurucz / Vancouver Courier | JUNE 14, 2019 02:00 PM

It’s not kismet that this year’s Queer Arts Festival ends on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

Flashback to June 28, 1969 in New York City, in what was the touchstone moment for gay rights in both the U.S. and Canada.

Police raided an underground gay bar in Manhattan and all hell broke loose. Violent counter demonstrations broke out in the aftermath. It was high time for America, and the world at large, to take a long look in the mirror.

Within a year, the first gay pride marches were happening in major U.S. cities. Canada decriminalized homosexuality in 1969. Gay rights groups were operating across North
America by 1971.

In that spirit, the Courier presents five things to see and do over the course of the festival, which runs June 17 to 28 at the Roundhouse Arts Centre.

Crown the Queen 

Teiya Kasahara riffs on gender, stereotypes and expectations against an operatic backdrop in her production of The Queen in Me. The show runs at 7 p.m. on both June 21 and 22 and recalls Kasahara’s time as a professional opera singer and how they reconciles those experiences as a queer, feminist, person of colour.

The TKO trio 

Happening now and running daily until June 22, the TKO Lab experience is a female-centred music production drop-in lab for queer, Indigenous and allied youth. The free workshops are led by Kinnie Starr, DJ O Show and Tiffany Moses, who help participants with hands-on training in poetry, spoken word, DJing processes and electronic music platforms such as Ableton, Pro Tools and Logic. The whole thing wraps up with a collaborative performance June 23. Signing up in advance is encouraged and info on how to do so is online at

Dialing in the diaspora 

The Frank Theatre Company gives a voice to experiences of refugees and immigrants in the LGBTQ+ community with a performance of Diaspora. The pay-what-you-can performance is rolled out in text, video and physical theatre formats, asking audiences to examine and look beyond what it means to a member of the community outside of the western world. The performance will be led Frank’s artistic director Fay Nass, along with immigrant artists and community members. Diaspora is slated for 7 p.m. on June 25.

The Queer Songbook Orchestra rounds out the closing night of the festival on June 28. – Photo supplied by Tanja Tiziana Photography

Ready, set, orchestra 

The Queer Songbook Orchestra sets the table on closing night with a celebration of queer backstories and narratives from yesteryear. Those stories will be woven together by local narrators Monica Meneghetti and Jaye Simpson and some of the nation’s more well-known composers including. The show gets rolling at 7 p.m. on June 28.

End game 

The festival’s 12-day run wraps up with shaker central in the form of the Stonewall 50: Glitter is Forever Party. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of what helped spawn modern-day Pride events, the Glitter is Forever party’s tagline is “Stonewall was a riot — now, we dance!”

Festival passes, dates, times and more info is available online at

John Kurucz / Vancouver Courier | JUNE 14, 2019 02:00 PM

#FridayFive: Queer Arts Festival

By Vancouver Presents – June 14, 2019

This year’s Queer Arts Festival runs June 17-28 at the Roundhouse Community Centrenull

With the 50th anniversaries of the decriminalisation of Canadian sodomy laws (June 27) and Stonewall (June 29) approaching, this year’s Queer Arts Festival remembers with twelve days of multi-disciplinary queer arts at the Roundhouse Community Centre.

With nearly 100 artists and more than 20 events under this year’s theme of rEvolution, here are five performances we think you should check out:

1. A Night of Storytelling (June 19)

Back for its fourth year, Danny Ramadan curates another evening of readings from LGBTQ2+ voices in the CanLit scene. This year’s featured artists include Kai Cheng Thom, Tash McAdam, Monica Meneghetti, and Michael V. Smith.

Michael V. Smith is one of the featured readers at this year's A Night of Storytelling.
Michael V. Smith is one of the featured readers at this year’s A Night of Storytelling. Photo by Sarah Race.

2. The Queen in Me (June 20)

Exploding operatic expectations, soprano Teiya Kasahara explores the constraints of conventional opera roles combining original text with classic arias.

Teiya Kasahara performs in The Queen in Me as part of this year's Queer Arts Festival. Photo by Henry Chan.
Teiya Kasahara performs in The Queen in Me as part of this year’s Queer Arts Festival. Photo by Henry Chan.

3. Technical Knockouts (June 23)

This multidisciplinary music and performance showcase features the young artists from QAF’s music lab, mentored by Kinnie Starr, DJ O Show and Tiffany Moses.Advertisement

Tiffany Moses is one of the mentors behind Technical Knockouts at this year's QAF.
Tiffany Moses is one of the mentors behind Technical Knockouts at this year’s QAF.

4. Jesse – An ASL Opera (June 24)

Deaf playwright and performer, Landon Krentz presents a workshop reading of his new opera. Integrating sign language, the opera is the story of one man’s journey of self-discovery as he navigates Deaf culture, queerness and his place in a hearing world.

Landon Krentz and re:Naissance Opera perform in a workshop reading of the new opera Jesse.
Landon Krentz and re:Naissance Opera perform in a workshop reading of the new opera Jesse.

5. Queer Songbook Orchestra (June 28)

National chamber ensemble Queer Songbook Orchestra unearth the queer backstories and personal narratives inspired by music of past generations. The evening’s performance will be followed by this year’s closing party, Stonewall 50 Glitter is Forever.

Toronto's Queer Songbook Orchestra returns to Vancouver as part of this year's QAF. Photo by Tanja Tiziana.
Toronto’s Queer Songbook Orchestra returns to Vancouver as part of this year’s QAF. Photo by Tanja Tiziana.

The 11th Annual Queer Arts Festival runs June 17-28 at the Roundhouse Community Centre (181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver). Visit for tickets and information.

By Vancouver Presents – June 14, 2019

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

Live show questions opera’s sour soprano note

Posted in the Vancouver Sun June 12, 2019

Queer Arts Festival highlight delivered by Abbotsford-raised classical singer.

Queer Arts Festival

When: June 17-28

Where: The Roundhouse Arts Centre

Tickets and info:

Opera singer Teiya Kasahara has a special connection to The Magic Flute.

The 1975 Ingmar Bergman film version of the 18th-century Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart masterpiece was the first time a-then-12-year-old Kasahara saw opera. Two decades later that same opera became the inspiration for the one-person show The Queen in Me that Kasahara will perform June 21-22 as part of Vancouver’s Queer Arts Festival (QAF) at the Roundhouse Arts Centre, June 17-28.

Kasahara, who identifies as gender queer and uses the them/they pronoun, experienced that operatic eye-opening via a summer singing workshop at the UBC Summer Music Institute.

“I was blown away. I had never seen opera before,” said Kasahara, who grew up in Abbotsford. “I was amazed what the human voice could do in combination with an orchestra. To see the sets and the lighting and how it was filmed — I was, ‘Wow.’ Even though it was in Swedish it just blew me away.”

Soprano Teiya Kasahara, who studied at the University of B.C. and was raised in Abbotsford, brings The Queen in Me to the Roundhouse Arts Centre during the Queer Arts Festival on June 17-28 in Vancouver. HANDOUT / PNG

After giving up on a career as a rock singer — the rest of her friends weren’t as “committed” — Kasahara decided on opera and went on to earn a Bachelor of Music in Opera Performance degree from the University of B.C.

Then, at 22, Kasahara moved to Toronto and worked with among others the Canadian Opera Company.

But while Kasahara took to stage after stage to sing classic opera, the singer felt increasingly aware of the sexist confines in which the sopranos exist in classic opera. Think about it: the usual script is the soprano sings beautifully about unrequited love, forbidden love, finding love, losing love and then they usually die (methods vary from madness to execution).

Flash-forward to 2016 and Kasahara, 34, had played the Queen of the Night from The Magic Flute eight times and increasingly she felt the character of the famous fallen woman was lacking in complexity, something Kasahara saw as an issue for soprano characters throughout opera.

In a bid to embolden the sopranos, Kasahara took the Queen of the Night out of The Magic Flute and gave her a backstory and a voice outside of the famous arias. Using music from Mozart and other famous pieces, as well as the spoken word, Kasahara dug into her own experiences as a biracial, queer, feminist and created The Queen in Me, a cheeky look at gender, race and opera’s love of an over-the-top trope.

“I extract her from this opera and take her out of this make-believe world and I stop the opera and I’m giving her a platform to speak to finally voice her story, which she never gets the opportunity to do in the opera itself,” said Kasahara, who is joined in the show by pianist Rachel Iwaasa. “She kind of unpacks the really sexist and misogynistic way in which we represent females, female characters through opera and on the stage, and how we still perpetuate that today you know by putting on these old operas.”

Kasahara sees the Andrea Donaldson-directed The Queen in Me as just one step toward reforming the rigid opera form and opening the curtains to a less-constrained and narrow world.

“To maybe somehow see opera that isn’t so bound by voice types and sex and or gender. We could be a bit more flexible with wanting to create stories that allow for that flexibility and range and be able to hire artists because of their artistry and not because you need a tenor or a baritone or I need this person to be taller than this person. You know that kind of thing — to be less rigid in casting. To be less rigid in how we are composing and creating these operas. That would be really cool to see that. That is down the road but I think in the meantime we can see a lot of re-imagination of the works in the cannon right now. (We can) be more playful with that and not hold all these works on a pedestal so much.

“Why not break them open and use the technology we have? Why not electronic instruments? Why not an electric guitar? Mozart was a rocker I kid you not,” added Kasahara. “You hear is stuff and you think that would be so cool to hear that on an electric guitar.”

Using opera to take a stand about opera may seem kind of like inside ball, but when you look at the history of opera it began as and has always had a whiff of the underdog, looking for change.

“Opera has been a place where composers, poets and librettist writers have used this medium to comment on what’s going on in their culture in that time period. People have been censored by governments and monarchies. People have lived and died for this work, for opera,” said Kasahara. “I think it is what we are lacking now. We’ve become so complacent with it being this elite art form. It was initially made for the people by the people, then it was kind of taken over by these monarchies and controlled and censored. But no, music is for all and music connects for all. If we can do that with different stories like opera, which is music and words together then why not? It’s a great art form that I love to do. It makes me feel whole singing this kind of music in this capacity and making it even truer by creating my own works like The Queen in Me and talking about the issues that we were just happy to hush away.”

For QAF artistic director SD Holman The Queen in Me is a “perfect fit,” for this year’s theme of rEvolution. The festival will be showcasing 100-plus artists and 20 different events.

The Queer Songbook Orchestra takes to the stage at the Queer Arts Festival on June 28. The orchestra is one of 20 shows on the slate at the Roundhouse Arts Centre, June 17-28. TANJA TIZIANA / PNG

“The evolution of the revolution. We have big anniversaries this year, right? We have the Stonewall anniversary, which is the launch of prides around the world. Then of course the omnibus that also happened 50 years ago, which was a partial decriminalization of sodomy. So talking about that. Revolution is not just a one-time thing so looking at that and what hasn’t changed. So we wanted to recognize that and work with that,” Holman said.

The 11-day festival offers a wide variety of performances and events, but sitting squarely at its heart is the annual curated art exhibition. The Relational rEvolutions show is guest-curated by Elwood Jimmy, Thunderchild First Nation from Saskatchewan artist, educator, curator and gardener.

“It is a wide variety of work that I am hoping that when people walk through they will make some connection between the work,” said Jimmy about the show that highlights work from artists across Canada. “(I’m) asking within this exhibition: ‘How do we create and generate environments and relationships that can withstand conflict and withstand crisis and withstand things like scarcity or climate change?’ ”

Jimmy, who identifies as queer male, says festivals like the QAF are paramount for queer artists.

“I think it is important to create and cultivate spaces where everybody can feel safe,” said Jimmy. “I’ve been doing this work for a half a lifetime now and you can see very tangible shifts in terms of spaces opening up and I think sometimes we might tend to think, ‘OK, we’ve done the work now we can relax a bit and kind of step back,’ but I think it is always important to be very rigorous about the work that comes after we have cultivated the space. To maintain them.”

Posted in the Vancouver Sun June 12, 2019

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.

City of Vancouver recognizes Pride in Art as “a cutting-edge producer/presenter/curator”

A recent report from the City’s General Manager of Arts, Culture and Community Services, highlighted Pride in Art Society:

“ The following highly-regarded organizations reflect the existing criteria at high level and signal future granting directions that could align with the Creative City Strategy:

Pride in Art (PiA) Society has grown from its small, grassroots origins in 1998 to be a cutting-edge producer/presenter/curator of the annual Queer Arts Festival and the newly-opened SUM Gallery. The gallery is a flexible exhibition and performance space for queer art. The staff and board represent and serve LGBTQ2+ communities and audiences who encompass many intersections of identity across race, ability, and socio-economic status. PiA is engaged in a nation-wide search for trans, gender diverse, Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer candidates to succeed the founding Artistic Director in a planned transition process. ”

Additionally, the City of Vancouver releases a statement on April 4, 2019:

Diversity and creativity take centre stage with City’s approval of $5.85 million in grants for Vancouver’s arts and culture scene

Vancouver City Council approved a total of $5.85 million in cultural grants to 195 organizations to support Vancouver-based organizations, projects and artists. The approved grants meet the City’s current goals to support artistic, cultural and creative work, and the many facets of the artistic community. The grants include funding to 14 new groups and help advance the City’s priorities to support breadth of diversity and cultural expression as well as sustainable growth in the sector.

“Investing in local groups is a key element to strengthening Vancouver’s already thriving arts and culture scene,” said Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “The grants approved by Council recognize the impact these diverse groups have—and will continue to have—on our city.”

As part of Vancouver’s ongoing investment in arts and culture, the grants support a range of cultural organizations and artistic disciplines:

  • The Savage Society’s Indigenous storytelling productions through theatre and animation
  • The Cultch’s world-class dynamic and inclusive presentations of theatre, dance, music, and the visual arts
  • Vancouver Co-operative Radio’s diverse programming in over 12 languages, artist residencies and training for media artists, and monthly cultural events
  • The Powell Street Festival Society’s annual free celebration of Japanese Canadian arts and culture
  • Pride In Art Society’s annual Queer Arts Festival and newly-opened SUM Gallery for queer art exhibitions and performances
  • Kokoro Dance Theatre Society’s productions and operations at KW Studios in the Downtown Eastside
  • Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture’s live music performances, literary events, visual art exhibitions, artist development workshops, public gatherings, and artist talks

Council also approved ongoing funding to five long-standing major cultural institutions in Vancouver:

  • Vancouver Art Gallery
  • Museum of Vancouver
  • H.R. MacMillan Space Centre
  • Vancouver Maritime Museum
  • Science World
View the list of grant recipients

The grant recommendations approved by Council were informed by an assessment process, which included City staff and community members who reflected a range of expertise and experiences within the local arts and culture sector, and with a large majority of members identifying as First Nations, Indigenous and People of Colour.

As part of ongoing efforts to broaden community outreach, City staff held information sessions at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and the Aboriginal Friendship Centre and provided American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation at each session.

Through the Creative City Strategy, an updated comprehensive new framework and vision for art, culture and creativity is under development.

The Creative City Strategy will reflect the City’s commitment to Reconciliation and Equity, include previously under-represented voices and communities, build partnerships across communities, and develop strategies to strengthen arts and culture.

Each year through Cultural Services, the City of Vancouver invests more than $12 million through grant streams including operating, annual assistance, project, community arts, theatre rental grants, arts capacity and the independent artists’ fund.