Read these books by queer playwrights and scholars
June is Pride Month, so it’s as good a time as any to read the work of queer Canadian playwrights and scholars! Here are our suggestions:
Every Day She Rose by Andrea Scott & Nick Green
After the Black Lives Matter protest at the 2016 Toronto Pride Parade, two friends find their racial and queer politics aren’t as aligned as they thought, and the playwrights behind them must figure out how to write about the fallout. Through both sets of dialogue, Every Day She Rose is a powerful exploration of white supremacy, privilege, and patriarchy in supposed safe spaces.
Everybody Just C@lm the F#ck Down by Robert Chafe
After an unexpected night in a Regina hospital emergency room, Robert Chafe can’t shake the burning question of whether he’s Tennessee Williams or Dorothy Zbornak. Are his symptoms a harbinger of a terrifying undiagnosed condition, or is it all just in his head? Frenetic, tender, and sometimes scary, this play is a stumbling folly about the aging body, mid-life anxiety, and what it means to live when you can’t know what’s next.
Let’s Run Away by Daniel MacIvor
Peter wants to set the record straight—on stage—about his life story since it was told unfairly in a family member’s memoir. A poignant look at how we manage our relationships with ourselves and others.
Iphigenia and the Furies (On Taurian Land) & Antigone: 方 by Ho Ka Kei (Jeff Ho)
Two classic adaptations that transport mythological stories from Ancient Greece to modern-day civilizations. Led by people of colour, these darkly comedic plays depict recognizable plights for justice.
Acha Bacha by Bilal Baig
For years, Zaya has delicately balanced his relationship with his Muslim faith and queer identity by keeping his genderqueer lover and manipulative mother apart. But when his mother ends up in the hospital on the same day his partner is leaving for pilgrimage, Zaya’s worlds come crashing in on each other, opening a space for traumatic memories to resurface. Acha Bacha boldly explores the intersections between queerness, gender identity and Islamic culture in the Pakistani diaspora.
Speed Dating for Sperm Donors by Natalie Meisner
Can a lesbian couple find Mr. Right? When Helen and Paige set out to find a sperm donor who can be known to their future child but not involved their upbringing, the normally anonymous challenge becomes even more intimate than expected. Through the fast-paced “dating” of several candidates, all of whom come with their own warning labels, Helen and Paige’s relationship is strained to a point where they must remember why they set out on this journey together in the first place.
Forget Me Not by Ronnie Burkett
Welcome to “The New Now,” a time in which written language has been forbidden and forgotten. Those who desire to have their love letters written and read must make a dangerous journey to the secret and illegal camp of She, the Keeper of the Lost Hand. Aided by the mysterious showman Me, She recounts how her past led her to be one of the last people able to read and write in cursive. The tandem tale of Zako Budaydos and His Dancing Bear illuminates the time of “The Before,” when the carnival performer had to rely on wit, love, and a secret coded language in order to survive.
The Femme Playlist & I Cannot Lie to the Stars that Made Me by Catherine Hernandez
From masturbation to motherhood, body shaming to burlesque, Catherine Hernandez reveals the reality of living as a queer woman of colour. Set to the music of her life, The Femme Playlist shows what it’s like to be sexy and proud, slutty and loud, queer and brown. I Cannot Lie to the Stars That Made Me is an around-the-campfire guide to mourning and healing for women of colour.
Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom by Jordan Tannahill
Jordan Tannahill’s Governor General’s Literary Award-winning book features modern-day queer and feminist retellings of two momentous events—one historic, one mythic. Botticelli in the Fire imagines the famed painter Sandro Botticelli as an irrepressible seeker of love and pleasure, caught in sexual and political brinkmanship. In Sunday in Sodom, Lot’s wife, Edith, tells of the Biblical destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, but set in the present day.
Sound of the Beast by Donna-Michelle St. Bernard
Through spoken word, storytelling and hip hop, acclaimed wordsmith Donna-Michelle St. Bernard illuminates racial discrimination, the suppression of expression and the trials of activism. Her experience as a Canadian emcee is woven through with allusion to Tunisian emcee Weld El 15’s unjust imprisonment for rhymes against a regime. This story creates a space to reflect on how we are connected to the systems that oppress us, and how we can empower each other to rise up.
Two-Spirit Acts edited by Jean O’Hara
The plays within this anthology—by Muriel Miguel, Kent Monkman, and Waawaate Fobister—touch on desire, identity, and community as they tackle misunderstandings of the Indigenous people and explores what it means to be a queer and Indigenous.
The Gay Heritage Project by Damien Atkins, Paul Dunn, and Andrew Kushnir
Three of Canada’s most gifted performers go on a search for the history of gay people. Through their own lineages, and other places too, the trio discover forgotten stories and some well-known ones to compile an extraordinary history lesson that shines a new light on contemporary gay culture.
It’s All Tru by Sky Gilbert
Kurt, a silver fox dance instructor, and his young fiancé, Travis, have an arrangement: when one’s away, they’re allowed to stray . . . as long as they’re safe. One night, over a dinner conversation about wedding invitations, Travis admits that he had a fling with a man named Gideon whom he believes removed the condom during sex. He also reveals that he didn’t start taking the HIV preventative medication PrEP (Truvada)—as promised—putting himself and Kurt in danger of contracting HIV. When Gideon appears on their doorstep in the middle of the night, the threat against Kurt and Travis’s relationship is an alarming force to be reckoned with.
Unholy by Diane Flacks
Four female panellists face off in a wild, whip-smart televised debate about the intersection of religion and misogyny. The debaters wrestle with themselves and with each other: Can you be a feminist and believe in religion? What can or can’t be forgiven? Why do we have faith to begin with? Between the arguments, each of the debaters return to a seminal and secret moment in their past that represents a crisis of faith, leading the debate to become more and more personally charged, until it climaxes in an epic battle.
Body Politic by Nick Green
The Body Politic was a newspaper on the forefront of the LGBTQ+ movement in 1970s Toronto. Now, Phillip, who was a reporter for the paper, is an aging journalist who's trying to figure out how to use Grindr. Told in two alternating timelines, Phillip recounts his story about the paper and leading the LGBTQ+ movement.
Q2Q: Queer Canadian Performance Texts edited by Peter Dickinson, Chris Gatchalian, Kathleen Oliver, and Dalbir Singh
This anthology is a look at contemporary queer performance practices—from solo performance to political allegory to family melodrama to intersectional narratives that combine text, movement, and music. Q2Q: Queer Canadian Performance Texts features work by Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, Katie Sly and Jonathan Seinen, Shawn Wright, Minh Ly, lee williams boudakian and Kamee Abrahamian, Sunny Drake, and d’bi. young anitafrika.
Queer/Play edited by Moynan King
This anthology includes plays, performances, and interviews by emerging and established queer artists. This collection is diverse and finds itself at the intersection of queer life and art, examining the resulting cultures and identity. Queer/Play features work by Shaista Latif, Nathalie Claude, Alex Tigchelaar, Jazz Kamal “Nari,” d’bi.young anitafrika, d’bi.young anitafrika, Hope Thompson, Flerida Peña, Gein Wong, and Evalyn Parry.
Outside by Paul Dunn
Daniel is ready to talk. And his friends, Krystina and Jeremy are ready to help him. Speaking to his new school, Daniel talks about the bullying and depression that drove him from his old school, while simultaneously Krystina and Jeremy set up for their first gay–straight alliance meeting while dealing with the feeling that they didn’t do enough to help their friend. Told in two narratives that intertwine, the teens find comfort in perspective and power in numbers.
Gertrude and Alice by Evalyn Parry and Anna Chatterton with Karin Randoja
Visiting the reader in the present day, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas come to find how history has treated them. The couple recounts stories from their forty-year relationship, meeting iconic writers and artists, and Alice’s long-lasting and never wavering devotion to Gertrude. Before they go, they find out what has become of their artistic and cultural influence, and how their lives and work are—or are not—remembered.