Sask. theatre among group fostering Canada's first queer, trans playwright unit

·3 min read
The Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon's downtown is one of the 10 theatres across Canada included in the National Queer and Trans Playwrighting Unit, dedicated to producing five plays that represent 2SLGBTQ+ on stage. (Tourism Saskatoon - image credit)
The Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon's downtown is one of the 10 theatres across Canada included in the National Queer and Trans Playwrighting Unit, dedicated to producing five plays that represent 2SLGBTQ+ on stage. (Tourism Saskatoon - image credit)

Saskatoon's Persephone Theatre is one of 10 that make up Canada's first playwright unit, which is dedicated to elevating the voices of queer and trans writers — a gap the unit's founders have identified in the nation's theatre ecology.

The consortium of theatres spread from Vancouver to Halifax are dedicated to bringing together five queer playwrights for the first-ever National Queer and Trans Playwrighting Unit.

The result is set to be what the founder, Zee Zee Theatre Company, describes as a canon of five new Canadian intersectional plays that ensures a "more equitable representation of 2SLGBTQ+ artists and stories."

Those plays will then be available to the theatres in the consortium.

"It's no secret that queer and trans people in our country and our community continue to struggle to find acceptance and support for themselves and their identities — and theatre plays a part in that," said Heather Cant, Persephone Theatre's new artistic director.

"We choose whose stories get told and that has not always included queer and trans voices."

Absence is not neutral but in fact entirely detrimental - Zee Zee Theatre Company

Each year, Persephone is slated to present between six to eight plays, Cant said.

She sees the company as one that needs to represent the entire region both in their playwrights, audiences and community members, but feels it hasn't been doing that well enough in their current productions.

For Cant, this gives Persephone an opportunity to change that and contribute to transforming the broader theatrical landscape in the country.

In a post to their website, Zee Zee laid out how its search for queer and trans work brought it together with artists and producers who also struggled to find queer-centric programming.

It was an issue of unequal representation they wanted to remedy.

"Not seeing ourselves reflected [on stage] does have negative impacts on our mental health and well-being — absence is not neutral, but in fact entirely detrimental," the post said.

Cant said on CBC's Saskatchewan Weekend that she's spoken with queer and trans theatre-makers and they've said that this new unit really shines a light on them and their work.

LISTEN | Saskatoon's Persophone Theatre talks about the national theatre consortium spotlighting queer, trans playwrights:

It also opens up an extraordinary amount of support for those who typically haven't had that, she said, both by connecting them with theatres across Canada, and through paid support for 10 months while they create and mould a play that represents the queer community.

"Queer and trans artists in our communities and the audiences who they represent really need to be able to see themselves reflected on our stages and in the stories that we tell," Cant said.

Applications for playwrights to participate are open through the Persophone Theatre until July 5, and need to include a pitch detailing the project playwrights hope to complete.

The selected playwrights will be paid $2,000 a month to write and develop a stage production with the help of a dramaturge, considered as an advisor, and other theatre professionals. Their work is scheduled to begin Oct. 3.

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