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Buddies is Planting Seeds of Collaboration through an Exciting Queer Theatre Conference

iPhoto caption: Original design by Francesca Chudnoff
/By / Nov 19, 2021

What does it mean to actively question what binds us as a queer theatre community? How do we support multiple and often overlapping queer communities? How do we create environments that support division without being divisive?

These are the questions Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, in association with Vancouver’s the frank theatre company, are exploring in Q2Q-2: Refusing the Queer Monolith. The second iteration of the conference shines a light on the conversations happening in and around the works we see on stage and asks attendees to consider the makeup of queer theatre communities across Turtle Island.

Online from December 6-10, 2021, Q2Q-2 unites more than fifty 2-spirit, trans, and queer artists across a series of panels, workshops, and performances,  fostering thoughtful exchange and planting seeds of collaboration. Participating artists include Ravyn Wngz, Daniel MacIvor, DM St Bernard, Heath V. Salazar, and many more. To close the symposium, Buddies invites registrants to a special evening with award-winning artist Vivek Shraya.

Q2Q-2 is free to attend, but attendees must pre-register for the event. To view the full schedule and register for the event, visit the conference website.

Makram Ayache is pictured from the waist up, standing outdoors. A bus is visible behind him; he leans gently on a black post, with the sidewalk and street out of focus in the backround. Makram gazes intently into the camera, his hands raised in front of his ribs, fingers gently touching as though he is holding something small. He wears a heathered grey/purple t-shirt ad a chain necklace with a small pendant. He has short dark hair and a  closely trimmed beard and moustache.
Image by courtesy of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

Meet Makram Ayache, Conference Curator

Buddies in Bad Times Theatre sat down with conference producer and curator Makram Ayache to share some thoughts on next month’s conference.

Why do you think it’s important to have these conversations about queer performance at a “national” level?

Queer theatre and queer performance is uniquely localized. Queerness seems to be an intimate and interpersonal experience and the art generated from these explorations inevitably reflects the plurality of how “queer” manifests in different spaces. Even the language I use in this writing is indeed not reflective of the language most Queer or Trans or Non-Binary people use. 

In this second iteration of the conference, we’re leaning into this plurality. We are asking, “how do we recognise our differences without cultivating division”? The hope is that a national conversation will present us an opportunity to share in celebration, strategy, aesthetic, resilience, form, activism and artistic rigour as it is taking place across Turtle Island in so-called Canada. 

How do you see Q2Q-2 building and/or diverging from the 2016 conference in Vancouver?

The significance of the first Q2Q was that it brought together the artists, thinkers, and shakers in these multiple and overlapping communities together. There were tensions and difficult conversations that were unearthed. These instructed the organizational infrastructure of this second gathering. Integral to our process has been an Advisory Committee made up of Queer, Trans, and Non-Binary artists working across different locuses in so-called Canada. This instrumental difference redirected the energy of the gathering toward a more artistic gathering as opposed to the artist-and-academic focus of the first one. While there was a desire to include academia in this conference, when everything shook out with COVID and planning became more streamlined, we directed the resources to support primarily artists in this iteration. 

Another way this significantly diverges and builds on the success of the previous gathering is that the conversations we are finding ourselves within today are markedly different from those before a pre-pandemic, pre-George Floyd world. The Advisory Council has structured rigorous, reflective, and topical panel discussions which lean into the difficulties of so many of our conversations and also offer ways forward, ways upward, ways inward, and ways through.

What possibilities, challenges, and/or questions are you finding with creating a symposium in an online format?

As with so much of this pandemic, the biggest struggle is engagement fatigue. The siloed work on a computer feels like it is waning, especially as people begin to have opportunities to gather in person more and more. When there is so much content online, the question becomes, “why this symposium”? But it’s a worthy challenge, one where we can lean into the interconnectivity of our dynamic queer communities, increase the accessibility of such a gathering to many people from the comfort of their own homes, and share in the conversations across Turtle Island and beyond.

You can find out more about Q2Q-2: Refusing the Queer Monolith and register for the conference here.

Meet the Advisory Committee

Anais West stands outdoors, pictured from the sternum up, looking into the camera. They have blond hair and blue eyes, and their face is illuminated by the sun on one side as they look intently into the camera. They stand in front of several tress with red flowers, which are just out of focus. Anais wears a sheer hot pink blouse, with capped sleeves and a bow tied around its high neck. A tattoo is just visible beneath the sleeve on Anais' left arm.

Anais West

Anais West is a queer, genderfluid writer, actor and producer, as well as a Polish settler on the occupied lands of the Coast Salish peoples. Their Jessie Award-nominated plays, which merge theatre with film, poetry and punk music, have been presented in Tkaronto, so-called Vancouver and NYC. They are the frank theatre company's Artistic Producer.

Anais moderates Hybrid Forms, Hybrid Selves, a panel taking place on December 7.

Photo by courtesy of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

Darrin is pictured from the waist up, standing in front of a white background - he smiles casually with his arms crossed in front of his sternum. Darrin has brown hair and a silver-grey beard; he wears a black button-down black shirt, partially unbuttoned over a black t-shirt. There are red, gold and white details printed on the shoulders of his shirt - tubes of lipstick pointing in various directions.

Darrin Hagen

Darrin Hagen is an award-winning playwright and Queer historian. He has created forty plays and dozens of published essays and articles exploring the history of sexual minorities in Alberta. He was named by the AFA as one of the 25 Most Influential Alberta artists in the last 25 years.

Darrin moderates Queer History, a panel taking place on December 10.

Photo by courtesy of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

Elena Eli Belyea lays on their back in a white collared shirt, staring directly into the camera. Pictured from the sternum up, they lay on a light pink faux-fur rug, blowing bubbles with pink gum as they look back at the viewer. Their long dark hair is clipped back with light blue and pink star-shaped barettes, and swept out to their left behind them.

Elena Eli Belyea

Elena (or Eli) Belyea is a queer playwright, performer, producer, and arts educator from Amiskwaciwȃskahikan (colonially known as Edmonton) whose plays have been produced across Canada. They're also Artistic Director of Tiny Bear Jaws, an agile, femme-run, cross-Canadian theatre company and half of queer sketch duo ”Gender? I Hardly Know Them.”

Elena moderates Queer Comedy as a Conduit for Joy, Destabilization, and Provocation, a panel taking place on December 9.

Photo by courtesy of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

Nikki Shaffeeullah is standing outdoors in the sun, smiling widely into the camera. She is pictured from the sternum up, and has her long dark hair pulled over her right shoulder. Her light-blue and white patterned blouse has small white buttons and detailed trim, and she wears woven, fan-like earrings.

Nikki Shaffeeullah

Nikki Shaffeeullah is an artist, facilitator, and activist who creates theatre, film, and poetry. Currently, Nikki is a curator with National Arts Centre – English Theatre, an artist-in-residence with Why Not Theatre, and a core member of Confluence Arts Collective. Past roles include artistic director of The AMY Project and editor-in-chief of magazine.

Nikki facilitates Practicing Abundance, a workshop taking place on December 9.

Photo by courtesy of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

Richie Eilcox stands in front of a grey cement wall, looking directly into the camera. They are picnture from the shoulders up, wearing a pale pink button-down shirt and pink beanie. The lower part of their moustache is bright blue, and they are half-smiling as they look at the viewer.

Richie Wilcox

Richie Wilcox is a multi-talented director/writer/performer whose work has been seen across Canada and toured internationally. Wilcox is the Artistic Director of the live art company HEIST where they have helped co-create and perform in Princess Rules, The Princess Show, Princess' Pride ‘n' Joy among other works. Wilcox also serves as the Artistic Director of the 37 year old Ship's Company Theatre which is known for creating and producing original plays with an Atlantic Canadian emphasis.

Richie moderates The Token Queer, a panel taking place on December 8.

Photo by courtesy of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

Santiago Guzmán stands outdoors in front of a sunset, pictured from the sternum up with his arms crossed. He has dark eyes and curly hair, which is blowing in the breeze. Santiago smiles widely at the camera; he wears a white t-shirt and denim jacket.

Santiago Guzmán

Santiago Guzmán is a theatre and filmmaker originally from Metepec, Mexico, now based in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. He is Artistic Director of TODOS Productions (NL), Artistic Associate of Playwrights Atlantic Resource Centre (NS) and General Manager of Neighbourhood Dance Works (NL).

Santiago moderates Immigrant Queer Identity, a panel taking place on December 6.

Photo by courtesy of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

Tawiah BenEben Mfoafo-M'Carthy is pictured from the bicep up in black and white. Tawiah wears a knit sweater over a white button-down shirt. A watch is visible on Tawiah's left hand, which is raised in front of Tawiah's face, and the collar of the sweater is propped. Tawiah smiles widely, looking into the camera with joy.

Tawiah BenEben Mfoafo-M'Carthy

Tawiah M'Carthy is a Ghanaian born, Toronto based Theatre Practitioner, notable as a Dora nominated playwright and performer. Tawiah's credits include Black Boys, Obaaberima and Yɛn Ara Asaase Ni. Tawiah is a founding member of Saga Collectif and Blue Bird Theatre Collective and has worked at theatre companies across the country. Tawiah was the artistic director of the 2020 Festival of Ideas and Creation and currently the artist outreach and development coordinator at Canadian Stage. Tawiah is also a co-director of the Emerging Creators Unit at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

Tawiah moderates Queer in our Homeland, a panel taking place on December 10.

Photo by courtesy of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

Yolanda Bonnell stands in front of a brightly coloured, brick wall, painted in hot pink and lime green with bright white grout. They are turned to their right, gazing over their shoulder into the camera, their left hand raised gently in front of their face with their right arm draped casually over their head. Their long dark hair flows down their back, covered at their crown by a silk scarf in shades of pink, royal blue and green. They wear a yellow wide-sleeved tank-top, long turquoise earrings, and have a green leafy tattoo on. their left shoulder.

Yolanda Bonnell

Yolanda Bonnell is a Queer 2 Spirit Anishinaabe-Ojibwe & South Asian multidisciplinary performer, writer, facilitator and producer. In February 2020, Yolanda's four-time Dora nominated solo show bug was remounted at Theatre Passe Muraille (co-produced with Native Earth and manidoons collective), while the published version was shortlisted for a Governor General Literary Award.

Yolanda moderates 2 Spirit Connections, a panel taking place on December 8.

Photo by courtesy of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

Philip Jonah Logan Geller is pictured in black and white from the sternum up. They wear a dark button-down shirt, open over a light coloured v-neck tee. The sport a half-smile as they gaze into camera, the waves of a beach visible behind them. They have dark eyes and short dark hair, trimmed on the sides, with a trimmed moustache and beard.

Philip Jonah Logan Geller

Philip Jonah Logan Geller is a M̩tis (Red River) and Jewish (Ashkenazi) artist and educator, who is focused on decolonizing his process by listening to and dialoguing with ancestral and cultural knowledge. They have worked across Turtle Island as a director, educator, performer, clown, creator, and producer. They have been through a BFA from University of Alberta, an MFA from York University, and are pursuing an MEd in Urban Indigenous Education from York University Рmore importantly he learns from relatives, Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and the Land.

Philip facilitates everything is many things: intersections of decolonizing and queer theatre practice, a workshop taking place on December 7.

Photo by courtesy of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

Jessica Watson

Jessica Watson

Jessica is a former associate editor at Intermission, as well as a writer, classically-trained actor, and plant enthusiast. Since graduating from LAMDA in the UK with her MA in acting, you can often find her writing screenplays and short plays in the park, writing extensive lists of plant care tips, or working on stage and screen (though she uses a stage name). Jessica freelances with various companies across Canada, but her passion lies in working with theatre artists and enthusiasts.



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