Visibility for LGBTQ2+ theatre

The Plain Site Theatre Festival debuted Oct. 2-5, Alex Rioux’s (far right) new effort to give the LGBTQ+ theatre community more visibility. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

After St. Thomas University grad Alex Rioux witnessed the comfort of working with LGBTQ2+ artists while he was directing a play, he said he wanted to create a festival where he could give queer talent a space to experience the same comfort.

So he created and produced the Plain Site Theatre Festival. It was held from Oct. 2 to 5 in the Ted Daigle Auditorium.

“The festival is a way to celebrate queer talent and give them a space to be uniquely themselves,” said Rioux.

Focusing on LGBTQ+ talent, Rioux said it provides visibility to works written by members within the community, that realistically show the queer community in everyday life.

The festival consisted of two days of workshops on character development for the writers and crew before becoming open to the city for the weekend events.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community acted in plays such as How the Night Sky Looks 80km Away from Civilization by Noah Deas and Lesbians: A Review by Charlotte Simmons.

Alex Rioux (above) wanted to give those in LGBTQ+ theatre community a comfortable space. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

Rioux, who himself is part of the LGBTQ+ community, has a long history in theatre with groups such as Bard in the Barracks Theatre Company and Theatre New Brunswick. While working with Fruit Machine this summer, he said he witnessed the comfort of working with LGBTQ+ artists. The production addressed the controversial practice in the ’50s and ’60s that attempted to determine if an individual was interested in homosexual activity in order to identify and eliminate them from the civil service, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the military.

“Growing up, I always felt like I needed to prove myself and that my sexuality was holding me back, although it wasn’t,” said Rioux.

“I wanted to create a space where no one had to fight to prove themselves.”

Third-year STU gerontology student Katie Hanson played a role in Lesbians: A Review.

“My character, Ellen, is one of those lesbians who is a perfectionist and is very girly. It’s cool. As a lesbian myself, I don’t relate to being girly, so it’s awesome to develop this different side of me,” said Hanson.

After doing 12 years of theatre, she said this is the first time she’ll perform as a queer person.

“It’s just an overall inspiring event, for the performers, for the playwrights and the audience.”

Rioux said his objective is to grow an appreciation for LGBTQ+ artists and help them be seen.

“I hope that people that have never seen themselves [represented] in theatre, go ‘Oh, I relate to this. This represents who I am and reflects my experience’ and help create a future for queer artists.”