A consortium of theatre companies across Canada are collaborating to create the National Queer and Trans Playwriting Unit (NQTPU). A first of its kind in Canada, the initiative encourages 2SLGBTQ+ theatre artists in their early to mid-career stages to submit their work for consideration before July 5. Five Canadian artists will be chosen to participate in the program that begins in September.
Spearheaded by Vancouver’s Zee Zee Theatre, NQTPU aims to open doors for the 2SLGBTQ+ community and create a safer space for queer and transgender playwrights to share their work within a dedicated environment.
Winnipeg’s own Theatre Projects Manitoba (TPM) was chosen as one of the theatre companies to participate in NQTPU. Suzie Martin, the recently appointed artistic director of TPM, arrived in her position just in time to partake in NQTPU.
Martin says it’s important to tell stories from 2SLGBTQ+ perspectives that centre the humanity of their characters. She points to a recent experience she had working on a play written by a young trans playwright.
“It was a play about a relationship, the breakup, the aftermath and empathy,” Martin says. “It was a same-gender couple, and yet the piece wasn’t about that. It wasn’t a coming-out piece. It wasn’t about queer trauma. It was just about the human relationship.
The audience gets “to experience a broader range of human expression,” Martin says.
Local comedian and playwright Lara Rae released her play Dragonfly in 2019, which channeled her experience of transitioning in a way that showcased the inner voice of a transgender individual.
“You can’t force people to enjoy theatre or to participate in theatre,” Rae says. “One has to be pulled in by something. To me, the thing that pulls in is the ability of art to express things in a beautiful way. That is the goal.”
Rae used her ability to express her journey through the arts as a way to inspire and encourage conversations around 2SLGBTQ+ matters and to express the raw truth about her experience as a transgender woman during a time when it was not welcomed by society.
NQTPU has been designed as a way to allow writers and performers to utilize the arts in expressing themselves and their journeys as members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, while also not being limited to expressions of self-identity.
The program will take important steps toward normalizing the 2SLGBTQ+ community within the arts. Martin hopes it will encourage young queer artists to share their voices.
“For young (queer and trans) playwrights to be able to look and see that there is support and a demand for their voices on our stages and that there is a commitment to sustaining and developing that work is really valuable,” she says.
Published in Volume 76, Number 25 of The Uniter (May 31, 2022)