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National Queer & Trans Playwriting Unit

A first-of-its-kind new play development model & virtual reading series.

Zee Zee has identified a gap that exists in the Canadian theatre ecology. Time and again we see a lack of queer and trans plays being produced on stages across Canada. What started as a four year hunt for our own programming purposes led us to country-wide, conversations with many other artists and producers who all share the view that as curators, producers and presenters of theatrical seasons it is a challenge to find queer and trans focused work.

To rectify this Zee Zee has establish this new model for play creation and dissemination, in order to ensure more equitable representation of 2SLGBTQ+ artists and stories on Canadian stages, as well as strengthen and deepen the bonds of professional artists and collaborators across the country, while ultimately furthering equality for all queer and trans people.

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We have gathered a cross-regional consortium of nine other very specific queer and non-queer, intersectional producing companies that have a shared ethos and believe deeply that investing in diversity in their programming is vital for the health and wellness of their entire community. These companies are both from smaller communities as well as major centres from Canada’s North to the Maritimes. They are helping to disseminate the call for submissions ensuring a wide array of artist learn about this opportunity and they will act as selection committee for the Unit.

It will see five, emerging & mid-career artists gathering in the first ever, entirely queer, virtual playwriting unit and they will be paid fairly to write a new play. It will result in a canon of new Canadian intersectional plays being developed ready for production.

At the end of the 10 month writing unit each of the 5 plays will be produced by one of the consortium and will be streamed to the other 9 communities that the consortium work from. The entire consortium will help promote these hybrid virtual/ in-real-life play reading series over three weekends.

The consortium will then commit to full productions or further development of all 5 of the new scripts generated in the unit. 

It’s well known that seeing ourselves reflected back to us helps develop a healthy sense of self. What we see on stage reinforces that sense of having a place in society, while at the same time this healthy portrayal of everyday queer and trans people trying to live happy lives to the fullest tells others that our life and our story matters. Conversely not seeing ourselves reflected does have negative impacts on our mental health and wellbeing – absence is not neutral but in fact entirely detrimental.

As we’re discovering during these “unprecedented” times, fair and equal representation of intersectional diversity is on many people’s and organization’s minds. As arts leaders and members of Canada’s queer community we feel a responsibility to not only demand but also assist in advancing the cause for more time and space for queer and trans inclusion in seasons and on stages across the country, whether the company is queer mandated or not, not only for queer and trans artists but for queer audiences too. Visibility and representation are political.

In this new age of Zoom, mobility is an issue but distance is not. This project will connect artists and audiences from across Canada under one goal: To advance the status of queer and trans folks in Canada through art.

Meet the Consortium Partners

Whitehorse

Vancouver

Vancouver

Lethbridge

Saskatoon

Winnipeg

Toronto

Toronto

Montreal

Halifax

Gwaandak Theatre

Why are you doing this?

“There is a gap in the Canadian Theatre ecology of Northern 2SLGBTQ+ Indigenous writers for theatre – put simply we would like to help fill that gap through our engagement with this consortium, and the eventual playwrights unit. Gwaandak Theatre continues to strive to create meaningful opportunities for Northern and Indigenous Artists, and this unit led by Zee Zee Theatre is in alignment with our values. We are inspired by the potential outcomes, as well as the support provided by this unit to selected individuals. Gwaandak Theatre is keen to work with an Indigenous Northern individual throughout the Unit, and eventual production of their play at the end of the Unit – in order to do so we need to see a strong proportion of applications from Northern Indigenous 2SLGBTQ+ individuals.”

What change do you want to see?

“I would like to see a shift away from theatre that explores the most common experience. I find many theatrical performances to inadvertently be a homogenizing force in Canadian culture – reinforcing colonial values through the re – creation of plays by long gone citizens of Empires, and those living colonists that look to Empires alone for inspiration. This unit is an opportunity to make 5 changes, to plant 5 seeds that will grow through the consortiums efforts and that will have a ripple effect on the artistic landscape around them – I want to see plants I have never dreamed of, I want to see plants that seed more opportunities, I want to see plants Empire failed to extinguish.”

– Colin Wolf, Executive and Artistic Director, He/They

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Zee Zee Theatre

Why are you doing this?

“I truly believe art can change the world. Storytelling is so much woven into our history and the course of civilization it might as well be woven into our very DNA. There is something incredibly powerful about seeing live theatre, it is transformative. You get to connect to a character and fall in love, and laugh and cry and hopefully experience something new or see something from a slightly different perspective. It soothes my soul when I see stories that reflect parts of my lived experience and it feeds my soul when I see stories that are different from my lived experience, but it always has something to do with my soul. But there are simply not enough queer and trans plays. The abysmal play development model of the country barely has enough support for the most privileged of us so if we want to see more queer and trans stories on stages of all sizes across the country we needed to change the model of development.”

What change do you want to see?

“I want it all! I want to facilitate deep connections between queer and trans artists from across this land. I want those artists to have real connection with the people behind the institutions that could and should support their artistic development and produce their work. I want to see blatantly queer and trans stories on every stage of every size in this country. I want every kind of tale that can be told to have its place. I want playwrights to get paid to write, and get their plays out of development purgatory and in front of audiences. I want to see those plays published and easily discoverable when it comes time for me to program a season. I want the notion of regionalism put to bed and the idea that an artist is only as good as the product they can create debunked. I want to make an ally out of every theatre goer in this country so queer and trans rights are never up for debate in campaigns and elections. I want to go to any theatre and know I will see something that I can connect to and I want that experience for everyone else. ”

– Cameron Mackenzie, Artistic & Executive Director, He/Him

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the frank theatre

Why are you doing this?

“As the oldest 2SLGBTQ+ mandated theatre company on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlil̓wətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations, the frank theatre company has been a catalyst for queer stories and queer voices for over two decades. This is a very exciting moment, as we get to collaborate with other queer organizations nationally to further deliver our mission.

I think this is a very exciting initiative, because not only it will create space for queer playwrights but it also brings the queer organizations closer to each other. We are happy and eager to support our friends at Zee Zee.”

What change do you want to see?

“As the Artistic Director of the frank theatre, I focus on elevating the voices of the most marginalized artists within the queer community, and supporting BIPOC, trans and non-binary artists who have had less access to theatre stages and spaces. I’m very proud of the work that we have done and will be doing; and I am also aware of the systematic barriers that have stopped marginalized artists from developing work or finding courage to reach out to organizations with confidence. I’m always excited about presenting diverse forms of storytelling that reflect one’s lived experience and aesthetic. Through this collaboration I hope to get to know more queer artists nationally and through shared effort, to offer equitable and meaningful space for playwrights to develop and present their work.”

– Fay Nass, Artistic & Executive Director, she/he/they

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Theatre Outré

Why are you doing this?

“As a small, rural theatre company about to enter its tenth year of operations, we have dedicated ourselves to amplifying queer voices through the stories we stage. As we look back on our history, however, while proud of our accomplishments, we recognize that we have not done enough to provide a platform for the most marginalized within our 2SLGBTQ+ community. When Zee Zee Theatre reached out with an invitation to participate in this exciting new program we jumped at the chance to work with like minded companies and artists from across Canada, and put our money where our mouth is in terms of working towards using our platform to amplify voices that have traditionally and historically been excluded.”

What change do you want to see?

“I’d like to see room made on our stages and opportunities given in abundance to IBPOC and trans voices. I’d like to see more support, respect and honour given to these voices, particularly from within the 2SLGBTQ+ community.”

– Jay Whitehead, Co-Artistic Director. he/him

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Persephone Theatre

Why are you doing this?

“I am hopeful this endeavour will allow Persephone to build new, meaningful relationships with queer and trans artists from across the country. I want queer and trans folks here in Saskatchewan to know Persephone Theatre values them enough to tell their stories on our stage, and to advocate for them with other theatres. I particularly hope this program will inspire queer and trans artists from the prairies to create, and for them to know they don’t have to leave for a larger city in order to have their work valued and appreciated. Persephone Theatre does not have a specific queer mandate – but we can be a home for queer work. As a regional theatre, we are meant to serve the entire community, which must include queer and trans artists and audiences.”

What change do you want to see?

“I want to see queer and trans artists get the same spotlight and consideration on a regional stage like ours, as cis-het artists have for decades. I want to see plays celebrating queer and trans joy more often than those centring on pain. Also, I want to see the Canadian canon of queer and trans plays grow, and the community of artists who create them be celebrated for who they are.”

– Heather Cant, Artistic Director, she/her

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Theatre Projects Manitoba

Why are you doing this?

“Winnipeg doesn’t currently have a specifically designated Queer Theatre company, but Theatre Projects Manitoba was founded by a queer artist and has a track record of championing queer theatre in this city throughout our history. I am so happy to continue offering a home for queer artists as essential members of our larger artistic community.”

What change do you want to see?

“I recently had the chance to dramaturg a new work by a young trans playwright that centred on a same-gender couple unpacking the history of their relationship in a kind of retrospective coming-of-age. Amazingly the play wasn’t about their gender or their sexual orientation at all–it literally never came up. It’s 2022, I know it shouldn’t be remarkable to see queer characters dealing with something other than their queerness, but apparently, it is– everyone in the room remarked on it. Clearly there is still a lack of well-rounded queer representation on our stages–work by and about queer folk that doesn’t need to be justified to a cis/het audience. I want to see queer and trans artists creating work about whatever they want, that tackles the full range of human experience until it stops feeling remarkable to see queer and trans characters unapologetically living rich full lives onstage.”

– Suzie Martin, Artistic Director, she/her

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Native Earth Performing Arts

Why are you doing this?

“There would be no Native Earth without Indigenous Queer and Trans artists. They have shaped every aspect of our company since its inception. We honour the work of those who came before us by supporting the emerging voices that will shape the company’s future. This program is one of the ways in which we can serve our community.”

What change do you want to see?

“These stories remain important. These stories need to be told. They bring a valued perspective to our society.”

– Keith Barker, Artistic Director, he/him

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Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

Why are you doing this?

“This approach of providing support through a coalition of companies is such an intriguing experiment that I hope opens us up to new ideas of how we might better share resources to assist queer and trans artists develop vital theatre.”

What change do you want to see?

“I’m excited by the potential of this network of theatre companies to share knowledge and resources amongst each other to create spaces in which queer and trans artists can take risks and thrive.”

– Daniel Carter, Interim Director of Operations + Programming, he/him

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Imago Theatre

Why are you doing this?

“We need stories to amplify Queer voices so we can learn from all human experiences. As we expand our perspectives and artistic practices, we make our community richer.”

What change do you want to see?

“One of the core values at Imago Theatre is the desire to balance representation on our stages. Increased opportunities for Queer artists to gather, create, and produce their work would ultimately translate into equal representation for all marginalized genders and sexualities within the Canadian theatre landscape.”

– Micheline Chevrier, Artistic and Executive Director, she/her/elle

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Neptune Theatre

Why are you doing this?

“I’m a great believer in artist mentorship and creating industry access for the next generation of storytellers, and feel that there is a great need for better representation of our Queer communities on national stages.”

What change do you want to see?

“A richer, fuller scope of Queer voices and stories taking space in the contemporary Canadian canon and getting showcased by theatres across the country.”

– Annie Valentina, Artistic Associate, she/her

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We need your support!

Help fund Canada’s first-ever National Queer and Trans Playwriting Unit and help us develop a canon of new intersectional plays.

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Get in touch!

Is your organization interested becoming a consortium partner? Are you a member of the media or performing arts community looking to connect? We’d love to hear from you!

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Thank You Funders

Presenting Partner

The McGrane-Pearson Endowment Fund

Canada Council for the Arts

Zee Zee Theatre acknowledges that we live and work on the unceded traditional and ancestral territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.