On a chilly night in November at Cabaret Mado in Montreal’s Gay Village, a band takes the stage. At a microphone on one side is a drag king, looking somber and sad as a solitary figure in a cloak covered in stars and stripes walks on stage to the tune of America The Beautiful.

Suddenly the figure, seemingly a blonde woman glamorously made up, turns, grabs the central mic and breaks into her number Tear Me Down. It’s the opening of In the Wings Promotions production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and its title character, Hedwig, has just taken the stage.

This is not your typical play. Based on the so-called “off off off off-Broadway show” and film by John Cameron Mitchell and composer and lyricist Stephen Trask who was present during opening night for a post-performance Q&A). It’s the tale of a “slip of a girly boy from communist East Berlin” who gets a sex change in order to marry an American soldier and cross over to the ally-controlled Western side of the city at a time when the Soviet Union restricted access.

It is not a play featuring many characters played by many actors, nor are there elaborate scene changes. The story is told almost entirely by Hedwig while she and her band, the Angry Inch, and her husband Yitzhak, perform across from a venue where her last spurned love, the star Tommy Gnosis, is playing to crowds of adoring fans. Her storytelling is interrupted by the show’s numerous songs, including the famous sing-along Wig in a Box.

Andrew Morrissey plays Hedwig. He does a fine job showing her struggles with her sexual identity, finding love, and peace with herself in America. His makeup, wigs, and costumes, done by Jess Beyer and Sig Moser, are faithful recreations of what people have come to expect of the character: black leather, denim, and studs that are staples of eighties and nineties rock outfits, Hedwig’s blonde curls with their signature center part, and the garish blue eye shadow, penciled eyebrows, and red lipstick.

Morrissey is unsteady in his high heels at times and his singing is occasionally pitchy, his German accent ranging from pronounced to non-existent. That said, he has the stage presence and the emotion the character requires. In the parts where Hedwig is coming unglued, you never doubt the sincerity of it.

It is not, however, Hedwig that steals the show in this production, but rather her second husband, Yitzhak, played by producer Noelle Hannibal. Clad in the beard and shapeless clothing of a drag king, her portrayal conveys the depression, fear, and passive aggressiveness of someone in an abusive relationship.

You feel it in every gesture, in every insult muttered under his breath, and in every passive reaction to Hedwig yanking the microphone from his hand when his powerful feminine voice breaks through hers. While Morrissey’s performance was very true to form, it is Hannibal’s portrayal that I remember the most clearly from that night.

The band, known as The Angry Inch never misses a beat (despite some issues with the sound system that night). Though they are clearly musicians first, they do have some acting talent and interact with Hedwig and Yitzhak throughout the show.

The show also featured animations by flash animation artist, StickdudeSeven. While they lacked colour and were less stylized than the animation in the Hedwig and the Angry Inch movie, they did suit the material well. Unfortunately, the stage was not set up to truly do them or the projected lyrics for the sing-along justice. They were projected onto a screen at the back of the stage that was so low to the floor that Hedwig, standing in front of the stage, often obscured them. A set up that was higher or ever above the stage would have been easier to follow.

All that said, the play is a lot of fun. The story is sincere and relatable to anyone struggling with gender identity, domestic abuse, artistic expression, or just finding oneself. The music is catchy and uplifting with the occasional hint of guttural sex. Check it out.

* Hedwig and the Angry Inch plays Wednesday, November 21 and Thursday, November 22 at 8pm at Cabaret Mado, 1115 Ste-Catherine Est. Tickets available through In The Wings Promotions

** Featured image by Romantic Photographic

Yes, winter is coming, but this spring, Canadians will be able to legally stream Game of Thrones without a cable subscription. Crave (formerly Crave TV), Bell Media’s Netflix competitor, just added an extended package that includes all HBO and Showtime content, including new episodes and a feature called On Air that allows you to watch shows from those networks as they air on TV before they show up in the on demand menu.

You have to get the basic Crave subscription at $9.95 a month and then add the extended package for another monthly $9.95, so $20 a month plus tax for HBO and Showtime, plus a bunch of recent movies (including what looks like all of last year’s Best Picture nominees), shows like Star Trek Discovery, and original content like Letterkenny. There’s even a very interesting back catalog with classic sitcoms like Cheers, but no Night Court…like c’mon, someone pick up Night Court, please. 

It’s currently available on computers and mobile devices and will be available on Samsung Smnart TVs, Apple TV and other platforms as of November 15th. From the looks of it, it’s a better deal than Netflix.

While I’m clearly gleefully plugging this product, this article is not sponsored content, but rather rare editorial praise for Bell Media from a frequent critic. It looks like they have finally embraced the way a good chunk of the population consume TV and have stopped trying to push an old model on those who clearly don’t want it.

Even as HBO made all of their content available, with no strings attached, through their GO app in the US a few years ago, Bell, which owns the Canadian rights, refused to see the light. Sure, they made an app, too, called TMN GO, but you had to get a cable or satellite TV package first and then subscribe to HBO Canada on TV before you could pay the ten or so bucks for it.

So basically, in a lot of cases, the choice was pay over $100 a month on top of the cost of an internet connection to watch one show or risk getting an angry letter for illegally downloading it. Yes, HBO is much more than GOT, but that show’s the hook for people living in a post-cable world.

Bell was effectively ignoring a potentially huge market that they could easily get with no risk of losing the cable and satellite market they already have as a result. My friend’s parents who have been paying for a satellite package and HBO for years aren’t going to cut the cord just because the same content is now available in another format.

Meanwhile, people who don’t give Bell Media any money but still consume the content might be inclined to pay and go legit if presented with a reasonable offer and become customers Bell wouldn’t have any other way. Now, it looks like Bell Media has finally accepted and embraced that fact.

This will only help them promote original content, too, as it will now be running on the same platform as really popular shows. Come for Game of Thrones, stay for Letterkenny.

The future is an internet subscription and two to four streaming services. With the Crave expansion, Bell Media clearly wants a part of that future. Now if only they could add Night Court.

Halloween is upon us and in Montreal that means just one thing: fastening your garter belts and doing the Time Warp at the city’s Rocky Horror festivities!

As always there are two events in Montreal to partake in: the Halloween Ball at Cinema Imperial and the live musical play put on at the MainLine Theatre. The Imperial ball involves a costume contest and a screening of the film accompanied by actors miming the show on stage. Audience members are invited to yell out call lines, dance, and throw stuff during strategic points in the show.

With scores of drunken attendees and the risk of being hit with a toilet paper roll, the Halloween Ball is not for everyone. If you want something a little tamer but still very much in the spirit of Rocky Horror and Halloween, Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show at the MainLine Theatre is a sure bet.

This is the original musical play the 1975 film is based on. The actors on stage are all actually singing and dancing and the MainLine’s production contains a few artistic changes that may throw off die-hard fans of the movie and former attendees of the Halloween Ball. Though you are not allowed to throw anything during the play, audience members are invited to do call lines and even heckle as many of the actors give as good as they get.

Elyann Quessy reprises her role as Janet from previous years and it’s a role she does well, maintaining the girlish squeak and feigning unease as she becomes more and more comfortable with her sexuality. Though her singing is pitchy at times, it fits the character perfectly.

Adrian MacDonald also reprises his role as Brad this year and he is a talented singer and performer. Though his portrayal of Brad is never hammy enough for my tastes, MacDonald does an excellent job of portraying the stereotypical cis straight male forced to face alternative forms of sexual and gender expression. In the current political climate here and abroad, perhaps this is the Brad we need.

Cassandra Bluethner is once again Columbia and her portrayal this year is a massive improvement. Unlike last year, she offers a lot more of the squeak and cuteness one would expect from the character. Instead of a teenager in the “I hate everyone” phase, we have a more authentic groupie, in love with Eddie but enamored with Frank N’ Furter and addicted to the drugs the latter offers (shown in the play as sprinklings of glitter).

Sarah Kulaga-Yoskovitz reprises her role of Magenta. This year, though, she doesn’t sing on Science Fiction Double Feature, leaving vocal duties on the opener to Lindsay Miller as the Usherette, complete with skimpy costume and a box slung around her neck. Though her part was a bit smaller, Kulaga-Yoskovitz provided one of the biggest laughs I had during the performance.

Kenny Streule resumes his role as the Narrator – the character fans of the film will know as the Criminologist. It’s a role Streule does well, keeping a straight face in even the harshest heckles.

The true star of the MainLine production is Stephanie McKenna, who reprises her role as Frank/Dr. Frank N’ Furter. Though she’s dropped the English accent of previous years, her snark and strut are on point and her physicality is a sight to behold.

She is the first actor I’ve seen in the role to slip seamlessly from lying down, to a headstand before jumping into a standing position. She is also the first Frank I’ve seen with the physical strength to simulate sex positions most people find difficult.

This year’s production features a few newcomers.

This year the role of Riff Raff was cast gender bent, with Meghan Vera Starling in the part. Her portrayal was good; she had the right amount of creepiness and the BDSM vibe they gave her character explains why Frank beats her during the play.

Unfortunately her singing suffered due to her excessive use of the vibrato in which, on a particular note the singing voice sounds like it is vibrating or pulsing. It’s a vocal style that doesn’t suit the character, making much of Starling’s singing sound more like an American Idol audition than part of a musical number in Rocky Horror.

While in previous years the roles of Eddie and Dr. Scott were played by one actor (Kenny Stein for the past two editions), this year they were split. Eddie was played by Mathieu Samson and Dr. Scott by Nicolas Mancuso. Both were good in their respective roles, but nothing outstanding.

David Hudon is also new to MainLine’s production, taking the role of the beautiful creature Rocky, and he was perfect for it. Of all the past Rockys, he is the first one to come close to the physical type the part calls for and Hudon actually does a few push-ups and takes a few poses. Though Rocky has few lines in the play, Hudon manages to portray the character’s just-been-born naiveté with empty smiles and body language.

One of the stars of the production that deserves mention is the band, led by Katharine Paradis on saxophone. The music was always on point and helped further the play’s jokes along through their strategic use of sound effects.

There were a few changes that threw me off. Though all the songs were included, some scenes were changed that put some of said songs out of context. For example (spoiler alert) in the dinner scene, Rocky comforts Janet, causing Frank to get jealous, thus triggering the song Wise Up Janet Weiss. This version does not feature Janet’s interaction with Rocky, giving no context to Frank’s sudden rage against her.

Despite the difficulties, the MainLine show is worth checking out. It’s sexy, it’s catchy, it’s fun, and you’ll laugh yourself silly, if not from the play itself, then from the audience’s brutal heckling.

Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show runs October 25, 26, 27, 30 and 31 (all shows 8pm) at MainLine Theatre, 3997 St-Laurent. Tickets available at MainLineTheatre.ca

It’s been three years since my last POP experience, so I headed down to the Rialto Theatre last night without knowing what to expect. As soon as I entered the POP Montreal opening party, I immediately felt at ease. The vibe was inviting, intimate, and full of that specific kind of excitement that fills the air at the beginning of any festival: you can’t wait to discover the next great thing.

After looking through our press swag bags, dancing to the DJ, and absorbing the atmosphere, Joe and I left the opening party. We headed down Parc, making a stop at the Crying-Laughing show at Espace Pop. In the old days I never used to see anything but music shows, so this year I’m trying to expand my horizons and see more of what the festival has to offer.

Joe and I eventually made our way to Sala Rossa, where our first music show of the night was Dany Laj & The Looks. While not groundbreaking by any means, they are a very fun rock n’ roll band that got our show watching off to a great start.

Then we were meeting a friend for a drink across the street at Casa Del Popolo, so Joe and I decided to check out the music there. Honestly I wish we hadn’t. Raf Wilcot seemed to try a little too hard to come off as the brilliant tortured artist, when in fact his music was tame and uninspired.

What changed my mood was heading to La Vitrola to catch their last two shows of the night. I was immediately charmed by Moscow Apartment, a teenage girl band from Toronto. They were just so sweet and had such great stage banter you couldn’t help but fall a little bit in love with them. They reminded me a bit of First Aid Kit, and I wish them all the success!

We ended off the night by going from one extreme to the other. After the sweet folk-pop of Moscow Apartment, Laura Sauvage came swagerring onto the stage, demanding that we get the hell off our seats and come rock out. They played a shorter set then scheduled because their drummer had to run off to another show, but what they did play was full of punk rock energy that got everyone at the small venue dancing. It definitely inspired me for all the rocking that’s still to come!

* Featured image of Laura Sauvage by Stephanie Laughlin

** POP Montreal 2018 runs until Sunday. Full schedule at POPMontreal.com

Rejoice indie music fans for today marks the beginning of this year’s installment of Pop Montreal! For those of you who suffer from option paralysis I give you my deepest sympathies because, as usual, there’s just so many shows to choose from.

Even just looking at their schedule can send shivers down the spine of someone who wants to see and do it all. Last week Stephanie Laughlin gave you her picks for what to see and this week it’s my turn.

In order to streamline my choices and prevent my head from exploding, I’ve narrowed it down to these four categories: The Hidden Gem, The Top Venue, The Top Headliner, Best Overall Show.

Keep in mind that this list is far from extensive, completely biased to my musical tastes and prepared without any thought for the logistics of how someone would attend shows that overlap with each other time-wise. This is just a jumping off point for five days of hipster heaven.

POSTDATA

One of the many (many, many) hidden gems of Pop is POSTDATA, the solo project of East Coast indie rocker Paul Murphy more commonly known for his work in Wintersleep. They’ll be at O’ Patro Vys on Thursday to headline a show featuring Caveboy, Art D’Ecco and Strangerfamiliar.

This part-time project might not get big time attention but after listening to a few tracks I’m baffled as to why. The songs are well crafted, the lyrics are interesting and there’s an accessibility to the music that should interest people with different musical tastes.

POSTDATA perform with Art d’Ecco and Strangerfamiliar Thursday, September 27, 8:30pm at O Patro Vys, 356 Mont-Royal Est. Tickets are $13

Barfly

With so many bands to choose from I knew I had to cheat and pick a whole venue. One of my highlights every year is heading over to my favorite dive Barfly to check out a bunch of bands that you probably don’t know and normally wouldn’t find there outside of POP.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday night they’ll be running shows there with packed lineups for only ten bucks. It’s a sma… urrr I mean “intimate” venue that always has a rock and roll vibe. I once saw a guy on stage there playing the cello and it still felt rock and roll for some reason.

To go with the low ticket price, it’s also got the most affordable drink prices of any of the venues in the fest. Add all that up and there’s a good chance it will be packed on all three nights so get there early if you can.

Usually the bands aren’t as well known but if you’re feeling adventurous and want to explore some new music this is the best place to be. This year I’m looking forward to getting to know Toronto based indie rockers Goodbye Honolulu who are headlining on Thursday.

Barfly is at 4062A St-Laurent

Wolf Parade

While this is a highly unoriginal choice, I’ve decided to put Montreal indie rock royalty Wolf Parade on this list as the top act because of the sheer volume of shows they have in this year’s fest. They’ve taken up residence at Sala Rosa from Thursday to Sunday, so whichever night you plan on heading out, they’ll be waiting for you.

Sometimes picking between a bunch of bands you’re not super familiar with can be a bit tedious, if you just want to go out and be assured of a good time, this is the best option. They’re even hosting an after-party on Sunday the 30th at La Sottorenea for those of you who just don’t want the fest to end!

Wolf Parade perform with various opening acts September 27-30, 9pm at Sala Rossa, 4848 St-Laurent. Tickets are $30 (or $10 for the Basement After-Party)

Blitzen Trapper

Another of the more established acts in this year’s fest is Blitzen Trapper who have been combining indie rock with country and folk influences since 2000, often to critical acclaim. The Portland-based quintet will be supported by three great local acts John Jacob Magistery, El Coyote and Corey Gulkin on Saturday night at Le Ministère: Salle St-Ambroise.

This is my vote for the show with the most solid lineup top to bottom. Event hopping at POP can be fun, especially on a Saturday night, but if you’re not in the mood for that, give this show some serious consideration.

Blitzen Trapper, John Jacob Magistery, El Coyote and Corey Gulkin perform Saturday, September 29, 9pm at Le Ministère – Salle St-Ambroise, 4521 St-Laurent. Tickets are $15

* Featured image from Goodbye Honolulu’s Typical video, via YouTube

** POP Montreal runs September 26-30, full schedule at POPMontreal.com

On September 26th, Pop Montreal returns with another five days of music, film, panels, and visual arts. It’s been a few years since I’ve attended this very Plateau/Mile End festival, but I already know I’m going to have a good time. Because unlike other bigger festivals where you’re drawn to check out what you know, at Pop you’re guaranteed to discover a whole slew of new exciting artists you’ve never heard of before.

Here’s my list of what I’m most looking forward to checking out at Pop Montreal 2018:

Bad Reputation

Ever since I first heard the song I Love Rock n’ Roll as a teenager, I was drawn to the badass that is Joan Jett. This year as part of Film Pop, the festival will be screening a documentary by director Kevin Kerslake about the legendary feminist punk rocker. I’m also looking forward to attending the screening at the newly opened indie/art house movie theater Cinema Moderne on St-Laurent.

Wednesday, September 26, 8pm, Cinema Moderne, 5150 St-Laurent. Tickets $12

Kilo Kish

While rap music isn’t usually my thing, I was so drawn by the music video for Elegance by New York artist Kilo Kish that I officially have added her show to my must-see list. While researching Kish I discovered that Pitchfork recently dubbed Elegance one of the best songs of 2018, declaring “Building from the stream-of-consciousness style that characterizes most of her catalog, Kilo Kish turns her racing thoughts into crackling electricity.”

Wednesday, September 26, 11pm, Piccolo Rialto, 5723 Ave du Parc. Tickets $20

Puces POP

My favourite part of POP. The festival has these fairs year-round now (if you’re friends with a Plateau gal, you’ve undoubtedly been dragged to one of these events), but the biggest of them all is always during the main festival in September. For three glorious days, you can shop for prints, jewelry, food, makeup and clothing. So come watch hipsters gather in their natural habitat, and leave with a cute new print to hang on your wall!

September 28-30, Eglise St-Denis, 454 Laurier Est. Schedule

Molly Nilsson

Molly Nilson is a Swedish pop singer that, according to Pitchfork “does ennui like no one else.” That combined with her 80s music sound has me excited to see what she does onstage. I would love to tell you more about her but she doesn’t have much of a social media presence… which kind of only makes me want to get to know this artist more.

Thursday, September 27, 8:30pm, Bar “le Ritz” P.D.B., 179 Jean-Talon Ouest. Tickets $16.50

Art POP

In between film screenings and shows, I plan on checking out the many art shows that are also happening during Pop. Here’s just a sampling of the ones I’m most excited for:

Où sommes-nous

OBORO and White Frame co-present Où sommes-nous, an exhibition by Judith Albert, Katrin Freisager, Dana Claxton, and Nik Forrest. These four established artists open and disrupt our knowledge of space and time, bringing into question the line between reality and illusion through poetry and resistance. (info)

Pop Pavillion

Art POP is collaborating for the very first time with the Association of Visual and Media Arts Masters students (AEMAVM) of the Université du Québec à Montréal to co-present POP Pavillon, AEMAVM’s annual group exhibition showcasing the work of 11 exciting, emerging artists. (info)

Whispering Pines

Centre Clark presents a new exhibition by Shana Moulton, an artist who creates evocatively oblique narratives in her video and performance works. In Whispering Pines, the artist presents art pieces combining an unsettling, wry humor with a low-tech, pop sensibility.(info)

* POP Montreal 2018 runs September 26-30. Full schedule available at POPMontreal.com

** Featured Image: Screengrab from Kilo Kish’s Elegance video

Montreal’s The Holds are a band inspired by the greats and their local contemporaries. Frontman Ryan Setton cites classic R&B artists like Otis Redding and Stevie Wonder, classic rock acts such as The Animals and Led Zeppelin and  local acts like John Jacob Magistry and The Damn Truth among the band’s influences.

“When we approach what we do,” Setton said in a telephone interview, “we’re influenced by the past but we’re not thinking about it. We’re definitely in the moment of what’s going on now (on the Montreal scene). The result is The Holds.”

Setton feels that the scene that influences them is also one that gives back.

“Montreal’s always been a very supportive scene, a lot of people are supporting the bands,” he said, adding that “it can be tough, though, at the same time because there are a lot of bands. So it can be intimidating sometimes as an artist to find out just where you fit in.”

The Holds is Setton on vocals and guitar, Justin Wiley on drums and percussion, Eric Hein playing lead guitar and André Galamba on bass. That was the same lineup I caught at their EP launch two years ago, shortly after the band’s formation.

“We are lucky enough to have the same lineup for years,” Setton observed, “building chemistry and having a good band chemistry and interaction between the musicians is super important. With the first EP it was more like ‘Hey, let’s do this!’ We didn’t really know where it was going to go. But doing this second record it was clear we’re all on the same page…There’s no confusion as to what direction we’re headed in as a band.”

While The Holds are a band that sticks together, they also tried living together for four days in the country. This was in order to record their first full-length album Juke, featuring songs they had already written over the course of a year and a half.

“We had recorded many times in the city,” Setton remembered, “and at the end day everyone would go home and we’d have to come back in the morning and get back into the flow. That’s why I thought if I get everyone together, we’re in one place, we’re stuck there…and it was totally worth it because it all worked out for the best.”

You can hear for yourself this Saturday when The Holds play live and release Juke. In the meantime, enjoy this video from their first EP:

* The Holds Juke Album Launch with special guests Celina Wolfe and Lea Keeley is Satuday, August 25 at 9pm (doors 8pm) at le Petit Campus, 57 Prince Arthur Est. $10 (includes a dropcard with a download code for the album)

Dawn McSweeney has been writing for years: short stories, poetry, even some journalistic pieces for this very site. Now, she has finished and published her first novel, The Hills We Climb By Accident.

“The story lent itself to the length of a novel,” McSweeney said in a phone interview, “I started writing it with the hopes that it would be a book, but I’ve done that before and they don’t always get there. This one did.”

McSweeney did try self-publishing once before, back in the early 2000s, which meant actually paying for paper and doing it yourself. She finds that now there is much more opportunity for authors to get their work our there, but, of course, there are limitations.

“There’s no support, there’s no net, there’s no person who is the expert who is guiding this whole ship, it’s kind of like ‘here are some words, I hope they stick’,” she observed, while also noting that her daughter’s friend got her book as an Amazon recommendation, so “maybe there is a fair shot to be had.”

Location may have played a part in that recommendation as McSweeney’s book is set in Montreal, which, as she puts it “not enough” are. This choice was, in part, because it’s what she knows, but also due to some of the unique aspects of life in our city.

“People tell me that in other places they don’t use parks the way that we do.  We treat a park like a beach and  lay out in a way that in other cities maybe they don’t,” the Montreal born and raised author observed, noting  that “the things we take for granted and just process every day are actually flavourful experiences that are site-specific.”

McSweeney grew up thinking that if you set your story in Canada, it will be considered just a Canadian story, without the prospect of getting traction internationally. However, she now feels that a Montreal story is different.

“We’re OG hipster in that way,” she observes, “we have that caché of a very small space that we have injected so much personality into.”

Family relations also play a big part in her story, too. And one planned plot point was unexpectedly mirrored in McSweeney’s own life as she was completing the book.

“I didn’t plan for that to happen,” McSweeney observed, “and it was strange to be writing about that concurrently.”

The Mountains We Climb By Accident follows its central character Talia from the present day, to a few years prior, to her childhood, then back to a few years ago, then back to the present, then to her teenage years and so on. It reads like several short stories woven together thematically rather than chronologically.

McSweeney says she chose this structure to better emulate how a person actually thinks:

“We are just a collection of our disjointed experiences,” she explained, “they are all each a chapter and are all each a separate narrative. You can remember something from your childhood so poignantly and then completely forget a conversation you had last week. One becomes the afterthought and one becomes the centerpiece memory. Sometimes I struggle to write something in a straight line because that’s not how it feels when I experience it.”

You can experience this unique narrative structure and a story based in Montreal right now.

The Mountains We Climb By Accident by Dawn McSweeney is available now in paperback and can be pre-ordered as an e-Book

The History of Sexuality is a play that is going to make you uncomfortable, but the reasons it will are the very reasons why you should see it.

Following a successful run at the Mainline theater in September 2017, it was selected as part of Pride 2018’s programming. Playwright, director, and producer Dane Stewart set out to write a play about queerness and power dynamics and the result is a piece that is visceral, heartrending, intellectual, sexy, and authentic.

The play revolves around a Master’s seminar about Michel Foucault’s book, The History of Sexuality taught by Marie, played by Renée Hodgins. It is through this seminar that the stories of the professor and her students are tied together. Though they have their own lives and relationships with power dynamics and sexuality, they always end up in class to talk about Foucault.

Hodgins’ portrayal is partly of the stereotypical passionate university professor doing her best to make her students think, while at the same her character is given depth through her relationship with her long-term partner, Gayle, played by Haitian Canadian actress Melissa Toussaint.

Gayle is disabled and the struggles between her and Marie to maintain intimacy despite the disability are relatable and real. Toussaint’s Gayle is one of the most faithful representations of the struggle to live with disability I’ve ever seen on stage.

You feel her frustration as she struggles to find a job not only as a black woman, but as a disabled black woman, and you see the deflated look of depression so many disabled people have when Toussaint is on stage. It is a look similar to that of Madeleine, a black woman struggling with depression while doing her best to maintain her relationship with Alissa – played by Kayleigh Choiniere.

Madeleine – played by Jazmin Illidge – is a woman struggling to find her place in the world despite being a black lesbian with depression. You feel the listlessness in her portrayal and the impact on her relationship with Alissa, who works as a stripper. Alissa shares her struggles with being objectified in her work and her portrayal is a good demonstration of how ordinary and likeable strippers can be. In the play, Alissa is asked to introduce her classmate Talia (played by Katherine King) to stripping.

It is Talia and Darr, the play’s transgender character played by Darragh Mondoux, who are in one of the most important parts of the play. This section addresses sexual assault, and is overlaid with audio clips of an interview Dane Stewart did with an actual sexual assault survivor.

It mercilessly addresses the fact that it is the female victims’ accounts that are always put on trial and not men’s, and with every graphic detail, audiences are made profoundly aware that coercion or the simple violation of the accepted terms of a sexual encounter can turn a consensual encounter into a rape.

The play also includes an interview with a male self-professed perpetrator of sexual violence. It is an uncomfortable topic, but it’s an important one that we need to keep talking about.

The History of Sexuality also addresses kink, which is another topic that might make people uncomfortable. Craig – played by Trevor Barrette – is a student in Marie’s class, but he also works as a gay male escort, and is into puppy play. You see him being whipped by his master Martin, played by the Oliver Price who comes off a bit cold but well-suited to the part, as well as some simulated pee play that may make some people squirm.

That said, Barrette’s Craig is sweet and loveable and the relationship between Craig and Martin helps to demystify some aspects of kink. The portrayal also addresses the issue of emotional abuse while highlighting the power submissives have in BDSM relationships, a notion that is typically misunderstood. After Fifty Shades of Grey, we need more realistic portrayals of kink like this one and Stewart, Barrette, and Price certainly did it justice.

The History of Sexuality does have its flaws.

The portrayals of the characters in prostitution seem to minimize its dangers. The classroom scenes can get a bit boring and heavy with intellectual discussion, though they do succeed in addressing the viciousness with which some people on the Left speak to those with opposing views.

David Hudon is perfect as John, the stereotypical cis white male who is a slave to the gender binary and adheres to essentialist notions of differences between sexes. You feel John’s defensiveness constantly when he is on stage as well as how quick his non-gender conforming classmates are to attack him. Though the character has no backstory, Dane Stewart admitted in an earlier interview that the character is meant to represent the majority of men women and queer people have to deal with regularly.

The History of Sexuality is the kind of play we need more of. It’s not perfect, but it helps to demystify many aspects of sexuality many cis straight vanilla people would like to ignore but cannot. If you identify as queer, disabled, or trans, or a person of colour you will see aspects of yourself on stage and feel the power of being adequately represented. If you’re a woman who’s been victimized in the past, you will feel vindicated. If you’re cis and straight, the play will hopefully make you realize that people are people. For this reason alone, it’s worth seeing.

* The History of Sexuality runs August 9th through 12th. Tickets available through Place des Arts

** Featured image of Darragh Mondoux in The History of Sexuality by Peter Ryaux-Larsen

I had no idea what to expect when I entered the Mainline Theatre to see Brave New Productions’ staging of the Martin Sherman play Gently Down the Stream. I knew that the play was part history lesson, telling the history of the persecution of gays in the United States, but I had no idea what the format was going to be. As a reviewer, it’s often best to go into historical plays without any prep – a true test of how well the play tells the history without boring the viewer.

The play is set in the London flat of Beau, a gay pianist from New Orleans, whose claim to fame was being the accompanist to cabaret singer Mabel Mercer in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. The history of gays in the United States is told by Beau to his young English lover Rufus, who is fascinated with history and into older men.

Beau’s knowledge of the past is fragmented and Joe Dineen’s portrayal is at once sincere, funny, and heartrending as he describes losing a lover to the terrorist attack at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans, and another to the AIDS crisis. Dineen’s Beau comes off as veteran-like and sweetly grandmotherly.

It is not, however, the history lesson that sets this play apart. It’s the sincerity with which the relationships are portrayed. The age difference between Beau and Rufus – the former is in his late sixties, the latter in his late 20s – is a constant point of contention, as is Rufus’s mental illness. The on-stage kisses between the two men seem real, not forced, and you get a feel of genuine intimacy between all the characters and a sincere snapshot of gay male domestic life.

Sean Curley’s Rufus is one of the most realistic portrayals of Bipolar disorder I’ve seen on the stage. Montreal native Daniel James McFee is sweet and saucy as the tattooed performance artist, Harry.

Brave New Productions’ play is not perfect. Though he never breaks character, Joe Dineen seems to have trouble remembering his lines from time to time, though he does recover quickly enough. Sean Curley’s British accent slips here and there, and while his portrayal of depression is on point, it lacks the look of deflation depressed people usually have. People who aren’t into history or domestic scenes may find parts of the play boring, but they brought a tear to my eye.

If you want to laugh and cry, and learn a little and see scenes separated by beautiful old timey music, you need to check out Gently Down the Stream.

* Gently Down the Stream is playing at the Mainline Theatre from August 2 to 11th. Tickets and info through MainLineTheatre.ca

** Featured image by Donald Rees, courtesy of Brave New Productions

Day 3 of Osheaga seemed like any other. Folks both young and old lining up for the attractions in between the long awaited sets of their favourite artists.

The atmosphere was jolly, friendly and exciting. There was much to be entertained with and everyone seemed delightfully entangled with the surrounding crowds and atmosphere.

With seesaws, contests, and plenty of freebies, Osheaga is certainly a place where one could relive their youth.

Ready for Day 3

 

These dudes clearly didn`t read the sign

 

Checking out the Perrier Greenhouse

 

Fun comes in all forms at Osheaga

 

Jungle wowing the crowd

 

A screen grab, so to speak

 

DVSN from a distance

 

Excited crowd for Brockhampton

 

Excited crowd with Brockhampton

 

Montreal Pride is upon us and with it tons of amazing entertainment! Whether you like drag shows, workshops, films, plays, or parties, Pride has something for everyone, all it requires is that you have an open mind and not be a bigot.

The History of Sexuality is one of Pride 2018’s many theatrical offerings. It started as a low budget two week production at the Mainline Theatre in September 2017 and was selected to be part of Pride’s 2018 programming. It was also recently awarded a grant from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Quebec (CALQ).

The History of Sexuality is producer/director/playwright Dane Stewart’s creation. He had the idea while doing his Individualized Master’s degree in Theatre, Communications and Gender and Sexuality at Concordia.

“I knew that I wanted to write something about queerness in Montreal but I didn’t know exactly what the format of the play was going to be,” the playwright said in an interview.

Stewart was more interested in the method of writing, so he had the idea to do interviews. The play is based on a series of interviews he conducted with queer people living in Montreal which he then worked into his script.

Many of his subjects were friends and acquaintances, while others were second and third degree connections he made by reaching out on social media. In order to tell their story faithfully, he offered copies of his script to interviewees for feedback in cases where he used their actual words in the play, and made sure he had everyone’s consent to include them.

“One of the things I wanted to incorporate while I was writing was a feedback mechanism,” he noted, “I used their words in the script, I then returned the script to them with those scenes so they could reflect on whether or not they felt they were adequately represented and if they felt they hadn’t been, I worked with them, usually one-on-one, to address those issues.”

I asked Dane about the title of the play as many would see the title and assume they were getting a history lesson. Dane explained that the play’s title comes from a book of the same name by the philosopher Michel Foulcault.

The History of Sexuality is kind of a bland book,” Dane said with a smile. “But it’s a sexy title. Put that title on something and pair it with a sexy image and people will come see it.”

He said that audiences will see a show that’s really sexy.

“There are on-stage representations of sex and there are all these different types of queer relationships represented,” he explained, “so there is a really sexy element to it. It is also highly intellectual. It doesn’t approach sexuality just to say ‘come and watch these people get naked on stage’, it’s ‘come and let’s watch people represent sex on stage and then let’s analyze the power and the truth and the dynamics that go into that.”

Stewart is not worried that he’ll lose audiences by being too intellectual because he admits that he’s not going to appeal to everyone:

“It’s been really a process over the three years I’ve been working on it to pare down the intellectual theory and really make it digestible and I think we’ve done a half decent job of that. People will have a fair number of questions hopefully…It’s about analyzing what power dynamics look like in our sexual relationships, what power dynamics look like in our romantic relationships, how we’re socialized and raised into those power dynamics and how do we, moving forward as a society, start to deconstruct that to make society as safer place for expressing sexual identity.”

I asked Stewart who he feels needs to see this play the most. He said the two groups are members of the queer community and, for the educational side of it, straight men.

“I think we’ve done a decent job representing real, honest queer experience on stage. A lot of representation of LGBT folks you’ve seen still is like a stereotype and we really work to overcome that so I think there’s a feeling of empowerment in seeing that representation.”

Regarding straight men, Stewart mentions that he recently incorporated an edit into the script. It’s a scene that will show in upcoming performances in which a woman recounts an experience of being sexually assaulted overlaid with audio clips from the actual interview he did.

In the scene the actress is speaking in dialogue with the actual audio clip. Following the #MeToo movement, Stewart really wanted to address that issue in his play, “and especially address what can men do improve their own actions, to address their own behaviors.”

“I incorporated an interview I did a couple of weeks ago with a man who identified as a perpetrator of sexual assault so we actually have the actress who’s playing a survivor of sexual assault interviewing another actor whose speaking from text from that interview. It’s intense, for sure, but I’m hoping to give straight men a point of access to say ‘Ok, I’ve heard all these conversations, I’ve heard all these women and others sharing their experiences of violence maybe I’ve perpetrated that but how do I recognize that and how do I start to move forward and be a better human.”

In the era of #MeToo and a growing recognition that sexual identity and consensual expressions of it is not something to be ashamed of, The History of Sexuality sounds like the kind of play everyone needs to see.

* The History of Sexuality runs August 9th through 12th. Tickets available through Place des Arts

** Featured image by Peter Ryaux-Larsen. (L to R) Darragh Mondoux, Trevor Barrette, Kayleigh Choiniere

Even with 95% humidity day two of Osheaga was still was packed, energetic affair. As we arrived this afternoon, it was hard not get swept up in the crowds of kids singing “Ole, Ole, Ole, oh LEY!”

It really set the tone of what Osheaga is all about; swarms of people heading off island to get rowdy.

Here are a few snapshots of the day:

Chad and Avril waiting in line to get on the Yellow Line

 

Aaaand we’re back!

 

There’s a ball pit on sight so that kids of all ages can play when not checking out bands.

 

When you’re the old people at the party this is the band you’ve been waiting for. Blondie is still rocking it as hard as ever

 

Nice to see some local eateries represented. Grumman ’78 is a favorite for St-Henri locals and now known to the locals of Osheaga.

 

Not to mention it’s damn tasty and a great way to re-fuel before more music

 

Chilling in the back as the sun goes down listening to Lord Huron. You have to sit sometimes.

 

San Holo saying goodnight

 

There were nighttime makeovers too

 

We decided to watch Arctic Monkeys from a safe distance

 

Here’s a better view (photo P Beaudry, courtesy Osheaga/Evenko)

 

The view as you leave Osheaga

A day at Osheaga is like a rollercoaster. It’s fast, crowded and constantly in movement.

The key, just like a roller coaster, is to stay focused on the spot right in front of you and keep your wits about you.

It’s impossible to do everything and trying will result in truly doing nothing. Instead pick what you like the most and stick with it.

Here are a few brief moments in time that capture some of what went on today:

The Scene

 

The Music (Of Course)

Rainbow Kitten Surprise (image P Beaudry Courtesy Osheaga/Evenko)
Chromeo (photo Chris Zacchia)

The Food (more on this tomorrow)

Summertime is peak festival season. This is supposed to be a fun, exciting time of year when you get to see some of your favourite artists or discover new ones. But for others, festival season can also mean an increased period of unwanted sexual advances.

Despite the heightened awareness surrounding these issues due to the #metoo movement, sexual harassment and assault is still prevalent at festivals all around the world. A quick google search reveals articles with disturbing titles like Sexual Harassment was Rampant at Coachella 2018. And in response to the high number of sexual assaults at festivals in Sweden, the first cis, non-binary, and trans women-only music festival, Statement Festival is scheduled to launch in late August.

In Montreal, a real conversation about sexual harassment and assault at festivals started in 2016. When Osheaga officials initially brushed off Melanie Doucet’s claims that her drink was spiked, she went to the media to share her story. Doucet’s story inspired The Montreal Women’s Council to survey women about their festival going experiences.

The results of the survey, which included women of colour, women with disabilities, and members of the lgbtq community, were both scary and unsurprising. 56% of women who attended festivals in Montreal reported being harrassed. 37% of women surveyed admitted to being sexually assaulted. And that’s only the women who were willing to come forward. Many victims, either out of shame or embarrassment, never speak up.

So how has Osheaga, which starts this year on August 3rd, responded to these issues? For the second year in a row, the festival has hired the Les Hirondelles intervention team to roam the grounds. In a press release for this year’s festival, executive vice president and chief operating officer of evenko Jacques Aubé stated that “The presence of the Hirondelles is perfectly in line with our primary objective, which is to allow all festival-goers to fully enjoy their entertainment experience in a safe environment.”

Recognizable by their armbands with a pair of swallows, The Hirondelles are specialized security squads designed to increase the safety of vulnerable people at the festival. They will also have booths on the grounds that act as safe spaces for people who feel threatened.

It’s commendable that Osheaga has started taking steps to ensure that everyone (we can’t forget that men are victims of sexual harassment and assault as well) can feel safe from these kinds of vulgar and inappropriate situations. If only we could live in a world where everyone could just keep their hands or comments to themselves, and enjoy the music.

On Friday Osheaga returns to Parc Jean Drapeau for three days of music, art and general fun in the sun. As a result, we at FTB have been putting together our lists of performances we’re most looking forward to see.

Yesterday Stephanie Laughlin put out her list of top choices, today it’s my turn. It’s a mix of bands I already know, ones I want to get to know and ones I want you to get to know. The list is completely personal, totally biased and omits any act that I deem “too big” to preview.

You might have bought a ticket because of the headliners, but there’s a whole day of stuff to do before that so let’s get started.

Manchester Orchestra

A year removed from releasing their critically acclaimed 5th studio album A Black Mile To The Surface, the Atlanta Georgia indie rockers Manchester Orchestra are still out on tour in support and they’ll be hitting the Osheaga stage on Friday afternoon. Their music ranges from melancholic ballad to energetic rock with lyrics that feel very personal, sung ever so sweetly by frontman Andy Hull.

Their songs feel musically spacious yet lyrically intimate, designed to evoke a powerful and emotional response from their audience. What better excuse could you have for leaving work early and getting the jump on the weekend.

 

 

Rainbow Kitten Surprise

Besides the obvious fact that their name is just flat-out awesome Rainbow Kitten Surprise also brings some serious musical talent to the table. Their songs are driven by solid bass and drum grooves, their lyrics are witty and fun, their vocal harmonies are spot on. They’re the type of band that even if you don’t know them all that well, it won’t be hard to get into the show.

 

 

John Jacob Magistery

There’s no way I was going to miss the chance at a little hometown bias in the list, Montreal’s own John Jacob Magistery are on early Saturday. It’s well deserved that the local art/folk rock ensemble is getting a spot on a big stage so I feel it’s only right to show a little support.

If you’re unfamiliar with them here’s their bandcamp page plus their video for Carol, a track I could listen to all day every day.

 

 

LP

Laura Pergolizzi (LP’s her stage name) has been around for a while, released four albums and written songs for some pretty big name acts. I’m not familiar with her work but after listening to a few tracks I was won over.

It’s apparent right away that she’s someone with a truly special vocal style. I’m now looking forward to checking her out live when she plays midway through Saturday afternoon.

 

I could go on and on but with about 100 acts in the festival you have to draw the line somewhere. Besides I’ve got some sunscreen to buy, they’re calling for blues skies all weekend.

* The 2018 edition of Osheaga runs August 3rd, 4th and 5th. Tickets available at osheaga.com

** Featured image of John Jacob Magisteray courtesy Oshgeaga/Evenko