It doesn’t matter if it’s a classroom or a strip club or a bus stop or a Mile End apartment—you can think about sex wherever you are. And not just sex as an act or a symbol but sex as sexuality, as its ascriptions and prescriptions. You can think about sexuality in relation to yourself, you can wonder about it in relation to another. The fictionalized verbatim play The History of Sexuality commands that you think about it, theoretically, relationally and personally, for its duration.
Writer, director and producer Dane Stewart is a Montreal-based, multidisciplinary queer artist and academic. Stewart’s method stemmed in part from his question, “How do you ethically write someone outside of your own life experience?” He interviewed queer folks in Montreal, transcribed their discussions, and worked their words, experiences and edit suggestions into the fictional narrative that is The History of Sexuality, shown at MainLine Theatre this September. The result is an ensemble of dynamic and dimensional characters that appear to possess real histories. Stewart’s well-timed punches through the fourth wall of theatre are facilitated by these respectful stand-ins for real experience.
The ‘quirky lesbian professor’ figure of Marie guides five on-stage students and the audience, Greek-chorus-like, through Michel Foucault’s three-volume tome charting sexuality in the western world. Between drags on her vape and jokes about Cinéma l’Amour, Marie asks her class of Concordia Master’s students to define sex, to explain power, to critique the French philosopher. They do so through the spotlight’s sudden flicker onto their own scenes of interiority.
Marie (Renée Hodgins) and Gayle (Annette Marmen) experiment with their relationship following a challenge to Gayle’s physical ability. Photo: Peter Ryaux-Larsen.
It is the knowledge of Stewart’s innovation that makes the production. Reminding ourselves that the characters are based on people we live with in this city (and, for some of us, on people we live with in this city’s queer community), the stories gain a heaviness. Knowledge of ‘the real’ legitimizes, and without it the characters may be read as simplified clichés: the submissive twink, the hot virgin, the ignorant straight white male who wears white button-downs and confusing shoes (compliments to the costume designer; straight white men often wear confusing shoes). The characters’ ridges and bumps of individuality protrude in the important conversations they hold between themselves. A crash course on stripping is narrated in synchronicity with an exposition of escorting. The multiple, distinctly individual modes of sexuality and approach are made visible, as are the points of intersection. While these interactions play out under the spotlight, it feels as though the characters stilled in darkness are listening in, just like us. Acknowledging that nothing happens in a vacuum is rare for theatre. Why shouldn’t the painful, pacing anxiety attack of Madeleine impact the refusal of definition made by ‘boy-girl’ Darr? And then there is the collective orgasm, characters alone and coupled in their corners of pleasure on stage, to capture that feeling of ‘everyone is fucking on a Friday night.’
While a range of lived experiences is made visible (to our voyeuristic delight and pedagogical benefit), what is unfortunately invisibilized is racial difference. Save for one character, who must carry the impossible weight of racialized sexuality all on her own back, the cast is white. This is not representative of the queer experience. Representation is a widespread problem in the Montreal arts, but The History of Sexuality is another reminder that we are not changing, or not changing enough. In Foucault’s words, revolution does not always lead to social upheaval.
But it is also Foucauldian to say that a challenge to power comes from detaching the power of truth from the forms of hegemony, social, economic, and cultural. The play possesses an academic bent that is ultimately humorous (“Don’t try to second-wave me, Alissa,” mocks Darr). In such a context, The History of Sexuality is productive because it imbues the conversation with lived experience. Lived experience is not hegemonic.
“Think about all of the people in your life,” requests Madeleine (or actor Natalie Liconti, or an anonymous interview Liconti represents—here these lines are unclear and interwoven) before the second act. “Who do you think is the happiest?” Foucault didn’t think happiness existed; it is not truly thinkable. But sometimes Marie steps off her professorial podium and offers her students tequila, and sometimes we revel in a time, or a person, or ourselves, and we see that experience as happy.
Talia (Katharine King) drags the mattress off stage after describing her experience of sexual assault. Photo: Peter Ryaux-Larsen.
Watching the interplay of stories in The History of Sexuality, the individual empathizes with some more than others. Recognizing the points of puncture elucidates something about one’s own sexuality. Ask, ‘What am I focusing on the most in this kaleidoscope?’ It could be Craig’s request to see more of his polyamorous, dominant partner whom he calls ‘Sir,’ or Talia’s account of her rape. The latter is particularly powerful. Overhead audio of the interviewee echoes the words she gave Talia, and Talia drags the mattress from the bed to off-stage (a nod to Emma Sulkowicz’s Mattress Performance at Columbia University?)
The play is an echo not only during Talia’s account or Marie’s libidinous recitations of Foucault’s name (“Foo-CAULT…Fooooo-cault”). It echoes us.
Stewart acknowledges that, “antithetical to its title, the play by no means offers a comprehensive history of sexuality.” If an echo, The History of Sexuality is a story anthology carrying the voices of a few real, queer lives, reverberating off the walls and hitting us so we understand.
Studio XX is pleased to welcome, from May 3rd to June 14th, 2017, as part of the 2017-18 residency program, Julia Dyck, Belen Arenas, Amanda Harvey.
The XX Files is a weekly radio show broadcast on CKUT 90.3FM. For the past 20 years, the rotating lineup of radio hosts have explored technology, art, and society from an intersectional feminist perspective.
The current hosts (Julia Dyck, Belen Arenas, Amanda Harvey) will use the residency at Studio XX to deepening the show’s potential for experimentation and disembodied performance by dissecting the themes of identity production, memory creation, and sonic ownership and boundaries.
During this residency, the artists will produce three audio documentaries including journalism, drama, sound art, original music to be mixed and produced live as a audio visual performance. Focused mostly on sonic production, the audio will be enough to stand on its own in a radio broadcast, but will be accompanied by an experimental video. The audio visual experience will act as a live radio broadcast and performance. This ephemeral performance of live mixing and collaging of interviews, original music, media samples, and spoken word will be recorded and broadcast on the XX Files radio show afterwards.
Preface to Festival Transamériques (FTA) 2017 – Interview with Interview Rimini Protokoll from Berlin Presents – 100% Montreal
How does a city represent itself? I mean really represent itself. Represent itself, not in the proportions of a kind of advertising campaign, but rather with it’s true fabric- revealing its very marrow, or as might be said in French, “dans sa veritable chair”. The representation of a city has huge implications. That is – how a city is represented is very high stakes, first for the very life bread of a city- it’ s economy. A city which promotes itself as welcoming thus might attract a larger number of “qualified” individuals that can add to its professional class and provide the very oil that can run the city’s engine, and then of course higher economic gain, tax dollars, and ultimately a better way of life “for all”.
Of course, any forward thinking contemporary person knows that a city’s realities, despite its economic power might fall short of that “for all”. The real stakes of the “for all” are part of a larger equation, an equation that might not always be the primary interest of the very architects of the city, although this “for all” might be part of the rhetoric of their framing the city, spoken at those very critical beginnings and junctures that decide a city’s next breaths of growth.
Many years ago, the urban city guru Richard Florida, at the big $ invitation of the City of Montreal had encouraged what many feel were his questionable suggestions on the vitality of his own idea of the creative class (a specific looking and thinking creative class he defined in limited and specific demographic terms) being (as he deemed)a necessary group (in that specific demographic he cited) to come to cities, almost like a colonial entity, but of course all in the interest of “everyone’s” prosperity.
To be sure, whatever one’s assessments of Florida’s suggestions (some of whose idea of the necessity of creativity for a city certainly rang true, but of course with possibly a limited window of who would be doing that creativity), the city-culture intelligentsia of cities like Montreal were gaga-eyed over the “then” trending Richard Florida, who according to many felt he told these cities what they wanted to hear.
So fast forward to Montreal at its 375th anniversary and what of this city that Florida once named the secret gem of North America, only to years later retract these ideas on Montreal, and also to years later retract much of the power he felt his particular theory of the creative class held for cities.
The avant-garde theatre festival (FTA) Festival Transamériques has consecrated the task of giving a snapshot of what Montreal is, to the German theatre collective Rimini Protokoll, through their 100% project, which has been done across the globe. And as they have said in our interview, they definitely have not just a created a portrait of Montreal’s creative class, but as their 100% Montreal program says …
“Just who are Montrealers, and what’s on their minds? Onstage 100 citizens portray 100% of the city’s population. Men, women or trans, adults, children and teenagers, atheists, Muslims and Jews, they draw a map of Montreal in a vibrant, exhilarating exercise in self-portrayal.
In this survey probe by the masters of documentary theatre the Rimini Protokoll collective, Montrealers will see themselves as they really are. Who avoids paying taxes? Who is against the wearing of the veil in public places? Who has cheated on his/her lover or spouse? Without any filters, without beating around the bush, the courageous participants of 100 % Montréal respond to all questions, both the banal and the very serious. Moving onstage as though in an organic diagram–never have statistics been so full of life!–they incarnate public opinion in sensitive fashion, dramatically revealing its unpredictable movements. A candid look at the multiple identities of our city.( From the FTA Program)
We sat down with two of the participants of 100% Montreal and with director…to discuss the ins and outs, of first choosing a representative sample of Montreal and then of initiating real talk among 100 Montrealers, on Montreal’s its 375th anniversary .
100% Montreal is a valiant attempt in its scale; the project might have missed have not been a platform for certain particular “silently visible” demographics like those born in the Montreal of foreign parents, feeling neither from here nor there . But then, “internal exile” might come in all shapes and forms.
The candid discussion of how many felt about trans and gay identity was a highlight of the project, according to the director. But, at the end of the day, the project’s goal is to give air to such occlusions and silences (and there are many) (yes beyond what some might consider the “vapid” lives of Richard Florida’s creative class) and as we see in the interview with two participants and the director, 100 % Montreal certainly might have enough fodder and luminous elucidations about the pleasure and pains of being in and around 100 % Montreal, living and playing in Canada’s French-Canadian gem, Montréal. Ultimately, a message of coexistence seems to have emanated from this grand scale documentary installation.
Interview with Rimini Protokoll Re 100% Montréal director Stefan Kaegi
How do you embed yourself, in the same sense a war reporter might embed themselves with a military unit. How do you get embedded so that “as someone from outside”, to get an accurate snapshot of representing Montreal on stage in your 100% Montreal?
Stefan Kaegi Rimini Protokoll:
I think that is not our strategy. We are inviting the whole troop/ troupe, if you want to stick to the army terms, to do something with us here. Different from If I was an actor and I needed to perform 100% Montreal and not being from the city, I would try and go into the city and get into the mood, like method acting and then I would go onstage and then very “fakely” represent, but I am not going on stage. We’re just actually helping the Montrealers to go on stage. The sensitive and complex part of it is how to find, to identify 100 people, that kind of representative. How to find the right stringers. Our strategy is that we were here a year ago I made contact with a friend of a friend from the statistical office and we started talking about how to represent the city, and we looked at numbers.
First, we tried to define gender percentages- 48% male/ 52% female would have to be onstage. We also have a trans participant which is not in the city statistics but we felt this represents the city as well. And then age groups and immigrants- but there was a discussion with them- do we go by passport, by parents birth/ origin. And so we decided for birthplace. We went by precise percent, so like in the case of the Haitian community, they represent 3% of Montreal’s population, so we included three Haitians. Then we go by neighbourhoods- five zones etc. Structures of household etc.
So we chose the statistician, who was a friend of a friend, to be the first one. Then we decided, we don’t choose the people because anyways we don’t know the city so how would we be able to choose. But also, we said also said the Festival should also not choose the 100 people, because they mainly know people from the theatre world, which is probably less than 1% of the population. So we said he, statistician choose one, then he chose the next- the friend of his daughter, who is a different gender, age, and from a different neighbourhood. Then she chose her best friend, then that person chose their mother, mother chose pupil, pupil chose sister, and so on and so on.
But aren’t you staying within a similar chain of related people? Don’t you think since you went from this person to that person, they might have more of a chance of sharing similar opinions?
(He shows me the book 100% Montreal they have printed that shows and describes each of the 100 Montrealers that were chosen. The selection started with a man from the statistical bureau, then his daughter, then a friend or classmate then mother of a classmate, then cousin of classmate, then a work friend etc until hopefully towards the 100th person, a far unconnected distance and difference might be arrived at, from the initial first link.)
Stefan Kaegi Rimini Protokoll:
No, we started with the statistician, a white man from Outremont. And you know the social experiment of six degrees of separation anyways. And they (the participants) would have never met if this project had happened. Anyways, we will see and there is a different thing we need to take care of. When we come with an invitation to take part in a cultural project, there will always be those who say, ” Oh I have a friend and he loves theatre and he would love to participate”. But there, we always say no. No art lovers as well.
So I guess what you are saying is that by the 100th person, there is no relationship to that first person.
Stefan Kaegi Rimini Protokoll:
Yeah, and there is also the fact that after 60th or 70th person chosen along this string, it becomes too complex for this one to find someone with similar ideas, because everyone in her age group, neighbourhood, in her migration structure might be gone to choose from. Our production coordinator Laurence also made sure we had people with conservative values and opinions since such a project has a certain kind of tolerance inscribed, whether you want or not , and so it is easier to find multicultural tolerant, so she made sure there were people with conservative values and opinions. And of course, we need these other ones and we do have them in the piece.
I heard there was some contention about French vs English language that came up?
Stefan Kaegi Rimini Protokoll:
Yeah, there were tensions. If you squeeze the whole city into it and if and when some participants saw and for instance said “how many people speak English and this is not my city”. This has happened. There were also tensions around the trans -woman. I was very shocked to hear about how many people were against gay adoption.
Yeah, because you are asking the participants question during the show.
Stefan Kaegi Rimini Protokoll:
Yes, the show is that we form groups of people that might have had the same experiences. For instance, we ask people if they have been in a war and who has served as a soldier. And it is a very interesting group because you have some people that been in Congo and been involved in a war and we have a young woman who has worked as a psychologist for Canadian troops and never been to a war. So you have interesting combinations of who has thought of suicide and you have younger and older who stand together for all types of reasons in this group.
And what do you think this can bring to a city like Montreal.
Stefan Kaegi Rimini Protokoll:
It is a bit what theatre always does. It tries to be a mirror of the society. I am not sure it will be a mirror to the audience because that is another question. Who is sitting in a theatre like this and who comes to the Festival Transamériques. But here our oldest participant, (he calls to her but she does not hear him). She is 88 years old and she has a very different mind view. She says when she grew up, it was all catholic here and she told me that at 7pm in the evening when she was young in Montreal, they were broadcasting prayers through the radio and she would go along with the radio and pray the rosaries, so it is a very different Montreal than after. She says that Expo 67 was the moment of a flip- when Montreal suddenly turned into an international and kind of scary for society.
Did she talk about that in stage or private interviews?
Stefan Kaegi Rimini Protokoll:
A bit of both
So in terms of this being what is called documentary theatre. Does this just remain documentary?
Stefan Kaegi Rimini Protokoll:
It is tricky to say it is a documentary. On one hand, it tries to be. It comes along with this gesture of anthropological study and we try and be as scientific as possible, going through the numbers. But then again, what we create here is a public…for instance if one of our questions to the participants on stage is, “Who betrayed their partners?” In the space that is designated for people who answer yes to that, is a certain group who may not want to stand there, because they might know people in the audience who know them and they don’t want to be seen standing there. Also, there is a bit of artificiality in the set up that comes- music , light , video that often may it look like an opera production.
But fiction can bring truth also?
Stefan Kaegi Rimini Protokoll:
Yeah, and 100% Montreal is definitely telling about the city. It is authentic or not, there are so many layers of authenticity. They are who they are saying who they are, but we rehearsed so do we transform that into something else or not. I don’t know. Transform it into something more musical? It is the numbers and the faces behind those numbers.
One last one. I and a lot of my critical community are always suspicious of the early successes of the urban planner Richard Florida to influence the city about the relationship of governmentality to culture through an idea of a specifically included and excluded demographics of a particular creative class he specified being necessity to building successful cities. The fear being that culture and various other terms that come along with it like diversity often being promulgated via a governmental voice and even arts organizations starting to follow the government’s approach to how these issues are treated. Using culture to form their own agenda filled ideas of exclusion and inclusion. You Rimini Protokoll 100 % Montreal looks like an amazing citizen initiative. Why do you think something like this is important to do as a citizen and not as a member of the government.
(Off- interview: One should recall the previous Parti Québecois government’s attempts at having citizen express their views about they felt about others in their community: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HW9TWmj3qp4)
In this regard citizen initiatives like Rimini Protokolll’s 100 % Montreal are of utmost necessity.
Stefan Kaegi Rimini Protokoll:
This is not just a community initiative. For instance, it is important we pay the performers. For instance, we have a contract with them. It is not that they should be volunteering for this. This is necessary because if not we would only get the tolerant, open minded people that are happy to be on stage and express themselves (he laughs), and I do not want to see that 100% Montreal crowd because that will no be the city. So for us, it is about representation as theatre always is in that sense as before the King was the one being represented in Baroque theatre. Now we are living in a democracy so we should represent the people. And it’s a complex thing -what the people is and that is the interesting side of it to ask, as well, then there are problems with it because if for instance, there are 40000/ 60000 “sans-papers” in this city. No one knows exactly where they are and we cannot have on stage because they are not in the stats. Because if they show themselves and say they are sans-papiers, they may have problems. There are limits to this work and maybe… so that the “representativity”of it, the government-like is interesting because on stage we are almost like a parliament, trying to represent, but a parliament does not have children, does not have uneducated people, does not have certain age groups, and certain migration groups that would not be speaking the language. So we might be a little closer than what the representation is than a government parliament, but then again our decisions will not be executed out there, but it probably might be better that way.
After a special edition in Montreal last year, Daybreaker presents its first epic morning hack of 2017 in Montreal on Saturday April 1st at the Fairmount Theatre. A day dedicated to fitness party with deep house yoga, dance and feel-good entertainment. Powered this year by and for women.
Learn about the latest events taking place in Montreal
//March 4 Bloquons l’extrême droite islamophobe ! Stop the Racist Far-Right
Massimadi 9, 2 icônes des 90s : Rude + Welcome to Africaville
// March 5
Syrian Children’s Art Show
Atelier des Nouveaux Membres / New Members Orientation
Sarah Mangle’s Look at These Hands : Opening Party
// March 6 – 15 : Israeli Apartheid Week
// March 6
Alternative Media, Book & Print Fair
Profiling Arabs and Muslims in Canada: A Historical Perspective
Margie Gillis – Le Projet Heritage
// March 7 Muslim Solidarity Rally
Taking What We Need Presents : Golden Shrimp Lollipop
// March, 8 : Documentaire ”Hija de la laguna” (Pérou)
// March 9 : I Was There ! : Celebrating Montreal Hip Hop
Étranges créatures / Fantastic creatures
Fundraise hip-hop show for Solidarity Accross Borders
Vernissage ”L’intemporalité du corps” -> Exhibition until //March 28
// March 10 : 5 à 7 MENA UdeM
Holding Space : Fighting back against Islamophobia through art
Réalisme Climatique / Climate Realism International Colloquium
This is Gay Propaganda : LGBT Rights & The War in Ukraine – MTL
// March 11 : McGill CHSP – Women’s Health Conference
// March 11 : Bringing BDS Home: Current BDS Campaigns and Our Local Terrain
// March 12 : Apartheid 101 : Israel, Palestine, colonialism & global apartheid
// From march 14 until 12 april : Caligula, Albert Camus, René Richard Cyr. TNM.
// March 15 : Pic nique contre la brutalité policière
// March 17 :
Causerie publique avec A. Woodfox et R. King des Angola 3
Women in the Quran
// March18 – 19 : Salon du disque et des arts underground
// March 18 : Uzuri : The Journey
// March 19 : Montreal’s 194th consecutive St Patrick’s parade
//March 21 : Soirée courts-métrages LGBTQ Short movies Night- TAKE 2!
//March 21-March 23: Mcgill Tribune Journalism and media conference
//March 21 : soirée de lancement 10+10 Visages du Cinéma québecois. Exposition jusqu’au 23 avril. Cinémathèque québecoise.
From March 6 to 15, Israeli Apartheid Week is organized in over 150 cities worldwide including Montreal. During IAW panels, workshops, film screenings, demonstrations and cultural events are set up so as to educate the public about the realities of colonisation and apartheid in Palestine, and to connect Palestinian activists with local activists working on related issues.
A brief review of Israeli Apartheid Week history
IAW was first launched in Toronto in 2005 and has grown to become one of the most important global events in the Palestine solidarity calendar. Over the past decade, it has served to bolster the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which is is a global campaign attempting to increase economic and political pressure on Israel. First, the movement aims at putting an end to Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian land and the Golan Heights. Also, the full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel is at stake here. In order to give a voice to the Palestinian people, the BDS movement has helped launch local campaigns standing in solidarity with them.
Israeli Apartheid Week in Montreal
In holding Israeli Apartheid Week on occupied Kanien’kehá:ka territory, we must remember that this event series is taking place within an ongoing colonial context. Indeed, drawing the link between apartheid in Israel and in Canada has been a central focus of past and current event series. In Montreal, Israeli Apartheid Week is co-organized by students and community organizers. Events are held on the campuses of McGill, Concordia, UQAM, and UdeM, and across the city.
” In opposition to apartheid and occupation
In solidarity with Palestinian resistance
In support of social justice struggles everywhere ”
Charlie O’Connor, host of the Friday Morning After show, talks with Olivia Gennarelli, one of the organizers of the First Voices Week, an annual awareness event of Indigenous peoples and communities at Concordia University. This year, the event series is taking place from Jan. 30 to Feb. 03.
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