All month long, buddies is hosting a blog salon with some our favourite writers and artists responding to one question: How do I connect with my queer heritage? Follow the conversation on our blog, or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #GayHeritageProject. Here’s an entry from Indrit Kasapi, in response to an earlier post by Sonja Mills.
I loved reading about Sonja’s connection with Buddies. It is so specific and it made me think of how, similarly, to the way that she is connected to Buddies, I also am. Maybe there’s an intergenerational situation going on here. With Buddies as an ever present and oh-so-fucking important institution we must preserve and protect that connects us all!
My relationship with Buddies began at my very first audition for the National Theatre School of Canada . The first round of auditions was inside the Cabaret space at Buddies. I remember so vividly, my dad dropping me off and my mother with her good friend accompanying me inside the building. I was so young and I didn’t even have any idea of the fact that we were really close to the city’s VILLAGE district. Once we got inside there was a sign by where the BOX OFFICE is right now that told auditioners to take a seat downstairs. Every time I walk down those stairs to the washrooms, I am reminded of that very first time I walked on them. Once we sat down on the benches by the wall we looked up and right on top of the stairs there was a metal statue placed on a ledge. All three of us sort of squeezed our eyes to try and make out what this piece of art was and finally my fresh off the boat Albanian mother says: “Is that…a…..
At which point, my mother’s good friend and myself started laughing. My mother started questioning the integrity of the school I was auditioning for. She kept talking about how maybe I should reconsider not wanting to go to Law school etc. Her talking kind of faded out because my thoughts were somewhere else. At the time I knew very little of the word gay and had no idea that the word “queer” even existed, but I remember knowing that there was something inside this building that reflected a big part of who I was. And that put a smile on my face and gave me inexplicable comfort.
Fast forward a few years later. I was 25 at this point and had gotten into the National Theatre School, I had graduated, had also already come out to my friends and family and had started dating a really cute French guy. It is Saturday night and I am with my friends dancing in the middle of the dance floor inside the Cabaret Space at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. Because everyone in Toronto knows, Saturday nights, if you’re a gay men and want to have a good time + check out where all the hotties are, you go to Buddies. There I am probably dancing in the exact spot where I did my audition nearly 7 years before and this cute French guy who I had been sort of casually dating for a few weeks leans over and says to me “Is it okay if I refer to you as my boyfriend?”
Dramatic pause. (probably only in my head)
That was the first time someone had ever asked me that. My feelings were so mixed up. I was excited, but scared with a touch of pukey confusion that was all brewing inside my being and was looking for a way to come out. Meanwhile, the cute French guy, repeats : “So is that okay…boyfriend?” I smile. I tell him: “Yes. That is totally okay” We kiss and then I immediately excuse myself and run down those same stairs I had walked on 7 years ago with my mother and her good friend and run towards the bathroom. I find an empty stall, go inside, lock the door and cry!
I was crying because I was scared, that’s all. I took a few minutes. Called a good friend of mine who calmed me down and told me to get back on that dancefloor. So I did. I wiped my tears and walked back up those stairs. For a second, I stopped and looked up wondering if that Vagina statue was still there and it wasn’t. It had been removed. Part of me thinks my mother came at night and mischievously took it down. But that’s just me.
Today, Buddies is still a part of my work as a queer artist and something tells me it will continue to be, even as I grow older. And all through that both Sonja Mills and Sky Gilbert will always be MUCH older than I am. For their work, I am three times MUCH more thankful to them.
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A native of Tirana, Albania, Indrit moved to Toronto, Canada in his early teens. He has worked as an actor, director, producer, writer, choreographer and dancer. Indrit is an ensemble member of the award winning CORPUS Dance Projects. He is the Artistic Producer for lemonTree creations (Toronto) and Advisory Member of GYM (Canadian Stage). With lemonTree creations Indrit is helming the development of two brand new creations; Body Politic by Nick Green, currently in residency at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and MSM [men seeking men] which had a critically successful run at the 2013 Fringe Festival . MSM [men seeking men] is currently in the HOT HOUSE Creators’ Unit at Cahoots Theatre Projects and is set to have a World Premiere in June of 2013 as part of the World Pride Festivities in Toronto. Indrit is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada. indritkasapi.com / lemonTreecreations.ca