Q+A with Sky Gilbert

We sent out one of our writers, JP Larocque, to chat with some of the artists in our upcoming 2015-16 Season. He caught up with Sky Gilbert – our founding Artistic Director and the writer/director for the upcoming The Terrible Parents.

What was your creative seed for the play? Did you derive any inspiration from your own relationship with your parents?

The death of my mother in 2011 has precipitated a flood of writing, some about her, some not. This play was actually inspired by Jean Cocteau’s play Les Parents Terribles. The seed for the play is: How much does our upbringing effect our ultimate development? Are our parents responsible for the people we become? Perhaps it’s not your parents that screwed you up, it’s the toxic nature of the nuclear family. In my opinion, the nuclear family is a quite unnatural and very inhuman institution. It’s a powder keg. I agree with Hillary Clinton and Aboriginal North Americans: it takes a village to raise a child; not only a mother and a father.

How have the characters and story evolved over your time working on the piece? And what can the audience expect to see?

What is exciting about this play is that it is part of my ongoing theatrical research with four queer performers, two of a certain age, and two very young. Gavin Crawford and Edward Roy starred in my play A Few Brittle Leaves. They both played women; they were not so much in drag as playing female roles. In The Terrible Parents they both play both women and men. The two younger actors: Robin Sharp and Katie Sly are both writer performers who I have supported through various programs that the Cabaret Company runs to help young queer artists in their development (Kitchen Party Nervous Breakdown Reality TV Show and The OAC Creator’s Reserve).

The play will be a chance for all four of these actors to play with gender and sexuality in a supportive and queer environment. Expect to see work which is over-the-top but true, extreme but touching, hilarious but frightening.

How does this piece line up with the season’s theme of personal and collective histories? And how does it line up to the themes you often engage with in your plays?

I don’t usually write about the family. So that’s new. It is a fantasy history, a fictional history. And fiction is what most histories are. But this is a play in the spirit of A Few Brittle Leaves; I’m very interested in male gay actors like Gavin and Ed who can play both male and female roles, and can bring an enormous amount of humanity and sympathy to the portrayal of women, only occasionally urging us to drop the suspension of disbelief and remind us they are men. It’s about the power of illusion and the power of gender. These are things I always write about.

What are your plans for this play beyond this production?

None of the more than 40 plays that I have premiered at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre have ever been produced in any other professional Canadian theatre (though many have been published, won awards and been critically acclaimed). So, sadly, probably nothing.

And what is next for Cabaret Company as a whole, and are there any other creative projects you are currently working on?

I’m working on a one act play about Toller Cranston called TOLLER: A Performance by Toller Cranston to be performed in Hamilton at the Artword Artbar in November 2015, as well as a performance piece called Criminal, which I am developing with Ted Witzel which will be workshopped in the fall at The Theatre Centre. I would like to produce my next MainStage Toronto play at Buddies in 2017. The title is IT’S ALL TRU. IT’S ALL TRU is a play about Truvada, commonly known as PREP.

But we’ll have to see who’s in charge and if they like my new play!

JP Larocque

JP Larocque is a playwright, journalist, and the person behind the amazing web series Gay Nerds. Follow him on twitter @JPLarocque

Read all posts by JP Larocque

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