Why Do We Need New Queer Canadian Work?

When you were a kid, did you ever play the “why” card?

It goes like this:

Adult: Clean your room.

Child: Why?

Adult: Because it’s messy.

Child: Why?

Adult: Because you need to clean it.

Child: Why?

Adult: Because I said so! (And so on, until one of you would crack)

The day before the 14/15 Buddies Season Announcement, I had an interview with Christopher Dupuis from Xtra. The interview was happening in less then an hour, and I hadn’t had much time to think about what I would say, much less what would be asked. As I saw it, this was my first shot at talking about my plans for the festival.

The first question that Christopher asked me was: “How do you identify?” It wasn’t part of the interview – as there many terms that an individual on the LGBT spectrum can use, they want people to self-identify.

I like labels. I like categories. But I don’t much like fitting in to them, necessarily. I like trying on the different words that attach to identity – different jackets, to see what fits. Sometimes it’s situational, maybe I feel more comfortable saying one term or another in a different context. And sometimes it’s life oriented, maybe I feel a little more Queer on Monday, a little more Hard Femme by Wednesday, and a Dyke by Friday.

Perhaps this is why I took to new play dramaturgy. As a discipline, it can be (and in my opinion, should be) inherently messy, mutable, impossible to master, and in constant need of redefinition and adjustment. The process always needs to change; based on the playwright, the project, the stage of development, the needs of the collaborators – the process of creating art, and of working with those marvelous and frustrating individuals who create it, is a constantly moving target.

The question that I was asked to respond to in this post, which I have completely avoided, is: Why Do We Need New Queer Canadian Work.

I hear it as a child’s voice ringing incessantly in my head, why? And I want to yell back “Because I said so, that’s why.”

I know that’s not a good enough answer. To this imaginary child, who is asking what is actually a fairly logical question.

Because as I wrote this, the definition of Queer changed six times.

Because as long as there are people who feel different and excluded from the dominant culture they should have a home to tell their story.

Because homonormativity is a term, and we don’t all live societally normative existences.

Because we as artists in Toronto have a responsibility to not simply exercise the legal freedoms we have as Canadian citizens, but to push the boundary and explore those freedom to the fullest through our art (which in other contexts, could have serious repercussions for our freedom and safety)

There are so many answers to the question “Why?” I could argue myself into a corner in a search for an all encompassing, empirically true and unassailable reason for why Queer Theatre is now completely necessary.

But that isn’t why I am here.

Why don’t you tell me why it isn’t necessary.


Because I said so.

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Image of Mel Hague by Tanja-Tiziana

Mel Hague

Mel is the Residency Program Director at Buddies.

“18 years old, first week at York University, got free tickets to see Here Lies Henry. I remember at the time thinking I couldn’t figure out which way was up in the black box space, and for years every show I saw in the Chamber I felt like I came in a different entrance—Buddies is such a fun maze, and I still find new doors years into working here.”

Read all posts by Mel Hague

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