It’s 1979. It’s three years before the Toronto bathhouse raids will galvanize our community. Ten years after the Stonewall riots. Three years before the AIDS epidemic will begin. Six years since homosexuality has been removed from the DSM. Twenty-six years before gay marriage will be legalized in Canada. Gloria Gaynor is topping the charts with “I Will Survive.” More than 100,000 people march on Washington demanding “gay and lesbian rights.” The St. Charles Tavern on Yonge Street is a popular gay bar, a stone’s throw away from 12 Alexander Street.
It’s the year that a group of young theatre artists in Toronto put on a show called Angels in Underwear. They name their production company Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.
Four decades later, Buddies has become – as unlikely as it may have seemed in 1979 – a cultural institution. It is a space where risk and provocation continue to define our artistic mission. A space where many communities intersect to engage in the challenge and glory that is queer performance. A space that, nearly a quarter century
ago, found a permanent home at 12 Alexander Street in the heart of downtown Toronto, making it the largest and longest-running queer theatre company in the world.
As Buddies turns 40, I’ve been thinking a lot about space. What it means, at this moment in time, to occupy a space – as a community, as a city, and as a nation – and what it means to offer space. I’ve been thinking about how queer spaces evolve, and about the unchanging imperative for brave, courageous spaces.
In our home at 12 Alexander Street, we’ve had the incredible privilege of staging our queer stories and theatrical experiments in a physical space large enough that we can stand back and see ourselves… from a bit of a distance. Not pressed into the margins of a cramped storefront space or studio, The Chamber – our beloved main stage – has offered generations of queer artists a sense of perspective.
For 40 years, Buddies productions, festivals, and community programming have uncovered unique queer viewpoints and offered theatrical experiences like no other company in this city or this country. We have introduced generations of artists to the world, and generations of audiences to the transformative power of seeing our stories played out onstage. We have seen our community suffer great losses and make great gains. We have grown. We have persisted. We have held our space.
This anniversary season, we reclaim works from the not-so-distant past, and we showcase the new; we tip our hats to our history, to our future, and to the continuous present.
Now, let’s make space for what is to come.