As the West watches the LGBTQ community in Russia face government sanctioned adversity, a group of queer and allied playwrights from across Canada are banding together to help with NYET: A Cabaret of Concerned Citizens, a Wrecking Ball inspired night of dialogue and action.
Based on the Wrecking Ball approach to political theatre that started in Toronto nearly ten years ago, Zee Zee Theatre’s NYET: A Cabaret of Concerned Canadians will bring together new works to the Granville Island Stage from such literary heavyweights as Ronnie Burkett, Morris Panych, George F. Walker and Daniel MacIvor.
Born out of a conversation that Zee Zee Theatre’s Playwright in Residence and Associate Producer Dave Deveau had when the situation in Russia first started to receive international attention, the show’s design helps ensure the topic is tackled while still fresh.
“One of our new board members approached me when everything started going down in Russia and said that my next play needs to be about Russia,” explains Deveau. “But for me to write a fully realized show around these issues would take a couple years and it just didn’t seem as vital as something immediate.”
Recognizing that need for immediate action, a call to playwrights from across the country was answered with eleven signing on to participate.
“It’s been quite amazing,” says Deveau of the response from the playwrights. “Certainly we started asking local people we’ve worked with and admire, but then we started thinking about going for bigger name recognition. Some of these playwrights that we have never met were the first to jump on board. It has been quite amazing to see everyone come together because we all genuinely believe this is a conversation that needs to happen.”
Seeing NYET as a means to add “texture and depth to the ongoing conversation”, Deveau is excited by the possibilities.
“The joy of asking eleven different voices to talk about the same source material brings all kinds of different angles and facets that we may have not considered,” says Deveau. “Even as I read through the pieces I realize there are many things that I had not considered. Ultimately it is about enriching awareness.”
But more than conversation and awareness, Deveau sees NYET as a way to focus our collective energies away from condemnation that he sees as having little impact, to a more practical approach for those in need.
“I’ve constantly thought the approach our western politicians have had with Putin and the Russian government is flawed,” explains Deveau. “Putin does not want to have shared values with North America and for us to point fingers and say we don’t like what they are doing is irrelevant. It isn’t a matter of us saying it is wrong, but it is in us supporting the LGBTQ community in Russia and helping to affect change from within.”
From a piece by Daniel MacIvor that is to be performed by a young boy to a heartwarming and difficult piece from Morris Panych, NYET unites a group of artists that Deveau hopes will not only bring the issue to the forefront through theatre, but will also provide tangible financial support.
“Everyone has committed to this project for free and all the money from the box office will go to the Russian LGBT Network,” says Deveau.
With volunteers in 16 centres across Russia, the Russian LGBT Network has been focusing its resources on legal and psychological consultations for those that have been impacted by Russia’s anti-gay laws. The Network also provides support for refugee claims and legal assistance for those that are facing charges.
“Even if the money we send over helps with legal counsel for a single person it feels like forward movement of some kind,” says Deveau.
Following the performances there will be a panel discussion moderated by QMUNITY Executive Director Dara Parker.
“[The panel] will be an opportunity ask some important questions and hopefully get some answers. What are the facts? What are people doing to change this and what does that look like as we head into 2014?,” says Deveau.
Sunday, October 27, 2013 at 8pm at the Granville Island Stage (1585 Johnston Street, Vancouver). Tickets are available online at http://vancouvertix.com or visit http://zeezeetheatre.ca for more information.