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Margo MacDonald, Sarah Waisvisz, and Lawrence Aronovitch. Photo by Titus Androgynous.

Theatre world premières, queer history, & vintage costumes: all in one place!

By Mer Weinhold on February 26, 2016

Mer Weinhold is an Ottawa-dwelling writer, editor, book reviewer, and costuming enthusiast. You can follow them on Twitter.

Ottawa has a vibrant theatre scene, comprising a multitude of venues hosting shows, troupes and companies performing them, and programs of study producing new actors, playwrights, and stage managers. From Centrepointe to the Shenkman, and many places in between, there are a variety of choices for an evening’s entertainment.

Sometimes, the variety seems less varied than it might be. If watching a play about public servants isn’t your cup of tea, or if everything you can find seems a little more family-friendly than you’re in the mood for, check out Just Mingling: a Queer Theatrical Salon at Arts Court Studio on March 4–5.

In ye olden days (before nifty blogs could tell you what was going on), one way to find out about upcoming shows was to attend a salon. This was essentially a party at which artists would perform selections of their new work, and mingle with the audience before and after. It was a great place for artists to get feedback, and for ordinary folks to find out about cool new shows to see.

“A good story is a good story, and everyone will get something out of it. This is an event for everyone, but we’re also highlighting that we’re queer theatre creators telling queer stories. We’re making the work that we long to see and be part of, but these are stories we want to share with everyone.”

Just Mingling is reviving the tradition of the salon. Three Ottawa playwrights, Sarah Waisvisz, Lawrence Aronovitch, and Margo MacDonald, will present 20-minute selections of their brand-new, never-before-seen plays. Think of it as watching movie trailers, but more sophisticated.

Each piece is based on a true story about gay or lesbian artists, including Suzanne Malherbe (aka Marcel Moore), Lucie Schwob (aka Claude Cahun), W. H. Auden, Alan Turing, Radclyffe Hall, and Noël Coward. UK director Amy Stratton is directing all three pieces, and actors Scott Garland and Matt Pilipiak (known to Ottawa audiences for their wildly popular, award-winning play Three Men in a Boat at the 2015 Ottawa Fringe Festival) join Waisvisz and MacDonald on stage.

If theatre alone isn’t quite enough to entice you, we’re also promised surprise musical performances– and Titus Androgynous of the Toronto drag king troupe The Yes-Men will be hosting.

To blend in with the actors and properly immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the event, MacDonald suggests coming in costume — anything that looks pre-1960 will fit right in.

“All three plays take place between 1920 and 1955, so we’re inviting the audience to come in their favourite vintage outfit. I think people have more fun when they dress up, too.”

Even with the breadth of theatre Ottawa is home to, Just Mingling stands out as a different experience, featuring plays about queer historical figures, written by queer people. It’s a genre that’s often under-represented, and MacDonald and colleagues want to change that, starting with this theatrical salon.

“Sarah, Lawrence, and I formed the 321 Writing Collective to support and encourage each other as queer playwrights. We were told by a journalist that there just wasn’t enough queer theatre happening, especially in Ottawa, so we thought, ‘well, let’s make some more! … Deciding to produce Just Mingling gave us a deadline to commit to writing something entirely new.'”

Even if you feel you don’t fit into the queer community, theatre tells stories that everyone can enjoy.

“A good story is a good story, and everyone will get something out of it. This is an event for everyone, but we’re also highlighting that we’re queer theatre creators telling queer stories. We’re making the work that we long to see and be part of, but these are stories we want to share with everyone.”

For a more interactive experience than your typical theatre show, and a chance to dress up and party while being entertained by a variety of performances, don’t miss Just Mingling on March 4th and 5th.

Just Mingling plays at Arts Court Studio, 2 Daly Avenue, on Friday March 4th at 7pm, and Saturday March 5th at 7pm. Tickets are available through artscourt.ca. For more information, see the Facebook event

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