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Reviewed by:
  • Queer Theatre in Canada
  • Emily A. Rollie
Queer Theatre in Canada. Edited by Rosalind Kerr. Critical Perspectives on Canadian Theatre in English, vol. 7. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 2007; pp. xix + 282. $30.00 paper.

Rosalind Kerr's Queer Theatre in Canada explores the queering of the English Canadian stage. Bringing together a variety of Canadian perspectives on the topic, Kerr's text aims "to put together important pieces of the puzzle" (vii) that have contributed to and now comprise contemporary Canadian queer theatre in English. The Critical Perspectives on Canadian Theatre in English series, to which this volume belongs, was established in 2005 by general editor Ric Knowles to recognize the burgeoning field of English Canadian theatre studies. While some volumes in the series focus on individual artists such as Judith Thompson and George Walker, most others focus on larger areas of study such as Aboriginal, feminist, and African Canadian theatre. Intended to "carve out both familiar and new areas of work" in English Canadian theatre, the volumes in the series reprint important scholarly essays and "attempt to fill in . . . significant gaps by highlighting work from and about marginalized communities" (iv). Considering that no full-length study of English Canadian queer theatre currently exists, Kerr's Queer Theatre in Canada fits nicely within the series's parameters and fills a decided gap in Canadian theatre scholarship.

Featuring twenty-one essays from major Canadian theatre artists and scholars, the anthology takes a critical and remarkably comprehensive look at the past and present state of Canadian queer theatre. Kerr (who is also the editor of Lesbian Plays: Coming of Age in Canada) begins with a critical introduction in which she succinctly explains and identifies the "points of intersection between gay and lesbian theatre and queer theory" (viii). With engaging and accessible writing, she effectively situates this work within the larger field of queer theory, then draws attention to the ways this theory impacts each essay, creating an overall sense of cohesion and illuminating their common themes.

Like other volumes in the series, Queer Theatre in Canada features no thematic chapters or formal divisions of its contents; rather, the essays are organized chronologically, according to the date of each piece's original publication. Twelve of the twenty-one essays were originally published between 1972 and 2005; the remaining nine were commissioned by Kerr specifically for this volume in an attempt to fill historical gaps and offer perspectives not recognized in previous queer scholarship. As a result, the chronological organization of the text proves somewhat misleading, for many of the later essays, although written more recently, explore historical, rather than current, queer performances.

The text begins with two essays that reflect foundational moments in the development of English Canadian queer theatre. Neil Carson's 1972 article, "Sexuality and Identity in Fortune and Men's Eyes," examines the play by John Herbert that many consider to be the first Canadian play to explicitly address homosexuality. Directly following Carson's article, Robert Wallace's "Homo Creation: Toward a Poetics of Gay Male Theatre" (originally published in French in 1988 and translated into English in 1994) further articulates early conceptions of a queer Canadian theatrical sensibility and, in conjunction with Carson's article, effectively lays the groundwork for the subsequent essays.

The rest of the book approaches queer theatre from a variety of theoretical and practical angles. Reid Gilbert analyzes the staging of the gay male body in works by Robert LePage, Terrence McNally, and David Drake, illustrating the continued debate surrounding theatrical portrayals of sex and gender, while Susan Bennett offers a compelling account of the critical response to Canadian productions of Angels in America. While several plays discussed here—such as Angels in America—are not of Canadian origin, the authors analyze these texts through a distinctly Canadian lens, considering Canadian productions and connecting issues raised by the texts to a Canadian conception of queerness. Other essays, such as Susan Billingham's insightful reading of Tomson Highway's Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing, focus specifically on Canadian playwrights' work. Still other articles explore broader performance-based events: from Darrin Hagen's observations on homophobia and masculinity in World Wrestling Federation wrestling...


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