Tues., Mar. 27 – Sat., Apr. 7 (10 pm)
$14-$22 at fringetheatre.ca
Elena Belyea is a playwright, performer, and producer and is one of the rising stars in this city’s newest generation of queer artists. At the end of the month, her play, Cleave, makes its Edmonton debut at Fringe’s Backstage Theatre.
Belyea has an impressive resume. She was born and raised in Edmonton and completed her BA honours in Theatre and creative writing at the University of Alberta. She then studied at the prestigious playwriting program at the National Theatre School in Montreal (NTS). She is the former artistic director of the Common Grounds Arts Society and while there co-founded the Edmonton Found Festival. Currently, she is the artistic director with Tiny Bear Jaws. If you’re a regular Fringe-goer, you might remember Belyea starring in (and writing) Miss Katelyn’s Grade Threes Prepare for the Inevitable, a funny and unsettling production in which a grade school teacher educates her class on how to survive a school shooting.
Coincidentally, the same day Cleave opens here, the first-ever French production of Miss Katelyn’s opens in Montreal. The play seems timelier than ever.
“I’m still working with the translator tweaking the script, trying to keep it current. There’s just so much happening around this conversation right now—it’s both disheartening and inspiring,” Belyea says.
Tweaking her scripts is a regular part of her process—she’s been tinkering with the script for Cleave for the past four years. Originally developed while she was at NTS, Cleave has been workshopped in Montreal, Calgary, Toronto, and Washington, D.C. and has now made its way here to Edmonton, being produced by Tiny Bear Jaws.
Cleave tells the story of Aaron, an intersex teenager, who meets a family that has its share of secrets. A funny and challenging script, the play is sure to spark conversation and reflection. So how does Belyea, a cis-gender woman, approach writing a trans* intersex character?
“One of the questions I asked myself was how do I responsibly write experiences that are closer or farther away from my own?” she replies.
The answer for Belyea was extensive consultation. Over the course of Cleave’s development, she worked with trans* directors and actors who provided input. She also consulted with the American group interACT who provide consultation for media representations of intersex people.
Belyea and her team also believed it important to cast a trans* actor in the lead role.
“The auditions for the part of Aaron were really exciting,” she says. “We wanted to cast everybody, especially as there is a real lack of opportunities in Edmonton for trans* actors and characters to be represented on stage.”
The team also wanted to make sure there were multiple trans* people in the room for this production; the cast and production team feature people who are queer and relate to gender in various ways.
Ideally, the Tiny Bear Jaws team wants as many as queer, trans*, and intersex people in the audience as possible. To make the show more accessible, 25 percent of the tickets for the run will be pay what you can. And Belyea is a Queermonton reader too, so there’s a special promo code available for you, gentle reader: use 10OFFCLEAVE to save $10 off a ticket to the show.
We here at Vue Weekly have come to the conclusion that the Queermonton column needs a more diverse voice. Queermonton started off as a queer Front section column more than a decade ago and slowly morphed into an important outlet of discussion for LGBTQ2 issues. We realize that in order to fully represent all voices in the constantly growing LGBTQ2 community, we need to hear from all voices.
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We look forward to hearing from our valued readers and those in the LGBTQ2 community.
Vue Weekly Editors