Saturday, 30 November 2013

REMEMBERING OSCAR WILDE

Oscar Wilde died on Nov 30, 1900, at the age of 46 (Photo by Napoleon Sarony, circa 1883)


Over a century after the American Revolutionary army made the Château Ramezay in Old Montreal its Canadian headquarters in 1775 – Benjamin Franklin himself would later overnight there in his quest to persuade Canadians to join the American Revolution – the Château’s gardens (then already a fraction of the size they used to be) would be visited by none other than Oscar Wilde during Wilde’s lecture tour of Canada in 1882.
Don Anderson resurrects Wilde

In Wilde’s children’s story The Selfish Giant, originally published in the collection The Happy Prince and Other Tales in 1888, kids play in an orchard very much like the gardens of Château Ramezay, which was built by Claude de Ramezay, the military commander appointed Governor of Montreal in 1704.

Château Ramezay was dubbed "the most beautiful house in Canada," and its gardens and orchard – only 750 square metres remain today – sloped down to the St-Lawrence River.

When I first visited the garden a few year ago I could not help but think of Oscar and The Selfish Giant, a story that can still bring me to tears today.

The Selfish Giant is the story I listened to most when I was a child and when I read it today I can hear my father’s voice,” says Montreal actor Don Anderson, who memorably portrayed Oscar in the Montreal New Classical Theatre Festival production of critically-hailed American playwright Moises Kaufman’s Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, back in November 2006.

“It’s a powerful story," Anderson continues. "Like so many of Oscar’s stories, there is a moral underpinning. All of what he wrote had a moral underpinning.”

Wilde, of course, really was the world’s first gay icon, and later a gay martyr when he was tried and convicted of sodomy in 1895, even though Oscar would never know what he would become, much less recognize the word “gay.”

Thursday, 7 November 2013

SAL CAPONE EXPLORES BEING GAY IN THE WORLD OF HIP HOP


 
The cast of Sal Capone: The Lamentable Tragedy Of (Photo courtesy Black Theatre Workshop)


The debut play by Montreal-born playwright Omari Newton, Sal Capone: The Lamentable Tragedy Of,  is wowing audiences at Montreal’s Black Theatre Workshop. The play tells the tale of gangster hip-hop trio Sal Capone who have a shot at the big time when their gifted DJ, Sammy, is shot nine times by local police on the eve of Sal Capone’s big musical launch. Sammy falls into a coma, leaving his bandmates, rappers Freddy (Tristan D. Lalla) and Jewel (Kim Villagante) and their business manager, Chase (Jordan Waunch), bickering and angry at the police.  

Newton was inspired by the death of Fredy Villanueva, an 18-year-old shot and killed by an officer in an altercation in Montreal North in 2008. In the play, the police shooting of Sammy gives Newton the opportunity to explore the machismo and homophobia of the hip hop world, especially when (SPOILER WARNING) sammy’s friends discover via a First Nations transvestite and hooker (Billy Merasty) that Sammy was gay.
 
The video design by Candelario Andrade is  beautifully staged, the cast is excellent, and actors Tristan D. Lalla and Kim Villagante can rap with the best of them.

When the script focuses on Sammy’s sexual orientation and homophobia in the hip hop community, the play is absolutely riveting.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

SHYAM SELVADURAI ON GAY LIFE, GAY LIT AND ADVICE OF NOBEL PRIZE WINNER ALICE MUNRO



Award-winning author Shyam Selvadurai (Photo by Richard Burnett)

Bugs' interview with Shyma Selvaduria originally ran in the November 2013 issue of Fugues magazine
 
The last time I interviewed author Shyam Selvadurai was way back in 1998 when his sophomore book Cinnamon Gardens shot up the bestseller charts. He was a young sensation then, still riding the triumphant success of his 1994 debut novel Funny Boy.

“I experienced a lot of pressure when I wrote my second novel, Cinnamon Gardens,” Shyam told me recently. “It’s not just an external pressure, it’s also internal. You want to achieve a higher goal. Each book has its own problems and challenges. I remember I met [2013 Nobel Prize-winning author] Alice Munro soon after Funny Boy came out and she asked me how I was dealing with all the pressure. I told her I was having second-novel syndrome and Alice replied, ‘I’m having ninth-book syndrome! It never gets easier.’”

Shyam Selvadurai was born in 1965 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, then came to Canada with his family at age 19 and grew up in Toronto’s sprawling suburbs.

“Toronto has and hasn`t changed – some of the suburbs are just grim, but they are more ethnic than when I came and people have learnt to make lives for themselves,” says Shyam, who today divides his time between Toronto and Colombo where he is the founder and Project Director of Write to Reconcile, a creative writing project in English undertaken by The National Peace Council of Sri Lanka. Selvaduria spends up to five months each year in Colombo.