Last year’s Nakai Theatre Pivot Festival was not well-received.
It featured a blind comic who portrayed cancer. It had a snow-shovelling demonstration. A sexualized Betty Rubble. A lonely, lonely lounge singer. A human piñata.
Nakai Theatre wanted to bring out-of-the-box, professional theatre to the Yukon … and it did. But it wasn’t appreciated by the general public. Those who liked it, loved it; but in these days of government indifference to the arts, theatres and galleries must maintain their integrity while still putting bums in seats.
So, who is at fault?
Should Nakai Theatre return to the stand-up comedy of more popular years? … But that interest was waning.
Are Yukoners too stuck in their ways and won’t give alternative theatre a chance? … But the customer is always right.
Likely both are at fault. The only difference is that it is not Nakai Theatre’s job to give us the same old, same old.
So, what is Nakai’s response to a disappointing 2008 festival? Have another look at the front cover of this paper and you will see your answer.
Since it takes, at the very least, three years to establish a festival, the good people of Nakai Theatre are staying the course this weekend.
Taylor Mac is outside the comfort zone of most people – even those in his New York home – and yet he is fighting the good fight to encourage audiences to re-examine humanity. And Nakai Theatre is his willing accomplice.
I have to admit to you – as I did to Mr. Mac – drag queens are outside of my own comfort zone. But after talking to him on the phone for half an hour, I realized he was glad I was uncomfortable … at first. He was able to explain to me what his goals are and how he accomplishes these goals.
I saw his intelligence; I recognized his sincerity. Mr. Mac took me on a journey and I feel I am a better person for it.
OK, he and I already shared the same politics and we have the same disdain for ignorance, but I did leave that conversation with a new understanding of how difficult it is to choose clothing to mirror who we are on the inside as we chronically seek the acceptance of others.
So, who is more honest here? Drag queens or us?
And I learned that shock value has a purpose: it has a way to unsettle perceptions and maybe – just maybe – new information can be weighed as it should.
I should point out here that Mr. Mac does not want to shock; rather, he wants to surprise. And the term “drag queen” comes with connotations that aren’t the beginning and end of who he is and what his show is about.
From a distance, our society shuns drag queens; up close, we are unsettled by their confidence to appear as they do. And so we feel safe when they are on a stage, strutting their fake stuff, for our amusement.
But oh what power the drag queen has when they stare right back at us, sequined eyes unflinching. This power is not abused by Mr. Mac. Instead, he welcomes audiences who are expecting a ribald time and then he learns ’em a lesson in humanity.
He is a professional of a calibre not seen often in the Yukon. And this quality will not be seen much longer if we don’t support Nakai Theatre with the purchase of a ticket.
So, I say to you, the open-minded who already get it: Go!
You, the one who always says, “I didn’t want to go at first, but, heck, once I got there …”: Go!
You, the one who flies to Vancouver for doses of culture: Go!
The Guild Society, Moving Parts Theatre and Music Arts Drama (God love them all) bring us tried and tested plays year in and year out.
Only Nakai Theatre consistently challenges us to consider that there is something else out there that is enjoyable, too.
And it needs your support this weekend.