- Mel Hattie
- Stewart Legere writes and stars in Let’s Not Beat Each Other to Death.
Eastern Front Theatre's 22nd annual Stages Theatre Festival kicks off June 17 under artistic director and festival curator Charlie Rhindress. Stages strives to present myriad "exceptional Atlantic Canadian Theatre" from beloved veterans and up-and-coming artists alike at venues across Halifax and Dartmouth.
The festival name, beyond alluding to the theatre, emphasizes how the range of artists are at different stages in their career, presenting pieces at varying stages of development. The line-up extends from a show by 22 Minutes alum Cathy Jones, directed by esteemed theatre-maker Ann-Marie Kerr, to the presentation of finalists in the annual 10-minute playwriting contest for students.
The festival is an 11-day celebration of "diverse projects being developed on the east coast." Alongside Jones, Stages includes Landline, an immersive participatory event from Secret Theatre, a workshop presentation of Let's Try This Standing by generous emerging performer Gillian Clark and family-friendly programming co-produced by Halifax Theatre for Young People.
Also on the docket is a reincarnation of Stewart Legere's Let's Not Beat Each Other To Death. Legere, winner of The Coast's Best Male Theatre Actor three times over, first presented the show at last year's QueerActs with director Christian Barry.
Let's Not Beat is a multi-genre play/memorial/electro-pop dance-party inspired in-part by the death of queer activist Raymond Taavel and the attack on "outspoken gay musician" Scott Jones.
Legere promises he and Barry have transformed Let's Not Beat into a whole new play for Stages, continuing to tackle ongoing injustices against the queer community.
The events in Halifax galvanized a particular struggle of Legere's, "between being a happy, hopeful person but who is exposed to violence against queer people," he says. "Every day I sift through articles of violence against us—not just overt physical violence, but all the different levels of oppression that exist. So that's definitely inspired the rewrites."
Legere was moved to begin writing the text during a 2013 residency at Toronto's Videofag, only to become overwhelmed by the subject matter. When the words wouldn't come, he turned to writing dance music instead. Eventually the two collided.
The genre-defying format mirrors Legere's belief that people learn how to process tragedy in various ways."The play starts in a hyper-theatrical style, and as it goes along it breaks down into the dance party," he says. "I wanted to combat the feeling of being set out alone into the night after watching a heavy, maybe triggering show.
"My hope is that the audience and I can have this conversation about things that are real and hard and happening," he continues, "we'll acknowledge that it's maybe not stopping, and then we have this dance party to process and release these difficult things together."
With six full productions, family-friendly programming, play readings and special events, Stages is sure to show off the capabilities of the east coast theatre community.
Stages Theatre Festival