- CHRISTIAN LAFORCE LOCALXPRESS
- Taylor Olson lifts weights to get himself in Heavy.
Heavy and It's A Girl!
The Bus Stop Theatre, 2203 Gottingen St
$10 ($15 for both)
"We have to address how we teach what different is in the first place," says Alexis Milligan. "We really do label things as different and put an X through them or circle them or remove them, and that's a physical action we do."
Milligan, who's co-created It's A Girl with Michelle Raine, remembers a kindergarten workbook from when her son was three. One of the activities was to "look at these objects and cross out the one that is different," she says. "Why are we crossing out the thing that's different? Why is it wrong?"
It stuck with her, and then she met Michelle Raine, a transgender theatre student at Dalhousie. Milligan cast Raine in her show The PEACE Project last year. "I said, 'I have this idea for a show, I have all these journal entries and no idea what to do with them,'" says Raine. Those entries, combined with audience worksheets inspired by Milligan's son's, plus projections and scenes, comprise It's A Girl, which premiered in the Fringe last year as a workshop and will be presented at the Mayworks Halifax Festival of Working People & The Arts this week.
"The whole idea is to open a forum for conversation," says Milligan. "It was important to Michelle: 'I'm up here telling you about my journey and my journey alone. We don't know what the language is, we don't know what the words are, I'm learning about it too.' And that puts us in a common space."
"My journey is to humanize my self to myself, and also to everyone else and to demonstrate that when we see someone else is different, we treat them differently, whether we mean to or not," says Raine. "It's not always a good thing and it's not always a bad thing but it's really healthy to be aware we do it."
Taylor Olson's one-person Mayworks show Heavy also explores otherness and difference, self-acceptance and exploration, detailing his 100-pound weight loss. "It's my journey of trying to find self-love," says the actor-writer. "Not through changing your body but through how you perceive yourself. I thought that losing the weight would make me love myself more, but I found that wasn't the case."
Olson is two years out from the inception of Heavy, which premiered in the 2016 Fringe, but the art hasn't necessarily fixed his issues. "It's something I continually struggle with every single day," he says. "It fluctuates all the time—trying to remind myself constantly that it's about taking care of yourself and taking care of the people around you. It changes all the time, self-love and love for other people."
His show isn't interactive like It's A Girl, but it still strikes a chord with people. "Mostly they message me on social media, privately," he says. "Which is great because I knew we were connecting to people, but it said a lot about where we are, that they're messaging me privately."
Both shows oscillate between light and dark. "Parts of it are funny—my aim is to be honest about my thoughts and feelings at the time," says Olson. "We can't shirk away from the fact that it's heavy, but we can cut the ice with a deep breath," says Milligan.
"Life is messy and it's bad, and it's good and it's happy and it's sad," says Raine. "This piece overall has a generous spirit and asks the audience to look on the positive side, regardless of what story is being told."