Homos on the Range

{Calgary Gay History Project’s Tereasa Maillie is working on a memorable history event – one night only – Friday, December 4th at Loft 112 – read the press release below and we hope you can join us – Kevin}

Supposedly, lightning never strikes twice in the same spot. But after 21 years apart, Calgary actors Barry Thorson and Steve Gin are challenging that notion.

In 1994, Thorson and Gin self-produced Harry Rintoul’s searing AIDS drama Brave Hearts, set atypically in the back yard of a party in Saskatoon. Equally uncharacteristic for the time were the play’s blue collar characters: a bitter, closeted seismologist and an openly gay ranch hand.

“At the time, AIDS was still a white-collar crime,” reflects Gin, who played the wise-cracking, Glen

Campbell-loving ranch hand GW. “Most of the AIDS dramas at that time were about well-to-do White gay men who lived in New York, San Francisco or Fire Island. AIDS – let along gay men – were still an invisible presence on the prairies.”

“These (characters) are people that an Alberta or a prairie audience identify with readily and understand,” adds Thorson. “They’re so down-to-earth, which I think is very appealing.”

On the evening of December 4 as part of events honoring World AIDS Day, Brave Hearts receives a staged reading at Calgary’s Loft 112 in Calgary’s East Village, with Thorson and Gin back in the saddle as GW and Rafe. A panel discussion follows, with representatives from the Calgary Gay History Project, HIV Community Link and Chromatic Theatre participating.

Brave Hearts first opened at Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in 1991 at a time when a diagnosis of AIDS was still considered a death sentence for many. Three years later, the prognosis wasn’t much better when the play premiered in Calgary at The Pumphouse Theatres. The actors rehearsed at the AIDS Calgary offices, and resource personnel from the organization facilitated talkbacks after each performance. Critical response to the production was positive, with the Calgary Herald proclaiming it “an act of courage.”

teatro berdache

“AIDS claimed a lot of the people we got to know through that show,” remembers Gin. “But others we came to know, especially the ones who were just recently diagnosed, are still here. They’re fine. And that’s so encouraging.”

So why revisit the show two decades later?

First and foremost, it’s a great script, garnering a Dora Mavor Moore Award nomination in its Toronto production. And for both actors in the Calgary production, there’s a feeling that people need to be reminded of the impact of AIDS in the community, especially the younger generation of gay youth who never witnessed its devastation first-hand.

Gin went on to helm Teatro Berdache, which ran professional productions in Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal from 2000 to 2008. This year, it re-emerged as an interdisciplinary arts facilitator, running the successful Warhol-inspired Factory 112 series at Loft 112.

“We’re definitely older and greyer than we were in 1994,” laughs Gin. “And there’s no damn way we could ever pull this off onstage, ‘cause the characters are 26 and 31. “

“But so much of this play is about loneliness, and the need to reconnect. And I think that’s gonna resonate even more now, especially when the audience has a chance to talk about it with us afterward in the intimate space of the reading.”

Factory 112: Lonesome Cowboys & Brave Hearts runs for one night only at #112, 535 – 8th Avenue SE on Friday, December 4, 2015. Doors open at 7 pm with a 7:30 pm start. Admission is by donation, with all proceeds going to support HIV Community Link. Find the Facebook Event: here.

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