Tag Archives: theatre

The Sum of Us

In October 1991, Theatre Calgary presented a highly lauded production of playwright David Stevens’ The Sum of Us. Described as frank, funny and touching, the play explored the relationship between a widowed father and his gay son, set in a working-class suburb of Melbourne, Australia. The play first premiered in an acclaimed off-Broadway production in 1990, and Theatre Calgary was the next company to stage it after that inaugural run.

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Theatre Calgary’s Sum of Us Program

Stevens said The Sum of Us, was partly autobiographical. In a Calgary Herald interview, he explained:  “My mother had to come to terms with the fact that her mother was a dyke and her son is a poofter. I thought, if she could cope with that, anyone could!” For the play, however, he made the father the compassionate parent, noting that his own father was somewhat “to the right of Genghis Khan.”

Theatre Calgary (TC) secured impressive talent for their production. Gordon Pinsent played the widower Harry, and Ted Atherton, his son Jeff. Theatre director Eric Steiner was engaged to bring The Sum of Us to the Canadian stage. Steiner, who came to Calgary, via Stratford, Chicago and Toronto had worked with TC before, directing The Normal Heart in 1986, one of the first plays about AIDS ever presented in the city.

Martin Morrow, Theatre Critic for the Calgary Herald, wrote:

“Eric Steiner’s production for TC is outstanding. As well-meaning Harry, venerable Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent gives a warm, rich, endearing performance – this is surely among the best acting he’s ever done. He’s well matched by blond, boyish Ted Atherton as the likeable underachiever Jeff – the pair have a beautiful familial chemistry on stage….. As it stands, it’s one of the best shows Theatre Calgary has ever done.”

Playwright Stevens was on the record that the TC production was the finest his play had been given. And Calgary audiences liked it too; the show tripled its expected revenues at the box office. Theatre Calgary then leveraged its success to open the play in Toronto that November at the Bathurst Street Theatre for an open-ended commercial run in collaboration with independent producer David Warack.

I remember seeing the play twice in Calgary and found it very moving. “Our children are only the sum of us, what we add up to,” said a philosophical Gordon Pinsent. “How could I be ashamed of what my seed has become?”

The Sum of Us would go on to be produced by theatre companies around the world and in 1994 was made into an Australian feature film starring Russell Crowe. Sadly, after ten years battling AIDS, Canadian theatre director Eric Steiner died on June 30, 1993.



Gay History @ Congress

Congress, a huge academic conference, is coming to the University of Calgary from May 28th – June 3rd. There will be approximately 8000 delegates representing 70 scholarly associations in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

The Calgary Gay History Project is participating in a couple of ways.

Calgary professor Dr. Nancy Janovicek and the Canadian Historical Association have invited us to run campus gay history walks during Congress. We have developed a 50-minute tour which will takes delegates, and members of the public to key sites of queer culture and politics on campus. We will explore how students organized to challenge homophobia and fought to make the university a place of tolerance. This tour is co-sponsored by the Faculty of Arts, Department of History, and the Q Centre.

The walks will take place, Monday, May 30th, Tuesday, May 31st, and Wednesday, June 1st at noon leaving from the Q Centre at MacEwan Hall Room 210 on the U of C campus.

We are also in the program for the Sexuality Studies Association on May 31st. Working with Third Street Theatre and playwright Natalie Meisner, we will be presenting a play reading and panel discussion about: 69: Legislating Love & The Everett Klippert Story. Klippert’s famous 1967 court case has been in the news recently, as the Prime Minister considers a posthumous pardon for the man whose court case led to the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada. The panel will feature Natalie Meisner, Jonathan Brower, Tereasa Maillie and Kevin Allen representing both the artistic  and research driven aspects of the project.

There are two film screenings at Congress exploring international aspects of the LGBTQ struggle for human rights. Nancy Nicol, a documentary filmmaker and scholar, is presenting two films: And Still We Rise (2015, 70 min.) co-directed with Richard Lusimbo, and No Easy Walk To Freedom (2014, 91 min.) created with the Naz Foundation India Trust in Delhi. Click the links for screening times and tickets info (tickets are free).

We will leave you this week with some photos from our recent Gay History Jane’s Walk, thanks to Ashley Bedet from The New Gallery. Let’s hope the weather is as nice next week for the walks at the U of C!


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Kevin Allen, gay historian, is very “hip” with his new belt microphone.

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Artist, Bogdan Cheta reading from his recent New Gallery publication: a manifesto has come to light…

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A beautiful morning for a Calgary Gay History Walk.




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.”

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“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.