POVInternational - CPH Queer Theater Festival builds a bridge with universal human narratives
Sophie Blendstrup 20.08.2021
LBGTQ + // REPORTAGE - With the entire inner city wrapped in rainbow flags, one has hardly thought twice that the Folketeateret on Nørregade has also lit up in festive colors the last two weeks with CPH Queer Theater Festival. The city has been buzzing with life and events in connection with WorldPride, and the flag of pride has almost been flown more than with the Dannebrog. If you have entered through the theater's doors, however, it has become clear that the rainbow flag is not just a seasonal decoration.
During this year's Pride, the Folketeatret, together with, among others, Bøssehuset, BLOX, and Skuespilhuset, has staged the international CPH Queer Theater Festival, which has run off the stack for the very first time.
LBGTQ + artists from around the world have taken part in the festival, including award-winning West End director Andrew Keats and Moira Finucane - even sustainably on live connection from Australia. All in all, it is an impressive program that the festival presents.
I'm the kind of person who read Judith Butler at university and subscribed to the idea that gender is performative and that sexuality is a spectrum
When the city is full of entertainment and events in the name of diversity, all fighting for attention at the same time, one can still be tempted to ask what a performing arts festival like the CPH Queer Theater Festival can and should be - and who is it for?
Representation for all
My starting point for participating in this festival was not to see myself represented on stage. I'm the kind of person who read Judith Butler at university and subscribed to the idea that gender is performative and that sexuality is a spectrum.
I have toyed with the idea of calling myself queer, but live primarily as a hetero-cis woman. That is, one who is assigned to the sexed woman at birth, identifies as such and is attracted to the opposite sex (binary seen). In short, I fall outside the LBGTQ + definition.
Therefore, I asked one of the two festival leaders, Jeremy M. Thomas, who is also the artistic director of the theater company HIT, who the festival is intended for? Jeremy's answer is that the festival is for everyone.
The goal is not to normalize anything, but rather to highlight the universal in reviewing the phases of a human life in the various narratives
He and Lars Werner Thomsen, the festival's second director, have put a lot of energy into finding and inviting artists and stories that are modern, have something new to say and contribute to a broad program.
When theaters present LBGTQ + performances, they are often stories of gay cis men. Those stories are important, but the CPH Queer Theater Festival would like to represent more and more than that. The festival is explicitly called "queer" and not "gay".
Elias at the CPH Queer Theater Festival
CPH Queer Theater Festival is much more than “gay” themes, but of course it has, e.g. with Folketeatret's own production The Young Elias' Disorders.
Therefore, they have presented notions with and about non-binary, bisexual, pansexual, and asexual. At the same time, of course, there has also been room for the homosexual narratives, such as the Folketeatret's own production, The Young Elias' Disorders, written and played by Elias Sadaq.
By letting people with all kinds of backgrounds be presented with a sea of different narratives that represent different gender identities and sexualities, the team behind the CPH Queer Theater Festival hopes that a bridge can be built between different communities.
The goal is not to normalize anything, but rather to emphasize the universal in reviewing the phases of a human life in the various narratives - and of course because representation is important in art.
Jeremy says that feelings like love, loneliness and attachment are universal. The acclaimed performance The Shy Manifesto, which he himself has directed, has a queer teenager in the lead role, but deals with themes that are probably recognizable to most teenagers today.
The beloved drag queen Ramona Macho noticed during her show for Cabaret Night that playing on the stairs in the foyer gave a little cruise atmosphere
The partly digital performance deals with cyberbullying and the general search for identity. One could imagine that this particular performance would do well as a curriculum in the country's 9th graders.
As the audience at the reading of Southern Bedfellows, which was set up last-minute with the play's own author, the American rising star, non-binary Riley Elton McCarthy, I myself was overwhelmed by a sea of "universal emotions".
The almost spontaneously set-up reading of Southern Bedfellows was the biggest experience at the festival. Preferably with a reunion on a Danish stage. Poster photo.
Beautifully read by Riley and Annelise Nielsen with American Southern dialect, I let myself be sucked into a story about finding her identity, deep friendship and about choosing oneself first. This experience made such a big impression on me that I dreamed of gender identity all night.
I very much hope for a re-enactment, so that this performance can also be included in the curriculum among the younger theater audience.
Life, cruise atmosphere and happy days
There has also been room for regular party atmosphere during the CPH Queer Theater Festival. Beloved drag queen Ramona Macho noted during her show for Cabaret Night that playing on the stairs in the foyer gave a bit of a cruise vibe.
That her English was a little lame gave just a little more exotic vibe to the musical show. As an audience, I experienced here a warm feeling of security and community.
When many topics are put under the microscope, and you can shop around for performances without expectation, you become acquainted with something new
Denmark is a good country to be LBGTQ + in, but it is not always easy. Creating places and spaces where everyone is free to be who they are and so on in the name of art is important. Seeing an established place like the Folketeatret decorated with rainbow colors and making an active effort for inclusion has been a real pleasure during this Pride.
That is why there is a need for and space for a theater festival like the CPH Queer Theater Festival. When many topics are put under the microscope, and you can shop around for performances without expectation, you become acquainted with something new.
Under the umbrella "queer", space is created for inclusion in the stage room - and in the audience rows - in the future. At the same time, pop teachers' pieces can be repeated, so that more people have the opportunity to see them and others can gain momentum for solo playing periods.
I cross my fingers that we'll see another CPH Queer Theater Festival during the next Pride.
If you want to experience some queer performing arts, even though the city will no longer be decorated with rainbow flags, you can hurry to secure tickets to Berghain on Berlin's Technoscene, which is played on roller skates, and to The Feminine Octagon - or aristotle can eat me , both in Bøssehuset 27.08 - 11.09.