By Benjamin Chafe
Quebec Drama Federation: Alright Dane, let’s get into it! What are some of the main topics in The History of Sexuality?
Dane Stewart: At its core, The History of Sexuality is about queerness and how the queer community interacts with other communities. In this production, 8 of the 9 actors are playing queer characters or queer adjacent; characters that are close to the LGBTQ acronym. I personally identify as gay and explore my own thoughts and experiences throughout this piece. How do I write outside of my understanding? For me, this is a product of how to ethically represent others.
QDF: Can you tell us a little bit about Talking Dog Productions?
DS: I needed some sort of company in order to produce my productions. For people who don’t know me, you will after the show, I am a part of the pup play community. So, Talking Dog- I am the talking dog. Last year during pride we did Voices in Leather. It was an oral history exhibit using audio interviews to explore what it means to be a part of the leather community.
QDF: Both Voices in Leather and The History of Sexuality provide testimonials. What was the experience like getting the testimonials and personal narratives?
DS: It started as a masters thesis taking a more ethical approach to verbatim interviews. There are texts that I’ve referred to like The Vagina Monologues. However, I’ve been taking a different approach. I run the interviews and fictionalize. In 2016, I transcribed portions through characters. An ethical feedback mechanism and would take the variations back to the participants and see if they can be better represented so the end result is a very kaleidoscope representation- they were theme-driven instead of plot-driven.
QDF: You’ve performed this show before, this time being presented with Montréal Pride. How do you think the show reflects Pride?
DS: I definitely think it’s an exciting trajectory for the show. Coming from Mainline and for it to be presented with Pride, I’m thankful that they and Place des Arts gave the opportunity. I think Pride can be perceived as monolithic in what it means to be identified within the LGBTQ community. Hopefully audience members are able to see themselves or a version of themselves outside of the events Pride usually has to offer.
QDF: Have there been any changes in the production since showing at Mainline?
DS: There is a change that people should be aware of. There is a pretty intense narrative of sexual assault. A character has a scene with audio clips of the interview I did with the survivor. I did interviews with perpetrators of sexual assault within the community. There’s now a scene with verbatim interviews of perpetrators of sexual harm so participants should be aware of that.
QDF: What do you want the audience to take away from the production?
DS: Hopefully, there is a willingness to listen to others’ experience and for the audience to feel a sense of empathy. We have narratives from sex workers where it is a positive experience for some, and negative for others. We have characters with anxiety and depression. We present the checkered past of the history with authorities, including the police. I hope people come to see it with an open mind and take away something different and personal.
You can see The History of Sexuality at Fierté Montréal Pride August 9th-12th at Place des Arts, 175 St. Catherine O. Thank you Dane for taking the time to chat with us!