Are We There Yet? Gay Representation in Contemporary Canadian Drama

Thumbnail Image




Berto, Tony

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


University of Guelph


This study acknowledges that historical antipathies towards gay men have marginalised their theatrical representation in the past. However, over the last century a change has occurred in the social location of gay men in Canada (from being marginalised to being included). Given these changes, questions arise as to whether staged representations of gay men are still marginalised today. Given antipathies towards homosexuality and homophobia may contribute to the how theatres determine the riskiness of productions, my investigation sought a correlation between financial risk in theatrical production and the marginalisation of gay representations on stage. Furthermore, given that gay sex itself, and its representation on stage, have been theorised as loci of antipathies to gayness, I investigate the relationship between the visibility and overtness of gay sex in a given play and the production of that play’s proximity to the mainstream. The study located four plays from across the spectrum of production conditions (from high to low financial risk) in BC. Analysis of these four plays shows general trends, not only in the plays’ constructions but also in the material conditions of their productions that indicate that gay representations become more overt, visible and sexually explicit when less financial risk was at stake. Various factors are identified – including the development of the script, the producing theatre, venue, and promotion of the production – that shape gay representation. The analysis reveals that historical theatrical practices, that have had the effect of marginalizing the representations of gays in the past, are still in place. These practices appear more prevalent the higher the financial risk of the production.


The author would like to sincerely thank Ann Wilson, Ric Knowles, Matthew Hayday, Alan Shepard, Sky Gilbert, Daniel MacIvor, Michael Lewis MacLennan, Conrad Alexandrowicz, Chris Grignard, Edward Roy, Brad Fraser, Cole J. Alvis, Jonathan Seinan, David Oiye, Clinton Walker, Sean Cummings, Darrin Hagin, and Chris Galatchian.


Daniel MacIvor, Michael Lewis MacLennan, Conrad Alexandrowicz, Christopher Grignard, His Greatness, The Shooting Stage, Beggars Would Ride, The Orchard Drive, Gay theatre, Canadian Theatre, Contemporary Theatre., Mainstream theatre, Alternative Theatre, Queer theatre, Queer Canadian Theatre, Gay, social location of gay men, gay history, Vancouver, B.C. lower mainland, Kelowna, Fringe theatre, push festival, wild excursions, Vancouver arts club, firehall theatre, staging gay sex, Alan Sinfield, homosexuality, conditions of production, conditions of reception, horizon of expectation, four Ds, dangerous, demented, diseased, and doomed, homophobia, gay cultural production, gay youth, Tennessee Williams, material conditions, marginalising representations of gays