Connection, Joy, And Art : TUTS And VPS

Kyle McCloy as Nelius from TUTS’ 2017 production of Mary Poppins – Photo by Tim Matheson. [A person dressed as a marble statue on stage springs to life as two children watch in amazement]  

Contrary to what many audiences believe, performing in a musical theatre production is not always bright lights and rainbows. It is stressful, anxiety-provoking, emotional, and sweaty work. Through the journey of exploring characters, learning choreography, and mastering harmonies, we, as performers, are forced to to challenge our values, biases, skills, and dreams. Who you are at closing night is not the same person who started the production process.

And that’s why we do it.

The journey, the hard moments, the frustration – all of it is worth it when we can stand on stage with a new spark, showing an audience of strangers, family, and friends a novel truth that both our characters and ourselves have explored and are now experiencing.

To many LGBTQ2+ people, myself included, the coming out journey of questioning, self-exploration and acceptance is not unlike a theatre production. In this, the only difference is that there is no character to perform – what’s shown to the world is a real individual embracing their true self. While the road to get to that point is all but easy, that spark of acceptance and authenticity is something to be cherished. For queer folks, Pride is an annual opening night, where we gather together to show the world who we are.

With this view, the partnership between the Vancouver Pride Society and Theatre Under the Stars is only natural. At their cores, Pride and Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) are fueled by two things: connection and joy. Without these two aspects, we would not have either of the summer staples that have become closely tied to Vancouver’s personality and cultural being.

Connection is a word that operates on many levels with TUTS, starting at the individual level and ending with a larger city-wide view. For me, TUTS was the first step in reconnecting with my real self. After 6 years away from performing on a professional level, the 2017 production of Mary Poppins marked my joyful return to a world that I sorely missed. The opportunity to stand on stage again and feel the visceral rush of entertaining brought me back to a state that was lacking in the 9-to-5 grind. For other performers, the personal connection to the art is just as meaningful, whether they are students experiencing one of their first large-scale productions, or TUTS veterans who are continuing their careers with another stand-out performance.

Pulling the scope back, one can see the connections TUTS offers between the audiences and the artists. Interpersonal moments of connection are powerful; it is impossible to deny that the stories presented through theatre can inspire, and this is made possible when both groups experience one another. It can as simple as laughing at joke or being in awe of a massive opening dance number. Or (my favorite of all) it can offer an inspiring perspective, such as showing young boys that totally okay for boys to dance, or showing girls that they can be confident, strong, and brave, and change the world through their actions.

 

Finally, connection on a city-wide level may be less tangible, but it may be the most significant of all. TUTS is such a Vancouver thing. Large productions filled with art, talent, and joy, surrounded by natural beauty and few hesitations when the rain decides to fall. Simply taking part in this sort of experience solidifies our identity as a city of nature, passion, and zest for life. It serves as a reminder of why we love this place we call home.

All of these moments of connection – and many more that can be shared – foster the second aspect I mentioned: joy. Especially with a company such as TUTS, joy is something that is expected when audiences come to the Malkin Bowl, and we as performers are so lucky to be able to provide that.

While the circumstances may appear to be different, Pride is also time where both connection and joy are fostered and celebrated on every level. While I may only speak from one perspective, I feel that it is the combination of individual, interpersonal, and intercultural connection that has progressed the LGBTQ2+ community. We have not always been allowed to truly foster connection and experience joy as we can today, and there are groups in many communities and countries that are still fighting for that unrestricted right. Thus, Pride is the time for us as the community to take a moment to recognize how far we’ve come, remember who came before us, and direct our focus on what still needs to be done. It is through building connections that this progress can continue.

The partnership between Theatre Under the Stars and the Vancouver Pride Society is one which I hope provides a mixture of unbeatable energy, with the zeal of theatre merging with the fire and spark of the LGBTQ2+ community. Supporting this partnership is another step for further change to happen. This summer, I invite everyone to take time to connect, whether it be with yourself, or community, or your city. Come see Theatre Under the Stars, join in Pride festivities, and foster new moments of joy for yourself and the community.

Join us at 42nd Street – Broadway’s big, brassy song and dance extravaganza on July 30 – TUTS Pride Night! Use promo code VANPRIDE for $10 off regular adult ticket prices. Buy tickets now!