Our Vancouver Fringe Fest coverage continues with another preview. Check out the Vancouver Fringe website for show times, tickets, and more great shows!
In our conversation, Anais West, creator and performer of Poly Queer Love Ballad (she/her) quotes Jacob Wren: “ Pop music is the gasoline of monogamy.” Pop songs have so much to do with how much we think about love. And they’re only one part of the larger cultural lens through which certain ideas of what love looks like, or ‘should’ look like, are constantly projected onto us. It’s really quite absurd to think about something as complex as love and relationships, which are so specific to individual experiences, being prescribed and constructed for us into recognizable expectations.
Poly Queer Love Ballad, premiering at the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival, is a pop-folk musical that explores the relationship between two queer women, both of whom have very differing perspectives on romantic relationships. Nina, a polyamorous bisexual poet, sparks up a connection with Gabbie, a monogamous lesbian songwriter, at the infamous Cafe Deux Soleil slam poetry night.
This piece is created by Anais West and Sara Vickruck, who are also romantic partners outside of their creative relationship. Sara speaks to their process: “It’s the kind of collaboration with someone you can be honest with, and that you know so well. I know Anais likes to go away and create and come back, and I like create it all in the room, and it’s more messy.” Their intimate relationship has allowed them to understand each others creative process and routine on a deeper level, which has resulted in the success of this project. Although there is something to be said about separating their work and their relationship, especially since this piece is so deeply involved in how we understand differing romantic perspectives. “Since this is not autobiographical script, the experience was really positive. There is something really special about the intimacy of creating together,” says Anais.
Anais started to think a lot about the topic of relationships and this discussion of love when she started writing in the Wet Ink Collective. “I was constantly grappling with the label of being poly and bisexual and what that meant to me and other people. Then I realized, I had never seen a play about polyamory.” Anais’ realization highlights the importance of individuals having cultural representations of their relationship orientations, specifically when they fall outside of the heteronormative monogamous sphere.
Sara Vickruck, the musical brains behind the show, was very critical about whom she sought out for support in making the show’s music. “There were many qualified and talented male musicians and mentors that I could’ve chosen to work with throughout the process,” explains Sara. However, Sara made it an active choice to engage with female mentors, and mentors who identify as queer within the Vancouver community, which speaks to the ripples this show is attempting to create. Although there is a lot more theatre being made that engages directly with topics of queerness, there isn’t always enough attention paid to creating a process and space that is accepting and safe for all individuals. “It is important to remember that sometimes the people that queer theatre and art is created for and about don’t feel welcome in the spaces that the work exists in,” Sara explains. “Some theatres still have gendered washrooms.”
This show is strongly tethered to the space of the Cafe Deux Soleil slam poetry open mic night, an event and space that many Vancouver-dwellers know well. Slam poetry was a perfect medium for this musical to exist in. “Slam is a form that I found really speaks to queer and non-binary folks,” explains Anais, “it has this gut-wrenching quality that really fuses the political and the personal.”
PQLB already has a bright future ahead of it, which both Anais and Sara accredit to the relationship they fostered with the Playwright Theatre Centre, after the show won PTC’s Fringe New Play Prize. “This is the most prepared that I have ever been with a show,” says Sara. The show already has a space at the Queer Arts Festival in 2019. “The goal is to tour it, at least in Canada” says Anais, turning to Sara with a smile, “and then hopefully internationally.” This Vancouver special is most definitely going to be a spunky musical treat, an entertaining yet critical experience that you will surely be reading about later.
Poly Queer Love Ballad is on now through September 16th - find tickets and showtimes here!