New Alberta podcasts substitute for live theatre; tackle race and LGBTQ issues

Live arts performances became some of the first victims of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. But now artists have found a new way to deliver entertainment through The Alberta Queer Calendar Project.

It will feature a full year of podcast drama from queer Alberta writers. Episodes are released monthly.

The project aims to showcase work from a cross-section of diverse queer talent and broadcast it to the world. The works include comedies, dramas musicals and true stories.

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Dale Lee Kwong knows a thing or two about discrimination. As a queer Asian woman, she says her journey as a playwright has had its challenges.

“The thing about systemic racism and discrimination is often times you don’t even realize it is there.

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“So I think I have had to work really hard to get my name out there,” Kwong said.

Kwong, who was born and raised in Calgary, said she is one of the lucky ones.

A script she workshopped with Lunchbox Theatre has been adapted into a podcast play that is part of The Alberta Queer Calendar Project.

The podcast play is called Ai Ya! Face the Facts, the story of an young Asian woman struggling with her sexual orientation.

The entire cast and crew, except for the director, were either Asian or queer.

“I think the coming together of all of these people — and at the core, it is about a queer Asian woman — it is so beautiful.

“That story isn’t often told and so to be a part of that was really special,” said Lara Schmitz a Calgary actor who performed in the podcast play.

“It was really beautiful because that is so important to the main character Jade. Those two components of her identity. The fact that there were queer, Asian and a couple of queer Asian folks in the room meant that we could delve into some of those topics deeper,” Schmitz said.

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Her partner KP Smith was the sound engineer and wrote and performed a song in the podcast.

“It’s fantastic to be able to work on music during a time where there is not a lot of live music right now,” Smith said.

The crew members appreciate that The Alberta Queer Calendar Project made an effort to get a diversity of voices. Kwong said many BIPOC performers and writers are passed by.

“That really supports the community because a lot of these voices don’t normally get the air time or the workshops or the financing and development.

“I have been really lucky but a lot of us get overlooked,” Kwong said.

Those who have worked on the Alberta Queer Calendar said the project is an important way of bringing diverse communities together during a time of isolation.

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“We are disconnected from our support groups now so for folks who might be struggling and folks who might be questioning their identity, it’s a precarious time.

“So to have something to latch on to that is current and does encourage a sense of community I think it’s especially important,” said Harley Morison, a producer with both The Alberta Queer Calendar and with Cardiac Theatre.

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In January 2020, Cardiac Theatre and What It Is Productions launched the first of 13 podcast dramas as part of The Alberta Queer Calendar Project.

Episodes of The Alberta Queer Calendar Project are available at queercalendar.ca

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