Jeudi, 13 juin 2024
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    Landscape Grindr with Michael Martini

    Montreal theatre artist Michael Martini has worked across Montreal’s bilingual, queer, interdisciplinary scene, often collaborating with dancers and visual artists. 

    Martini has shown work at many of Montreal and Toronto’s most exciting performance events, notably his co-creation Ça a l’air synthétique bonjour hi at OFFTA and Summerworks.

    A Concordia University graduate, and fresh from co-creating and performing in Beep Test at Tangente with Callan Ponsford, Martini premieres Landscape Grindr, his first full-length creation as a playwright-performer at La Chapelle Scènes Contemporaines from April 11 to 15.

    Incubated via MAI’s Alliance program and Playwrights’ Workshop Montreal, Landscape Grindr is “a highly personal narrative filtered through reflections on pressing themes: sexual violence, the destruction of nature … as the author questions his own sexual identity amid the backdrop of the #metoo and environmental justice movements.”

    Martini recently sat down for a candid Q&A.

    CRÉDIT PHOTO : FÉLIX BONNEVIE

    What is Landscape Grindr about and what inspired you to write it?
    Michael Martini : I mixed autobiographical elements with imagined elements from a time in my life when I felt I was testing the waters of different kinds of gender identities and different sexual identities. This process of wondering where I fit in happened during the #MeToo movement when we were also looking at the binary of male-female in a really different and charged way. I set this against the backdrop of the environmental justice movement to see what kind of story emerges when those parallels are drawn.

    How autobiographical is the piece?
    Michael Martini : I wrote it between 2017 and 2018 when I got more and more interested in blurring the lines between autobiography and fiction and fantasy.

    How did you decide on the title Landscape Grindr?
    Michael Martini : Sometimes people who don’t want to use their photo on Grindr will post a photo to represent themselves. Many people use photos of landscapes. So around 2017, I started collecting screenshots of them all and when my master collection topped 1,000, I thought, “I really have to do something with this.” That project ran parallel to the writing I was doing at the time. So that’s where the title came from. I also thought it just kind of rolls off the tongue nicely. 

    Are you nonbinary? Queer? What adjective do you like to use?
    Michael Martini : I feel like this type of language changes so often, not just from generation to generation, but from year to year, that I’ve learned to detach myself from getting too invested in any certain adjective. Right now, in this moment, I mostly identify as a queer gay male. 

    Do you need or require queer themes in your work?
    Michael Martini : I can’t think of a single piece I’ve done where that hasn’t come into play.

    Are you a queer artist or an artist who happens to be queer?
    Michael Martini : I do really strongly identify with the queer community. In Montreal, I would say I feel I really belong in more underground and very sexually diverse spaces. I have more of a fluid relationship with gender and sexuality where at times in my life I feel like I’m questioning who I am and how I want to come across. 

    What was it like to grow up in Ajax, Ontario, as a queer boy?
    Michael Martini : I would say that things didn’t always make much sense. I had the feeling that I was a bit different. You start to collect these references of the world that paint a picture of how you might fit in. Then in my late teens things kind of reach a boiling point and suddenly you start to have some clarity. Fortunately I went to an arts high school in Toronto that was very open minded before I came to Montreal to attend Concordia in 2013.

    You are a multi-disciplinary artist. Do you prefer one discipline over the other?
    Michael Martini : I come from a theatre background. I was one of the last people to finish Concordia’s playwriting program which no longer exists. I switched from their performance program because I quickly found out it was not for me, was really high stress and super disciplined. Instead of incarnating other people’s ideas, the switch to playwriting put me in the driver’s seat so that I could do what I wanted to do on stage or what I wanted to explore.

    You also work behind the scenes, such as for Montreal artist Maxine Segalowitz at Tangente in 2021, as production manager and sound designer. Do you prefer working onstage or offstage?
    Michael Martini : Oh, onstage for sure. I mean, I started working “offstage” to keep busy. That’s been great because I’m very comfortable in those types of co-ordination positions. In the past year I’ve worked four times as a production manager.

    You lost everything in an apartment fire in January 2021. How did you rebuild and bounce back?
    Michael Martini : The theatre, dance and queer communities, my family and friends, all rallied around me. Thanks to them I was able to go on. I was getting all these messages from people I hadn’t heard from in years, and relatives just offering support. It was incredible.

    How long were you in hospital for?
    Michael Martini : I was just in hospital for the night. My hands were severely damaged. I couldn’t use my hands for about a month I think. I wore bandages for two months. And I had a year of insomnia. I could not sleep at all. I was so terrified I couldn’t even go near an oven – they freaked me out. But that period has passed.

    What did you lose?
    Michael Martini : Everything was lost. Except unbelievably a shoebox – a memory box – of letters and photographs. When firefighters put out the fire, they dumped as much as they could out onto the street. When I got out of the hospital the next morning, I went home where there was an iceberg of trash outside the apartment. I found my memory box as well as a fireproof safe from under my bed filled with valuables and cash. I was looking for that safe like a maniac for three hours in that iceberg of trash!

    Fortunately you are safe and your career is back on track.

    Michael Martini : It feels really good to be back.

    Landscape Grindr runs at La Chapelle Scènes Contemporaines from April 11 to 15. The show is in English with French surtitles.

    For tickets, visit lachapelle.org.  

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