Vendredi, 21 juin 2024
• • •

    An audience with Sky Gilbert

    For years I was intimidated by the mere presence of Sky Gilbert and his steely personality, but I have discovered the theatre legend is really a pussycat.

    Co-founder and artistic director of Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times Theatre — one of the world’s largest queer theatres — from 1979 to 1997, Gilbert is a poet, novelist, playwright, filmmaker and theatre director whose drag queen persona Jane is as fearless as he is.

    Dr. Gilbert is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Guelph where he taught theatre and creative writing from 1998 to 2022. The prolific writer has more than 40 plays produced around the world, written nine novels and three poetry collections, and his second book about Shakespeare — Shakespeare Lied — is being published by Guernica Editions in time for the 2024 edition of the Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival where Gilbert, 71, will receive the prestigious Blue Metropolis Violet Prize which recognizes an established LGBTQ+ Canadian author for their body of work.

    Sky and I recently sat down for a candid Q&A which has been edited for length and clarity.

    You publicly announced you are gay at age 27.
    I didn’t really begin to live as a gay man until 1980. It was that late. I struggled with it like crazy. I knew I was gay when I was about 12. In the mid-1960s I saw a story in Life magazine about the plague of homosexuality and I thought, “That’s me.” When I was a young kid I didn’t play doctor with girls, I played doctor with a boy or two. Then I saw the article in Life. So I said to my mother, “I think I’m gay.” She said to me,
    “No, you’re not. You’re too young to know.” She was actually very kind because I was worried. Then I internalized homophobia. But I don’t think my parents had a hard time when I finally came out.

    I cannot imagine there even being a day when you were not out!
    People are really shocked about this! I had a girlfriend for a long time in my twenties and I got really good marks in school. I was a good boy. After I left my girlfriend it took me a really long time before I had sex with men. I was so uptight and drained. Then in my thirties I became the crazy Sky Gilbert who was doing all the stuff that was a total reaction against 28 years of being in the closet.

    Why did you co-found Buddies in Bad Times Theatre?
    I really loved the theatre. When I was young I used to play in the backyard and organized all the little kids to do shows. So I went to York University and really got into acting. I worked in the cabaret at York, wrote a lot of shows. I worked with my friend Matt Walsh which was the starter for Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, which we co-founded with Jerry Ciccoritti. That’s really how it started.

    Since co-founding Buddies, you have never shied away from controversy. But I do want to ask how you deal controversy. During these moments I feel like you are always sure of yourself and in control. Do you ever get nervous or scared?
    Yes, I do, but it’s so complicated, my psyche. On the one hand, I’m still in therapy which I’m not afraid to say that I need to go once a month. One of the issues is I have this need to be honest, to confess, to put stuff out there. I also want people to like me.

    You are incredibly prolific. Are you a work-a-holic or is it because, as you say, you just need to get it all out there?
    Oh very much so. It has to do with my own sanity. What I liked about theatre was the immediate gratification. You got applause, you got laughter, and I really needed that immediately.

    Your publisher Guernica says your new book Shakespeare Lied places ‘the bard’ at the centre of present-day debates over ‘political correctness.’

    It’s primarily about trying to look at the modern world and the modern condition in light of Shakespeare. What I am saying is that Shakespeare’s work was really about how art is a lie. I do think it’s very relevant to the world we live in today, especially with Trump and alternative facts.

    Are you a writer who happens to be gay, or are you a gay writer?
    I’ve never really had a problem being called a gay writer. I think resistance against that is kind of foolish and homophobic. I don’t think there are many gay writers out there. How would I define a gay writer? I would say it has to do with subject matter. I write about gay people most all the time. I don’t feel close to my protagonist if they were straight, I feel closer if they’re gay. So that makes me a gay writer. I would also say there’s a lot of writers who are gay who are stumbling over themselves to write heterosexual novels.

    You have received three Dora Mavor Moore Awards as well as the prestigious Pauline McGibbon Award, The Silver Ticket Award, and the ReLit Award for your novel An English Gentleman. Blue Metropolis is awarding you its Violet Prize. How do you feel about prizes?
    I have a fantasy that it’s a little bit of what Noel Coward called “Dad’s Renaissance” and I would love for this to happen to me! People discovered that Noel Coward wasn’t a minor silly playwright and wrote some classic comedies. He used to joke about it: “Oh, it’s dad’s renaissance!” That’s how I feel a bit because I’m definitely past my time, so it’s very nice to have that sort of recognition. The hope is people will say “He’s an old guy but he’s still got some creative juices flowing.”

    Your drag persona Jane was born in 1987 when you wore a leopard skin loincloth and wig to a party.
    That was because I was in love with a boy called David MacLean who was a drag queen. He taught me drag. I think it also had a lot to do with John Waters – I wanted that sensibility to come to Toronto. For an effeminate gay male you sometimes need drag to affirm that part of yourself. That’s what Jane is for me.

    Are you of fan of contemporary drag in the age of RuPaul’s Drag Race?
    I’m very mixed about contemporary drag. I hate beard drag. Do any kind of drag you want, but I’m old school and I think you should do everything you can to be pretty.

    Did you enjoy writing your Pink Panther column in Eye Weekly?
    That was a ball! I had just left Buddies and the column was a way for me to still feel like I had a real voice in the community. I wrote some crazy things, was really out there and confrontive. I am glad I’m no longer doing that because – this is also one of the reasons I stopped writing blogs – the social-media world has become so toxic.

    Are you having fun with your monthly Liars Club live talk show at The Epochal Imp on Danforth in Toronto?
    I wanted to perform more. I knew that doing drag and poetry readings wasn’t enough. So I started this talk show interviewing old and new friends, mainly writers, actors and singers. The episodes are now on YouTube. I’m having a great time!

    In 2014 the City of Toronto named “Sky Gilbert Lane”. How awesome is it to have a street named after you while you’re still alive?
    (Laughs) They asked me first and I said, “Now why would I have an objection!”

    You divide your time between Toronto, Hamilton and Montreal. Do you foresee a day when you and your life partner of 25 years, artist Ian Jarvis, move permanently to Montreal?
    We’re on our way to Montreal, it’s just taking a while because our lives are complicated.
    I will keep a place in Toronto because I can’t give up Toronto completely, can I? But my base will be Montreal.

    You have a famously open relationship with Ian. Is there such a thing as anonymous sex anymore for Sky Gilbert?
    (Laughs) That’s a good question. Sometimes Sky Gilbert doesn’t even know! I’m not as famous as I used to be. I mean, it’s hard in Toronto a little bit. But the good thing about getting old is the young don’t know who the hell you are!

    How does it feel to be a living legend?
    Even if I have had some fame in my life, you can’t think of yourself in that way. Any sort of fame is really dangerous and difficult. But thank you for saying that, it’s very sweet of you!

    INFOS | Sky Gilbert will be awarded the Blue Metropolis Violet Prize at the HÔTEL 10 with host Christopher DiRaddo and interviewer Matthew Hays, April 26 at 9:30 pm ($10 admission). The event will be followed at 10:30 pm by VIOLET HOUR: READINGS featuring short readings by LGBTQ+ writers at the festival (in English and French).

    Sky Gilbert is also a panelist in the queer-themed TRUTH BE TOLD: LOOKING AT LIES
    IN LITERATURE event at the HÔTEL 10 with host Christopher DiRaddo on April 27 at 7 pm
    ($8 admission).

    Surf to and

    Du même auteur



    S'il vous plaît entrez votre commentaire!
    S'il vous plaît entrez votre nom ici



    Les plus consultés cette semaine