Don’t wait for your invitation to come in the mail – you won’t be wedding crashing if you show up at Love in the Margins without it. The best part is, there’s not one, but three chances to join this wedding hosted (okay, created) by CRIPSiE and mindhive collective: January 31, and February 1 and 2 as part of Canoe Theatre Festival during the Chinook Series.
Kelsie Acton who choreographed and produces Love in the Margins, in addition to appearing in the show, describes it as: “A wedding reception for these perfect people: Luke and Lisa. But it’s a wedding reception that sort of dissolves into chaos. And the dissolution into chaos becomes a way to explore firstly who has access to romantic relationships in our society and then also why are romantic relationships so important and how do we think about a lot of other things like adulthood and platonic non-relationships in relation to romantic relationships? We have our MC who is very proper and trying to make the perfect wedding happen for Luke and Lisa. I play the maid of honour who gets super drunk and gives a speech that you don’t want anyone to ever give at your wedding. And then there’s a bunch of other stories about relationships. There’s a story of a breakup that happens. There’s a story of the MC being overthrown by a bunch of characters who’ve decided they have had enough of it. It’s pretty funny, I think.”
If this sounds familiar, it’s because you might have been part of the sold-out performance of Love in the Margins that happened during NextFest 2015. And while there won’t be a dance after the performances during Canoe the way there was at NextFest, Kelsie notes that audience members are still welcome to dress in their formal wear the way they did at NextFest. And if you did see that performance at NextFest, Kelsie says you should definitely come back since the show has evolved over the last seven months or so. “There’s a little more text trying to layer in and talk about some of the class stuff associated with weddings and start to get at the questions of financial access [to having a wedding]. We’re just hinting at that right now – there’s a whole other show we could do about that. I think in some ways we’ve been some parts of the show a little more pointed and explicit. I think we knew when we were doing the last piece that we were performing for our community and our particular audience which is very much drawn from folks who are interested in disability and queer politics and have emotional and personal connections to that. We’re cognizant that coming into Canoe and the Chinook Series we’re hoping that we’ll get exposed to new audiences and people who aren’t as familiar with what we do. So we tried to make some of the more political moments of the play much more explicit and clearly explain where we’re coming from… [For example] there are a lot of inspiration jokes in the show which are super funny if you’re conversant with the politics of how inspiration often works to diminish people experiencing disabilities lives… There’s a kind of pity involved in those sentiments. Like, ‘Oh, if that person can go get their groceries or get to work everyday than I have nothing to complain about.’ There’s something deeply condescending and pitying about those kind of statements. But if you’ve never had that conversation before, you won’t think about it. We want to make sure people understand what we’re making fun of and joking about.”
Love in the Margins was created through a collaboration between CRIPSiE (short for Collaborative Radically Integrated Performers Society in Edmonton) and mindhive collective enabled by a grant from the Edmonton Arts Council. Kelsie says the collaboration came out of a desire to explore the idea of romantic relationships in today’s North American and Albertan society. “The reason why we wanted to talk about and explore romantic relationships, in particular, is because in contemporary North American society and Alberta for sure we’re still dealing with the legacies of eugenics. So people experiencing disability are often assumed not to be sexual. Or if you experience mental illness you’re assumed to be hyper-sexual. There’s a lot of barriers and stigmas associated with romance and romantic relationships. So we wanted to dig into that and figure out how it plays out in people’s lives and also poke a bit at the institutions of romantic relationships.”
Up until creating Love in the Margins, CRIPSiE was primarily known as a dance company, so they jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with mindhive collective to start working in theatre and learning from mindhive’s approach to political art. Kelsie says, “Mindhive as a whole is incredibly smart and intelligent about their politics and how they think about experiences of marginalization in the world. Also I’m a huge fan of their devised work – I think it’s stunning and amazing. Brooke Leifso in particular, who initiated the collaboration, was interested in learning about crip art and what we’re calling the aesthetics of accessibility but mindhive as a whole was also deeply interested in learning about disability politics and trying to think through how integrated theatre works.” That desire aligned well with CRIPSiE’s mandate as a company of “artists who experience disability and their political and artistic allies to create work that strives to challenge the dominant narratives of disability and marginalization in the world.”
And while Love in the Margins certainly explores issues of political and personal importance, it approaches them from a place of humour and irreverence for preconceived ideas of love that some people may hold. And in the end, Kelsie says CRIPSiE and mindhive collective help us see the better world they imagine. “I feel quite strongly that you have to be careful doing theatre that’s critical politically because it’s one thing to critique the world the way it is but I feel you need to take the extra step in imagining how it can be otherwise and trying to place that on the stage. I find it fascinating that when we collectively start to imagine how things are different, we end up dancing.”
Love in the Margins plays January 31 and February 1 and 2 as part of Canoe Theatre Festival during the Chinook Series. Tickets are $20 for students and seniors and $25 for adult tickets through Fringe Theatre Adventures.Evening passes for all shows in a particular evening are $50 and for $75 you get a Five Pack Festival Pass.
On Wednesday February 3 at 5:30 in the ATB Financial Arts Barns Lobby Board Room, Workshop West will present the salon “Love, Sex, and Disability” about unequal access to love, family, relationships and community.