The Cultch
The Gay Heritage Project

Dates and Venue March 2 - 19, 2016 at 8pm (Matinees March 5, 6, 13, & 19 at 2pm) | Historic Theatre at the Cultch, 1895 Venables Street

Director Ashlie Corcoran Set/Lighting Design Kimberly Purtell Sound Design Thomas Ryder Payne Video Design Cameron Davis

Reviewer Christian Steckler

The Gay Heritage Project is a fun and thought-provoking magical history tour of perspectives on being gay, understanding what “gay” might mean and the implications and consequences of finding oneself in that camp (pun intended).

Damien Atkins, Paul Dunn and Andrew Kushnir set out an evening of vignettes that kept the audience laughing, sighing sentimentally, or tearing up as we were brought to wonder about our own stereotypes, perspectives and experiences as gay men and women. Their considerable talent, both individually and collectively, made the evening not just fun, but thought-provoking and meaningful. Their noteworthy writing and acting backgrounds ensured polished performances with focused energy. They educated us effortlessly through their skillful presentation of many nuanced moments, from ancient times to modern, from Europe, Asia and the Americas, from survivors of persecution and plague to the young generation of today. From the torment of self-discovery and coming out, to realizations of different cultural definitions of the gay experience, the evening was a great ride.

The technical aspects of this performance deserve praise, too. The simple set, consisting of several wooden chairs and a draped screen projecting captivating video images, gave the performers free rein to present their magic alone at times, and as a group at other times. Sound design was superb, in that it never intruded or distracted, but merely enhanced. Lighting, too, was very effective, and often fun. All were perfectly timed with the action, giving a tight, clean performance that speaks to the skill of those involved. Credit for the direction of this whole excellent package must go to Ashlie Corcoran.

The Gay Heritage Project is, frankly, political. It is also historical – or more accurately, seeks to collect, record and present an established history of gay experience. This performance provides a stimulus for gay people to recognize the reality of their sociological history, and the important place it can, and should, have in the annals of human history. It sets a fire in the mind as to how our history should be presented for posterity: facts, of course; testimonies, no doubt; records of persecution and acceptance, for sure. But without the unique personality, irony and camp humour that distinguishes the soul of gay life, such a history would be dry, indeed, and inaccurate in its very essence. Atkins, Dunn and Kushnir make that clear. See them. You’ll understand.

© 2016 Christian Steckler