June 24th, 2024

Theatre Outré expands options with family-oriented show


By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on February 23, 2022.

Herald photo by Al Beeber Rylan Kunkel, Erica Barr, Shannon Murphy and Devon Brayne rehearse a scene from Theatre Outré's production of "The Sissy Duckling" that runs at Casa from Saturday to March 5.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Theatre Outré wants children to know it’s OK to be themselves and be different if they feel that way.
The city theatre troupe will be presenting its first family-oriented show during this year’s Quaint, Quirky & Queer Festival which runs until March 5.
Adapted and directed by Nicola Elson, “The Sissy Duckling” is based on Harvey Fierstein’s popular children’s book.
The show was scheduled as part of the festival in 2020 before COVID-19 shut down live performances.
“The Sissy Duckling” will run in the Community Room at Casa from Saturday until March 5. Two shows daily will be staged on weekends at varying times while weekday performances start at 6 p.m.
Tickets are available online at http://www.theatreoutre.ca
For the theatre’s co-artistic director Jay Whitehead, “The Sissy Duckling” is a departure from Outré’s normal fare and he’s hoping audiences are accepting of it.
“We hope audiences will give us a chance,” he said of the show. Fierstein provided the theatre with the production’s rights at no charge and is excited about it, Whitehead said.
Elson said unlike other productions, “The Sissy Duckling” puts story before the message, which is made clear through the adventures of a little duck named Elmer who teaches his family and flock that being different is alright as he’s subject to bullying and abandonment.
The play is recommended for children aged five and up, said Elson.
She wanted to create theatre that is “engaging and fun and the storyline is clear for the little guys but there are other layers that are going to keep the adults engaged, as well. I really love the idea of all-ages theatre when it’s theatre that includes the little guys,” she said.
“Theatre Outré is a queer theatre company and they wanted to create a queer-positive play for kids. A lot of books that are issue-based the issue comes first and the story isn’t always that much of a story,” she said.
But when she came across Harvey Fierstein’s book, “there was an adventure story in this and it had this really beautiful message about this little duckling named Elmer who was different from all the other ducklings and he didn’t like to play the same games as the other boys and things like that. And he got teased and then you kind of find out through the story that actually its because he’s unique, because he’s different because he’s able to help ducks in this story.
“Our hope is this story will invoke empathy and understanding from audiences or there might be little kids in the audience who are like Elmer and they’ll get to see this and be like ‘Oh, being me is great.'” He said.
“It’s all about self acceptance and self love,” the director added.
“We’ve never done anything for small children so we’re really excited to explore these themes in a way that will speak to our younger audience,” said Whitehead.
“In a very kid-friendly way it talks about gender, self acceptance and loving one’s self as one is. It’s a great way to bring up these topics or to start a conversation among family about gender roles and how they sometimes restrict who we really are,” said Whitehead.
The name of the festival was changed to its current title to be more inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community.
The festival also includes a Saturday cabaret at the Sterndale Bennett Theatre with artists from across southern Alberta staging performances in genres including theatre, dance, poetry and music. It’s always a sell-out, said Whitehead. Doors open at 7 with the cabaret starting at 7:30 p.m.

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