Diversities in gender and sexuality IV: Queer and trans performance strategies in contemporary Canadian theatre and performance

Diversities in gender and sexuality IV: Queer and trans performance strategies in contemporary Canadian theatre and performance

In this video, Alex provides examples of a variety of different approaches to thinking about and creating performance work that problematizes inherited assumptions about queer bodies and provides space for the expression of queer and trans realities.

Queer and trans performance strategies in contemporary Canadian theatre and performance, by Alex Tigchelaar, MA student in Studies in Comparative Literatures and Arts at Brock University, and co-artistic director of the cabaret theatre company Operation Snatch.

Alex Tigchelaar

Alex Tigchelaar is the co-artistic director of the multidisciplinary theatre company Operation Snatch. Notable productions include Under the Mink, Les Demimondes, Neon Nightz, Who’s Your Dada?, The Death Show and Dirty Plötz. Operation Snatch’s films Give Piece of Ass a Chance, Creative Trafficking and The Whormons have been screened at international film festivals and galleries including TIFF, Frameline and the MOMA since 2006. For 18 years, Tigchelaar was nationally syndicated sex columnist Sasha. Her column ran regularly in the Montreal Mirror, eye weekly, NOW and the Uptown in Winnipeg. She is currently a graduate student at Brock University in SCLA, focusing on theatre created by criminalized and institutionalized bodies as well as art and legal policy created by non-sex workers about sex workers for non-sex workers. She calls her field of research Whorientalism.




  1. What can post-secondary institutions and the theatre community learn from those actors and creators working to consciously exist outside of strictly normative (ie, binarized or split into the duo ‘male’ & ‘female’) experiences of gender? In what ways can participants in a studio cultivate a community wherein such identities can thrive?
  2. Alex explores the Paraprosdokian Device in relation to trans and queer actors, where these individuals are frequently used in conjunction with this device to “defy expectations” over the course of a play or story. This structure, known by transgender scholars as ‘The Reveal,’ creates an environment wherein “the trans person is subjected to the pressures of a pervasive gender/sex system that seeks to make public the ‘‘truth’’ of the trans person’s gendered and sexed body.” What examples can you draw from your own experience that demonstrate trans and queer characters and/or persons being subjected to this tactic?
  3. Alex admits that trans and queer actors may be engaging in what “Gayatri Spivak calls strategic essentialism—that is to say, playing to stereotypes in order to increase and improve general trans and queer visibility and gain access to performance spaces.” What does it mean for trans and queer actors be forced to inhabit inaccurate and outdated representations in order to exist in such spaces?
  4. Alex discusses films such as Dressed to Kill and The Silence of the Lambs that depict trans identities “grounded in discredited medical or psychological analyses or even pulp fiction representations.” What trans and queer representations have you experienced in your theatre training? Do you feel that progress has been made in depicting accurate and authentic queer and trans experiences on stage?
  5. When we place trans and queer bodies on stage, we often exploit them in terms of “the concept of dysphoria—a pathologized and medicalized state of distress,” and in so doing keep trans and queer actors in only a “dysphoric capacity.” How do we accurately represent trans and queer stories without perpetuating a vicious cycle that may be anchored in a cultural anxiety around strict patriarchal and binarized gender structures? 


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