The Sweet Story Behind Theatre Passe Muraille’s POLY QUEER LOVE BALLAD (Opening Tonight!)

Love doesn’t always unfold in predictable ways. 

A new play opening today, POLY QUEER LOVE BALLAD, merges slam poetry and catchy pop-folk tunes in its portrayal of LGTBQ+ relationships which defy the status quo. 

Co-created and co-starring Anais West and Sara Vickruck,  POLY QUEER LOVE BALLAD depicts what happens when Nina, a polyamorous bisexual poet, meets Gabbie, a monogamous lesbian songwriter, at an open mic night. The pair struggle to reconcile their fierce mutual attraction with their opposing perspectives on love. 

The idea for the play was lifted from the playwrights’ own journeys. “As a queer women navigating non-monogamy, I wanted to articulate the complexities of the relationships around me,” says Anais. “I was also inspired by novelist Jacob Wren’s idea that “pop music is the gasoline of monogamy.” This quote speaks to how monogamy is the dominant narrative in the media and has therefore become the frame-work through which we view love. Wren also touches upon the idea that, since pop love songs are always directed at one person, the writing of a “polyamorous love song” could subvert the fundamental way we write pop music. The goal was to create an expression of romance that pushed boundaries in its form and content.”

“When I came out and entered the queer dating scene, it felt like a whole new world!” adds Sara. “Before that time, I never really thought about being polyamorous as an option. I was also shocked I had never seen a play about the subject. When I discovered Anais’s shared interest in the topic, it was go time.”

We chatted with them about the play this week. 

SDTC: Is POLY QUEER LOVE BALLAD autobiographical?
S&A: The central theme that we are exploring (how monogamy and non-monogomy play out in queer relationships) is heavily drawn from personal experience. We were also inspired by the communities we’re a part of, namely East Vancouver’s queer arts scene. However, specific scenarios and plot details are fictionalized and embellished.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in putting this play together?
S: We  have different approaches to creation. I really like to work things out in the moment, using improvisation and on-the-spot exploration.
A: I’m coming from more of a playwriting and poetry background. I like to go away and work individually, then return to the process with ideas that are more fleshed out. Luckily, our director Julie McIsaac and dramaturg Joanna Garfinkle were a huge help in navigating the development process. Despite the fact that it was challenging, it enabled us to grow as artists and we think it’s part of what makes the show so compelling.

Walk us thru your process to developing this work. Did the music come before or after? How did you two collaborate?
We would come up with themes or plot points we wanted to explore, then go away and tackle them through our respective mediums (poetry and music). Once finished, we would regroup and, together, we would work on integrating our pieces. These experiments formed the meat of the show, then we would write scenes to act as the connective tissue between the pieces. Sometimes the process was easeful, and other times we would spend hours in Sara’s living room singing the same line trying to make it rhyme.

What are the biggest misconceptions you’ve encountered surrounding polyamory and queerness?
A: In my experience, there is a lot of stigma around bisexuality, and many of these assumptions are exasperated if you happen to be non-monogamous too. For example, there’s this idea that bisexuals are hyper-sexual and never satisfied by one partner. So sometimes I feel that non-monogamous bisexuals are characterized as the ‘bad’ bisexuals. Assuming the majority of audiences would be monosexual and monogamous, we were hyper aware of these possible biases. We actively tried to make sure Nina’s flaws had nothing to do with how or who she loved. It was important for me to forge positive perspectives of polyamorous bisexuals, which is something I’ve never seen in theatre.

Fave scene/line from the play (and why)?
S: Definitely the opening song, because I love interacting with the audience, and it always comes out a little differently depending on who is there.
A: I love the moments when the dialogue moves from realistic to heightened or poetic. A favourite example of this is in the opening scene when Gabbie asks Nina ,“Do you believe in god?” and Nina replies “Do you believe in threesomes?”

What do you hope audiences take away from this show?
We hope the audience leaves with a new perspective on their own relationships, and that people who do relationships differently feel seen. We also wanted to give queer audiences a fun, feel-good musical, not another “bury your gays” tragedy.

POLY QUEER LOVE BALLAD will be presented at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace November 26 – November 30, 2019. Grab tix here

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