Anthony Johnston and Nathan Schwartz have been together so long they finish each other’s sentences. Like many couples, they bicker, they banter and they write violent, heterophobic rap songs together – OK, not everyone does that last thing.
The self-proclaimed gay/straight best friends duo, who met in theatre school as teenagers, have been together since, creating chaotic, creepy and thought provoking theatre for their company AnimalParts.
“We met in Vancouver’s Studio 58, we were roommates together in the program and became fast friends … way back when,” says Johnston.
“We used to be friends,” cracks Schwartz, as the pair laugh.
“Obviously we work well together,” says Johnston. “I’m happy and proud of the way we share everything, but we’re still separate people with separate points of view, a separate sense of esthetics, separate ideas that come together to make something that would not exist otherwise.”
“There’s a lot of conflict too,” Schwartz interjects.
“Sometimes we argue,” Johnston agrees.
“I think (theatre companies) get together because a group of friends agree on certain things, they have similar artistic sensibilities – that doesn’t mean you agree on everything – but after six years together we’ve built a way to work together,” says Schwartz.
Two of the shows they’ve created will be featured at Intrepid Theatre’s inaugural OUTstages, a celebration of theatre and queer culture presented following the festivities of Pride Week.
OUTstages (July 5 to 12) includes play readings; a late night cabaret; The Femme Playlist; Let’s Not Beat Each Other To Death and AnimalParts’ A Quiet Sip of Coffee (Or, This Is Not The Play We’ve Written) and The Revenge Of The Popinjay.
“We’re happy we’re coming for the festival,” says Johnston. “Nathan and I, so far, our body of work is just a few shows and some of our work definitely fits into the category of queer performance and obviously it touches on issues of sexual identity and everything that’s part of the queer experience.”
Revenge of the Popinjay is billed as an experimental rap-horror show in which Anthony struggles to cope with the loss of his sister while uncovering a frightening link between himself, his lover and an illusive gay rap star/serial killer targeting heterosexuals.
“(Revenge of the Popinjay) is a bizarro theatrical biography. I am a gay man, a gay artist, in broad strokes it’s about the modern day queer journey or manifesto … it’s truth-telling onstage,” says Johnston. “Quiet Sip Of Coffee is about a gay-straight friendship and how that effects you. It’s about sex and youth and how stupid you are when you’re 21,” he adds with a laugh.
“They’re very different,” adds Schwartz.
“Super different,” Johnston says. “The thing people have in common when they see all our shows is they’re surprised and excited. They have different reactions to both shows.”
“In terms of speaking to a queer audience at a queer theatre festival, it’s appropriate we keep in mind the queer community and also the arts community. It’s easy to pander to the audience: homophobia is bad. You can say that, but how do you make that interesting?” says Schwartz.
“We push the boundaries. What are you afraid to feel? What are you afraid to notice? Afraid to remember or afraid to talk about? … I don’t know the answers,” says Johnston. “Some people say Popinjay goes too far, on the other hand, art is supposed to go too far.” Find out how far at intrepidtheatre.com.