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OUTstages Festival puts cabaret acts at centre stage

Intrepid Theatre’s 2020 OUTstages expands reach into queer arts community
Award-winning drag performer Pearle Harbour brings her Agit-Pop! to the OUTstages Festival, Feb. 13 and 15 at the Metro Studio Theatre. Photo by Tanja-Tiziana

Cabaret is coming to the 2020 OUTstages Festival.

Returning for its sixth year, the performing arts festival from Intrepid Theatre showcases work by queer artists and companies from across Canada. This year audiences can expect a bevy of work that includes a heavy focus on cabaret, according to Intrepid’s co-artistic director Sean Guist, who programs OUTstages.

“This year the festival programming is really focused on cabaret acts and what that means in 2020,” he says.

Those acts include Pearle Harbour’s Agit-Pop! (billed as a “jukebox cabaret spectacular” and featuring new arrangements of Tom Waits and Judy Garland classics), eat your heART out cabaret presented by Salty Broad Productions (creators of the Fringe Fest hit GRL PWR), and the Queer Youth Showcase, from Staches & Lashes.

“There’s something about cabaret that it really kind of historically came from troubled times, and explores topics and ideas and themes in ways that perhaps only cabaret can,” Guist says. “Cabaret came from this underground, underbelly of society. I think there’s something also about the act of cabaret as an act of defiance. I think a lot of queer theatre is an act of defiance, an act of finding your place and finding your voice.”

As part of that mission to find queer voices, Guist is working to highlight different people from within the queer community. This year, audiences will see performances by non-binary artists in Vancouver drag collective The Darlings, and a show from two-spirit performer Marshall Vielle called Where the Two-Spirit Lives.

Rounding out the programming is Like Orpheus, a show from Lethbridge-based company Theatre Outré that explores sexual assault and queer club culture; a play reading of a new solo work by local creator/performer Emilee Nimetz, and a free presentation of transgender archives in co-operation with the University of Victoria.

The works at the festival are challenging, Guist says, but he emphasizes that audiences of any gender or sexual identity can find something to enjoy.

“Don’t think that this festival is not for you, because as much as it has a lens on queer programming, this festival is for everyone,” he says. “At the heart of the festival, it’s really about great performance, great theatre and great stories.”

OUTstages Festival runs Feb. 8-16 at the Metro Studio and Intrepid Theatre Club. For tickets and more information, visit or drop by Ticket Rocket at 1050 Meares St. Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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The Darlings, a team of four queer performance artists from Vancouver, deconstruct and reimagine their memories in this provocative show scheduled for Feb. 8 at the Metro Studio Theatre during OUTstages 2020. Photo courtesy The Darlings