Exploring Identity Through Art

Category: community 118

Actor and gender consultant Michelle Raine will lead a series of free queer-friendly workshops in Fredericton over the March Break.

Matt Carter
Michelle Raine. Photo: Stoo Metz. (Facebook)

Michelle Raine is a Halifax-based theatre artist and one of the many artists involved in Theatre New Brunswick’s 2020 Young Company tour. During the March Break she’ll be hosting a pair of three-day workshops at the Open Space Theatre with help from Fredericton theatre artists Alex Rioux and Esther Soucoup. These Authentic Theatre Creation for Queer Youth and Allies workshops are being delivered through a partnership with TNB and Solo Chicken Productions.

Raine’s involvement with this year’s Young Company is unique. Not only is she acting in both productions, but she is performing one of her own plays, It’s A Girl!, a story based on her own experience as a trans woman.

As she sees it, the play, the tour and the coming workshops are all part of a need to be creative and to help others identify and tell their own stories.

“I really needed to be on stage,” said Raine. “I knew I wanted to perform and affect people on a daily basis.

“I did a little bit of theatre in high school but nothing life changing. It wasn’t until I was in theatre school when we were learning about how to be authentic on stage, that I realized you need to be authentic in your natural life too.

“It’s through theatre that I really reflected on my younger self and what I would say to my younger self now,” she said. “It was through that process that my show, It’s A Girl!, came out.”

Her play It’s A Girl is currently touring New Brunswick middle and high schools and was created in partnership with actor/director Alexis Milligan. Inspired by her own experience struggling with gender identity, It’s A Girl! creates a safe environment where people can ask questions, have conversations, discuss identity and what it means to be perceived as different.

“It was through this show that I realized I need to get this message to kids,” said Raine, “but I need to somehow be part of it so I can be the person I needed when I was growing up.”

The upcoming workshop series is a direct extension of this need. Raine hopes the experience will allow participants the opportunity to support each other in a creative environment.

“In the political atmosphere we’re in these days, things are always divided,” she said. “It’s always the fight against something. We’re always fighting against homophobia. We’re always fighting against transphobia. But what about just sharing our stories and making it a positive conversation? Sharing what it’s like to be human rather than standing up and fighting all the time.”

The workshops will be structured into two individual three-day sessions. The first session happening March 4-6 will be geared towards high school and university students with a second session March 6-8 open to everyone. During the sessions, Raine, Rioux and Soucoup will lead the group through a creative, cut and paste book making exercise as a way to celebrate and further discover individual identity. Participants will then be invited to share and discuss their art with the group.

“The idea for these workshops came from the Creative Connections Conference that took place at UNB last September,” said Raine. “One of the teachers does this exercise with her classes where she creates these books. [Through these workshops] I want to create these books and then share them with the world because that’s my process.  When I was a kid I used to sketch alone in my room and nobody ever saw those doodles. I want to take that kind of abstract idea and have everybody build out of that.

“The idea [with these sessions] is not the spew rhetoric that we’ve heard before. ‘Trans rights matter.’ Sure, but don’t put that on the cover of your book because that’s not your identity,” she said. “You’re more than that.

“These workshops are geared towards LGTBQ community people but because we want to have a range of people in the workshop, you can be anybody and identify as anybody. Everyone is welcome.”

Authentic Theatre Creation for Queer Youth and Allies | March 4-6 and 6-8 | Open Space Theatre | FREE | View Event

With notes from the February 21 episode of The Lunchbox on CHSR FM.

alt text

Related Articles