Jordan Tannahill writes plays for and about queer youth

Jordan Tannahil, Age of Minority, Late Company, Touchstone Theatre

Playwright Jordan Tannahill pulls ideas out of the news—not his hair (excellent photo by Lacey Creighton)

When I interviewed young queer playwright Jordan Tannahill about Late Company, which Touchstone is presenting at the Firehall November 21 to 30, he also told me about Age of Minority, the trilogy of plays that earned him a GG nomination this year.

All three solo plays feature queer youth.

The Late Company preview will run in the Straight next week. As a kind of warm-up, I thought you might like to hear what Tannahill had to say about Age of Minority, which is the first TYA collection to be nominated for a Governor General’s Award in Drama: 

“I began writing the trilogy when I was 20 and completed it about a year and a half ago, so it kind of charts my own coming of age, I suppose. I’m 26 now.

“All three pieces are inspired by true stories. The first one is called Get Yourself Home, Skyler James, and it came out of conversations that I had with an actual war deserter.

“She was a private in the American military and she deserted from the American military just before being deployed to Iraq, and after enduring several months of sexual harassment and abuse on account of her being a lesbian. She sought asylum in Ottawa and entered a very long legal battle to remain in Canada.

“The piece charts her experience from entering the military at the age of 18 to her arrival in Ottawa. It’s entirely written in my fictive hand, but it’s inspired by a whole summer’s worth of interviews with her.

“I wrote the second piece after facilitating youth workshops at a shelter in Rexdale in Toronto’s northwest end. It’s called rihannaboy95 and it’s inspired by a queer Muslim teen who puts a video of himself lip syncing to a Rihanna song online—it goes viral, it sort of explodes—and the fall-out of that. He has to cope with this cyber celebrity and its repercussions within his community and within his family.

“The story was inspired by what I thought was the overrepresentation of queer youth of colour in the shelter system, many of whom were coming from first-generation families, many of whom were very religious—and just feeling like those voices were not being heard on our stages.

“That piece was performed entirely over live-stream video. So we streamed it live on YouTube: anywhere in the world, if you logged in at 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time, you could watch a live video performance of rihannaboy95.

“And the final piece is called Peter Fechter: 59 minutes. Peter Fechter was the first adolescent who attempted to cross the Berlin Wall back in 1969, and was shot in the process of doing so. He fled with his male companion, Helmut Kulbeik, who made it over.

“It’s a fictive mythography of Peter Fechter, because very little biographical information actually exists about his life. But it paints a portrait of his life in East Berlin. In the piece, he doesn’t self-identify as being gay, but the friendship and sort of romance that he has with this other boy is definitely a component.

“In all three cases, I would call these characters sublime outcasts—because of sexual identity or political identity, or just finding themselves in the in wrong circumstance at the wrong time in history.”

 

About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

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