Culture | Outsiders unite!

The Edgy Women Festival uses performance art to foster dialogue on fringe culture

Since 1994, Studio 303 has organized The Edgy Women Festival with the aim of nurturing creativity, critical thought, and community for “women working outside traditional venues and disciplines.” The lineup is certainly non-traditional if compared to the televangelist 700 Club, but in Montreal it seems to fit well into the wonderfully experimental art scene.

There are over 30 artists coming in from across Canada, New York, and even the Mojave Desert to perform, but the event is primarily an excuse to get together, meet other artists, and exchange ideas. This year’s event differs from those of past years, particularly in its emphasis on what communications coordinator Marie-Eve Morin calls “satellite social events” at neighbourhood venues like Dépanneur, le Pick-Up, Les Pas Sages, and Cagibi – aimed at providing vital time and space for conversation.

The Edgy Women Festival began on Saturday with the Meow Mix opening party at Eastern Bloc. D.R.E.D., or “Daring Reality Every Day,” a performance by New Yorker Mildred “DRED” Gerestant, opened the night, mapping the spectrum of black male stereotypes ranging from “mack daddy with an atomic fro to a pimp decked out in shabby ghetto flash.” By portraying “travesties of male icons,” such as Shaft, P. Diddy, Superfly, Sly Stone, and others, her performance emphasized the ridiculous and sometimes disappointing cast of role models available to young men.

When Gerestant put her wigs and atomic fro away, the audience was treated to burlesque shows, one presented by Jenny McGowan, a prominent figure in the New York burlesque and vaudeville scene.

Hula Hell is Miss Saturn combined burlesque with 40 hula hoops, “booty shaking music,” more wigs and glittery costumes – all put together by a farm girl who “was raised in Tennessee with goats and an outhouse.” For those interested in learning hula hoop technique, Miss Saturn herself will be holding classes from later this month at Studio 303. Visit studio303.ca for details.

Truly, audience interaction is an essential part of the festival, especially during the “Edgy Challenge” on March 15, in which seven artists present short works and host an interactive quiz. You can probably also expect all the events of the festival to be great socializing events.

PIG by Kristine Nutting has been described as a “horror/comedy/rock opera” about the Robert Pickton murders. Following the performance on March 20, Nutting will discuss the challenges she encountered during the production process.

These efforts to connect arts and community development are essential, especially in light of Steven Harper’s claim that “ordinary people” don’t care about the arts and funding cuts, which have hit fringe communities hard. Marie-Eve Morin’s sentiment that “it’s no fun being an outsider if you are totally alone” emphasizes the value of a festival that encourages community support, something that these groups rely on now more than ever.

Events continue until March 21. For further information, and a roster of the other performances and happenings throughout the festival, visit edgywomen.ca.

All events begin at 7:30 p.m. and cost $10 for students.


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