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Halifax queer theatre festival to return with upgrades

OutFest 2023 expands guest capacity, event lineup thanks to federal funding

2 min read
Three people sit at a table filled with pages listening to actors read at Halifax’s OutFest workshop in April 2022. From left to right, Dramaturg Annie Valentina wears a black toque and red flannel. Artistic director Isaac Mulè sits in the middle turning a page while wearing a denim, button-down shirt. On the right, McKenna James Boeckner wears a cream-coloured sweater and a blue baseball cap with the message “TUE U” written in red.
caption Dramaturg Annie Valentina, artistic director Isaac Mulè, and playwright McKenna James Boeckner sit at a table reading during Halifax’s first OutFest workshop at The Bus Stop Theatre Co-op in April 2022.
Daniel Wittnebel

A $10,000 grant from Canadian Heritage will help Page1 Theatre expand this year’s OutFest, which Page1 promotes as the “largest queer theatre festival in Atlantic Canada.”

Queer artists “are always looking for more opportunities to perform,” said artistic director Isaac Mulè.

This year’s six-day festival will offer more performance and development opportunities for both emerging and established queer artists in Halifax.

The federal funding was made through the Canada Arts Presentation Fund (CAPF) to support professional queer theatrical work in Nova Scotia.

Mulè introduced OutFest to Nova Scotia last April after moving to Halifax from Kitchener, Ont.

But carrying OutFest’s momentum is challenging, especially without Kitchener’s annual municipal funding.

“The arts budget in Nova Scotia has remained stagnant for 15 years,” Mulè said, “not only making it difficult for established companies but for companies new to the province, like ourselves, to continue to work.”

The provincial Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage made no commitment on  funding the festival. Department spokesperson Susan Mader Zinck said, “We work closely with arts organizations and we’re aware of the pressures they’re facing.”

The theatre made money by selling ads, partnerships, and tickets.

The first OutFest attracted about 600 attendees, according to Mulè. He anticipates doubling that number this year.

More money means organizers can provide a bigger lineup and more workshops for OutFest 2023. This includes additional resources for two-spirit and Indigiqueer artists to develop and collaborate.

Mulè also added new performances like Margo MacDonald’s one-person show The Elephant Girls, which sold out in past Ottawa and Winnipeg Fringe Festivals.

OutFest 2023 starts on April 25 at the Bus Stop Theatre Co-op on Gottingen Street in Halifax.

Mulè said the theatre will reapply to Canadian Heritage next year to maintain the funding. Municipal and provincial grants will also be pursued.

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