Women hold up half the stage… or they should when it comes to comedy.
Katie Leggitt, Lar Vi, and Erin Hall created Ladyfest, a festival featuring and celebrating female performers. I spoke to Katie Leggitt about putting together this three night line-up of women who make you laugh. Leggitt explained that the all-female comedy festival is broken into three parts, stand-up, sketch, and an “all-female version of Sunday Night improv.” In doing so, the show unites the improv community of Montreal Improv and the Theatre St. Catherine. Some familiar names performing are Aisha Alfa, Eman, Tranna Wintour, Tall Tall Lady, Sehar Manji, and Sandi Armstrong, to name a few. The ever-funny Lise Vigneault is hosting. In addition, there will be some workshops run during the day on ways to improve performance.
I asked Leggitt why she and her peers decided to create this festival. She explains that she was inspired when she attended the NYC Sketch Festival with Genius Gold. “I attended a panel on women in comedy,” she says. “When I was in the panel, it made me realize even though Montreal is a much smaller city, we’re working just as hard. I was inspired by what they had to say about the themes they faced that are common in our city and across Canada and the States. It inspired me to come back and help strengthen and bond our community.”
In particular she was interested in some of the personal stories that panel members told about body image issues, confidence, and dealing with troublesome male views.
I asked if she thought that these issues were specific to women. “Males deal with these as well,” she says. “It’s not like there’s any topic that’s not accessible to both genders and all in-between. Everyone has moments where they struggle with these things.”
“It’s not I’ve had a negative experience dealing with men in comedy in Montreal,” she adds. “It’s just the idea that the community is where it’s at. We’re coming together to share ideas and not keeping them to ourselves.”
One thing that Leggitt wants is for women to work together. “It’s far more productive than to be competitive against each other,” she says. Ultimately, though, she wants everyone to feel comfortable. “What I really appreciate is when a comedian is just owning themselves, in whatever package they built for themselves and they find a way to own it. Becoming comfortable in your own skin is something I strive for.”
A chance to test this concept came from Women in Comedy, the grandmother of Ladyfest, which produced an all-female sketch night and panel during Montreal Sketchfest this past year. Women in Comedy hosted several open mics and Women in Comedy events at the Theatre Ste. Catherine as well. The success of all these things inspired Leggitt and her co-coordinators to build the festival into something larger.
Continuing the theme of having a conference, Ladyfest will have a pwyc workshop held by the League of Lady Wrestlers Montreal on dealing with voice and vulnerability and Sandi Armstrong will host an improv workshop.
Leggitt is pleased that Montreal’s comedy scene has been so vibrant over the past few years. “The community supports itself. If you go to a show, you’ll bump into someone you know.” What she really wants is for more Montrealers to take a chance on independent comedy. “It’s so excellent to have members of public come out to see the shows. I wish more and more people would take a gamble on a strange name show.”
Overall, Leggitt says that Ladyfest is a celebration. “It’s a way to bring everyone together and showcase the hard work that we put into our art form. Everyone loves to laugh. It makes people happy and feel good. Every night will be very different. Each performer and troupe has their own special accent that they put into it.”
Ladyfest takes place September 4-6 at the Theatre St. Catherine (264 St Catherine E). Tickets are $12 for a single show, $22 for a weekend pass. For information on who is performing and when, click HERE.