Climate change, human rights abuses, Russian hackers in the US Presidential elections, global tariff battles — sometimes it seems like the anarchists are onto something. Are governments actually good for us? Are there other forms of organization and management that can work for humans? Montreal’s International Anarchist Theatre Festival addresses these questions and more. Most of the works focus on how governments routinely maltreat individuals, and gives space for stories of the underrepresented and invisible to be heard. I spoke to Sandy Laplage about the festival and its importance and role today.
Laplage says that the festival is important because “Governments, since they have existed, have always breached the rights of individuals and groups in their desire to maintain social control. This is what anarchism is about, being against all illegitimate authority. The plays presented in the festival address this question, but in different forms, some focusing on specific issues, such as immigration, domination or workers’ struggles, some, with more general questions such as control via the media.”
She further points out that while anarchism is usually associated with protests and being on the streets, “[O]ur festival shows the importance of creativity for anarchists, today and historically. This is something often overlooked by the general public, especially because of mediatized, sensational reporting of anarchist activity.”
Further, she points out that, “Anarchists today, like in the past, are capable of producing good theatre, too, inspirational theatre for a general public.”
While a number of different shows are taking place during the festival, I asked Laplage to discuss a few particular pieces. One is a show from France about the 1970s Italian Autonomists. The Autonomist groups active in the 1970s in Italy in bringing the words of those arrested and interrogated by the police to the public through zines, novels, and songs.
Another show of interest is about the Winnipeg General Strike, a play based on the lives of nine immigrant and black women who were involved in a six week long strike. 35,000 workers shut the city down in 1919, though the women involved, especially those at the margins, were the most imperiled. Deportation and arrest were distinct possibilities and the women received far less overall attention than the men. Their acts of resistance and solidarity inspired many others. The play aims to highlight their untold story.
Finally, one shouldn’t miss the Rap battles for Social justice. This collective works with grass roots associations to create rap writing workshops open to all and its members perform works related to social justice. Comedy, rhythmic poetry, and activism combine to make us all a little more woke.
While a festival with anarchism as its theme might seem a bit edgy to some, Lapage points out that you don’t need to be an anarchist to attend. It is a learning opportunity and also a chance to enjoy good political theatre. She says, “We hope that people who want to see excellent theatre, those who identify as an anarchist or not, and those who want to learn about anarchism will attend our festival.”
Montreal’s Anarchist Theatre Festival takes place May 17 – 23. For details about shows and tickets, click HERE.