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Thursday, July 18, 2024

SexyVoices explores sexual identity through a disability lens with burlesque

Continuing its mission of producing shows that deepen audiences’ understanding of the disability experience, Realwheels Theatre is jumping on the burlesque bandwagon with SexyVoices – A Burlesque Theatre Cabaret in May.

“The idea for SexyVoices surfaced out of a desire to be playful in exploring sexual identity through a disability lens,” says Rena Cohen, Realwheels Theatre’s managing artistic director.

Taking their cue from participants in the company’s workshops and other projects, the issue of sexual identity was one area that resonated loudly.

“It definitely hit a nerve,” says Cohen. “The idea of sexual identity is of tremendous importance to the disability community because people with disabilities are often perceived as not having sexual identities or sexual relationships.”

Working with award-winning stage director, Rachel Peakes, the SexyVoices cabaret combines storytelling with burlesque. Told through a series of vignettes, including both solo and group pieces, SexyVoices has been designed as a cabaret experience to reveal the diversity within the disabled community.

“Rachel has helped to surface a real range of stories so we get a full picture,” says Cohen. “Some are more serious, but there also opportunities for a playful touch. Using humour to cope with challenges isn’t unique to the disability community, but it definitely is something that the community has embraced.”

Part of the company’s Wheel Voices series, SexyVoices is the culmination of a series of discussions and workshops, with fifteen performers lending their skills to the work.

“Interestingly enough this project brought out a lot of many new faces,” says Cohen. “We have one participant who has been in every Wheel Voices community project that we have done, and another who has come back after being away for a year or two. Everyone else is new to this particular artist collaboration. That speaks volumes to how this show resonates.”

It is also a show that Cohen says will resonate with Vancouver audiences, who are open to new experiences.

“Able bodied people in Vancouver are open and interested in these different experiences,” she says. “I think people are awakening to the benefits of inclusion of more diverse experiences. Besides, who doesn’t want to come see a burlesque show?”

Making it easier for audiences to attend SexyVoices, Realwheels is adopting a pay-what-you-can model for the run.

“We don’t measure our success fully by the box office,” says Cohen. “We’re all about accessibility and lowering barriers, and while we do suggest a ticket price we wanted as many people as possible to be able to attend.”

SexyVoices – A Burlesque Theatre Cabaret plays the Roundhouse Community Centre (181 Roundhouse Mews) May 12-14. Visit for tickets and information.

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