After acclaimed performances at the Toronto Storytelling Festival, Nuit Rose, and Ontario Culture Days, Canton/Peterson Productions is proud to bring Coal From Hades: The Story of “Les Mouches Fantastiques” to the Hamilton Fringe Festival. Based on true events, this unique hybrid storytelling/theatre piece explores the lives and loves behind the creation of North America’s first gay and lesbian publication, dubbed “Les Mouches Fantastiques” or “The Fantastic Flies”.

Published between 1918-20 in Montreal, Quebec, this little magazine was a stirring bohemian manifesto attacking society’s repressive standards of morality with poetry and politics arguing for the acceptance of homosexuals. The two young poets behind its publication, Elsa Gidlow and Roswell George Mills, made waves across the continent at a time when same-sex love was criminalized and Oscar Wilde’s famous imprisonment within recent memory. With the help of Mill’s one-time lover and fellow publisher Reverend Graeme Davis, these three early LGBTQ rights trailblazers put their lives on the line and stood up what they believed in. And now, their stories, poetry, and courage will finally have the stage they have always deserved.

Canton/Peterson Productions is a unique Toronto-based performance art company telling stories based on historical events that have shaped LGBTQ communities today. Jeffrey Canton is a spoken-word artist and founding member of Toronto’s oldest queer storytelling collective Queers In Your Ears, and Marcus Peterson is an up-and-coming writer and performer. Their most recent projects, “No More S#%&!: Operation Soap Revisited”, dealt with police relations with the queer community and the 1981 Toronto bath house raids.

Since 2015, the writers and performers of Coal From Hades have work-shopped and developed the show gradually, nearly becoming amateur historians themselves in seeking out the last decaying copies of “Les Mouches Fantastiques” across the continent. In doing so, they themselves have discovered their own queer literary ancestors.

“The story,” says director Eric Benson, “is an integral and little-known part of Canadian and North American queer history, and I look forward to helping bring that to a broader public that theatre speaks to.” Coal From Hades is an exercise in literary archeology, uncovering hidden histories, redeeming lost pioneers, and discovering one’s place in this world. With enough heat and pressure, this coal will become a diamond.

This production will not only educate Hamilton audiences on this nearly-forgotten piece of Canadian history, but also entertain with tales of 1930’s libertine Berlin, steamy bohemian love affairs, and of course plenty of purple poetry. The production team wants to draw focus to the trailblazers of the LGBTQ movement who are often overshadowed by the later Stonewall riots and gay liberation movement.

Coal From Hades: The Story of “Les Mouches Fantastiques” is written and performed by Jeffrey Canton and Marcus Peterson and directed by Eric Benson.

Performances at the Theatre Aquarius Studio, 190 King William St., Hamilton ON:
Friday July 21, 5:30pm; Saturday July 22, 10:00pm; Sunday July 23, 7:30pm; Tuesday July 25, 8:00pm;
Thursday July 27, 9:00pm; Friday July 28, 10:30pm; and Saturday July 29, 7:30pm
LATECOMERS WILL NOT BE ADMITTED
Tickets: $10 (with a $5 Fringe Backer button required). For advance online tickets:
www.hamiltonfringe.ca/tickets/
Approximately 60 minutes in length

Canton/Peterson Productions is a unique Toronto-based performance art company telling stories based on historical events that have shaped LGBTQ communities today. Jeffrey Canton is a spoken-word artist and founding member of Toronto’s oldest queer storytelling collective Queers In Your Ears, and Marcus Peterson is an up-and-coming writer and performer. Their most recent projects, “No More S#%&!: Operation Soap Revisited”, dealt with police relations with the queer community and the 1981 Toronto bath house raids.

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.