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Exploring Power Dynamics with Playwright Rhiannon Collett

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Rhiannon Collett is an interdisciplinary artist and playwright whose work focuses on themes of queer identity, sexuality and ritual. You can read about their theater creations at rhiannoncollett.com or follow them on instagram @dangerbun_.

I started creating theatre in high school, and it quickly became an obsession. After moving from Vancouver to Montreal to go to university, I decided that institution-style learning wasn’t for me, and I dropped out to pursue playwriting full-time. I was fortunate enough to receive training and support from a number of Canadian theatre companies and now I live in Toronto and work primarily as a playwright.

I’m currently working on a show called There Are No Rats in Alberta. The piece is a surreal, dream-romp that explores the concept of “rats” as a third gender, thriving on the fringes of society. What does it mean to be a rat when people deny that you exist? A lot of my work dives into magical realism as a way to explore power dynamics and this piece is no exception. It was originally created with the support of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre through their Emerging Creators Unit.

After my very first acting class, I realized I wanted to be an actor—I pretended to be a squirrel in an immensely involved, embarrassing way and my theatre teacher gave me full marks. Not long after the squirrel performance, I quickly came to the realization that there weren’t any roles for me as a non-binary person. Writing became my primary focus, so much so that I didn’t really want to act anymore. Representation is really important to me and it’s very limited in theatre—I aim to create complex queer characters who challenge us as an audience to be better.

Right now I’m spending a lot of time reading poetry - The Glass Essay by Anne Carson is one of my favourite texts. I also just finished Stereoblind by Emma Healey which was amazing. Toronto-based drag artist Gay Jesus (my fellow model in the Fluide “Seeing the Future” shoot) is a big inspiration as well. These days I’m obsessed with Sasha Velour, Imp Kid, Victoria Sin—people who pushes the boundaries of drag, gender, fashion, makeup and art all in one!

I’ve been a makeup fan ever since my mom bought me a sparkly eyeshadow set from Ardene’s when I was 11 years old. There was the most magnificent teal colour in it, and I was… obsessed. Today I either wear no makeup at all or go for a dramatic eyeshadow or dramatic lip. I like having most of my face bare with one bold look, usually in a ridiculous colour. It breaks all the makeup rules I’ve ever learned and I’m all about it.