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An author performs one of the deeply intimate and personal performances. (Emma Hameau / McGill Tribune)

From the Viewpoint: Authors in Their Undies

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Performers are often told to imagine the audience in their underwear to help themselves calm their nerves. Christopher DiRaddo—a queer Montreal author—joked that he “must have gotten it wrong” when organizing Authors In Their Undies. The event featured three other queer Canadian authors who walked onto Stock Bar’s stripper stage, and read excerpts from their new books in their underwear. Daniel Allen Cox, Matthew Fox, and Andy Sinclair nervously approached the spotlight in their boxers or briefs before partaking in a truly vulnerable performance. 

Although I have never attended Stock Bar before, I gathered that the setting appeared unchanged from its usual strip club decorum. At centre stage, the stripper pole was lit with flashing lights that changed from pink to orange, while neighbouring walls were covered in posters of half-naked men, and waiters came around taking drink orders; however, as each author performed his piece the stripper pole and flashing lights were overshadowed by the intimacy of the venue fostered by their vulnerable performances

While Sinclair, Fox, and Cox read passages from their new novels or manuscripts—most of which deal with serious content including ostracization, the search for identity, and death—DiRaddo debuted some of his teenage short stories and poetry. His work ranged from personal poetry dealing with loneliness, a comedic seduction story involving Barbie, and an absurdist poem about his dog. He chuckled here and there as he once again embodied his voice as younger writer, occasionally adding comments about his creative process. I laughed along, thinking back to my own cringeworthy writing from years before. As the evening progressed, he and the other authors became more comfortable on stage as the audience attentively observed their performances and cheered on the brave authors. 

DiRaddo explained that his intentions behind this event were “to shake things up a bit” by combining Montreal’s queer and literary communities and create a happening that he would have wanted to come to. Despite not being a member of his immediate target audience—neither a gay man, nor a reader of queer literature, nor a regular Stock Bar attendee—I greatly enjoyed the performance. I was one of only five females in the audience, and didn’t particularly identify with any of the literary content, but this didn’t hinder the emotional appeal for me. Authors In Their Undies was publicized as an event for its immediate queer niche, but I felt their performances proved to be engaging for a larger audience due to their universal, humanizing aspects.   

Authors In Their Undies turned out to be a unique kind of performance, combining literature and a revealing choice of costume. Although it was branded as an event for Montreal’s queer community, it wasn’t hard to break down the specific target labels and enjoy the event in a way that resonated with me. Real people were on stage, in their underwear, sharing their inner thoughts and creative expression. This surpassed any sexual, gender, or age boundary, and I found it both endearing and relatable.

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