“Breaking in, setting the camera up, tying myself up,
filming myself. Kind of crazy, schizophrenic stuff,”
says Jordan Tannahill of adventuring into a snowy,
abandoned ghost town to explore the kinkier side of artistic
creation. Welcome to Bravislovia.
Little is known about Bravislovia, a former Soviet state that has
seen considerable political turmoil over the past century. After
overthrowing the royal family, its tyrannical dictator ushered in a
new era of oppression for the country’s political dissenters, artists
and queers. Don’t bother looking in an atlas or history textbook to
learn more, however — Bravislovia exists only in Tannahill’s mind.
The creative director of performance company Suburban Beast
and the visionary writer and director of such works as Insurgency and Post Eden, Tannahill began developing the world of Bravislovia
around the age of 10. Fascinated by maps, atlases and geography,
he created his fictional country as a sort of defence mechanism.
“We have this kind of need for order and to be part of something
very small, and in your small realm of control. When you’re a kid
you have no control... I was creating this world to survive.”
Tannahill filled his imaginary country with a cast of characters
and wrote himself in as Isaac Nyakov, a queer artist and poet who
also writes to survive. “All the history of Bravislovia is intermixed
with the real-life history of Europe,” says Tannahill, “but also
intermixed with my own personal history.” It is “intrinsically linked
to both my queer identity but also specifically to my coming out.”
Bravislovia is a solo work that melds film and live narration, a
technique familiar from Tannahill’s previous works. He works in
this medium because it’s the kind of theatre he wants to see: “It
provides the startling intimacy possible with recorded images,
with the raw energy of the live event.”
Both personal and political, Bravislovia reflects a turbulent
society obsessed with oppressive control and fanatically
conservative values, one not unlike our own. Tannahill promises
to take his audience on a journey to a very intimate, private world.
One that is no longer just in his mind.
Bravislovia is part of the Rhubarb Festival and runs from Wed,
Feb 23–Sat, Feb 27 at Buddies, 12 Alexander St. Info:
Michael Lyons is a writer and theatre artist who also has entire
countries swirling in his head.
Bry’Nt brings it
Bry’Nt is a dirty-talking, smooth-flowing, hip-hop
dynamo. Hailing from Hartford, Connecticut, he’s
quickly made a name for himself as a gay MC by
opening for the likes of Fantasia, DJ Class and
RuPaul. As he preps a summer release of his new
album, Bry’Nt Park, and gets ready to rhyme Toronto’s pants off at
Yes Yes Y’all’s second anniversary, Matt Thomas chats with him
about his lyrical preference for dicks over chicks.
Matt Thomas: Your first two mixtapes were called Porn Star and Porn Star II; what’s the story
behind the titles?
Bry’Nt: In the studio I’d be recording and
there’d be artists and producers who worked
there coming in and out. Off the bat you
can’t really tell that I’m gay, and it’s not
like I have a typically gay sound,
whatever that is. So when I rap, if
you’re not paying attention to the
words, you’d think I was just a regular
straight guy rapping. So the people
coming in and out of the studio liked
what I was laying down, even though
they knew I was gay. They just liked
the way it sounded, but you could tell
they felt guilty for liking it. People watch
porn, but if you asked people straight up in
the street, they might be a bit ashamed
to admit it. Same as some people and
how they feel about what I do.
MT: What are your most loved
B: “Dicks Over Chicks” right now is
probably my most known song, with
its hook: “Dicks over chicks is the
slogan.” It’s catchy and it’s just a way
to say I’m really gay, and it rhymes.
It’s a gay man’s anthem. “Beat It Up”
and “Porn Star” stick out in people’s
heads because they were in porno
movies. I’ve had songs in three pornos.
At first I was cringing and thought my
mom was going to kill me, but they
worked for the movie, and I became more
proud of them. I recorded those versions of
them with that use in mind. It’s just another
way to be heard.
MT: Why do you give out your own branded
condoms at shows?
B: I guess it makes me more memorable; I’m the gay rapper with
the condoms. With all the talk I do about sex, I never thought
kids would gravitate to the music. But they did, so I wanted to
make sure it didn’t seem like I was just making light of it.
Sometimes I regret making certain songs or doing certain things
in my life, and I wanted to make sure I brought both sides of the
story. It’s cool to talk about sex and be sexual, but at the same
time you have to be safe.
MT: Do you think mainstream hip hop is ready to accept a gay
B: I don’t know. The white gay community can name
a list of openly gay icons, like Elton John, Melissa
Etheridge, Adam Lambert and George
Michael. For some reason, the black
community is a little behind when it
comes to embracing gay performers or
sports fi gures. We did have Sylvester,
who came out in the ’70s, but that was
decades ago, and now there is a
vacancy that needs to be filled. If the
community of gay hip-hop artists
continues to work as hard as they are,
hopefully someone will be willing to
embrace us. I did visit a couple of radio
stations and met with some famous DJs
who said I have talent. People can say
you have talent all day, but it takes someone
to invest and really believe in you to put you
in the forefront.
MT: What’s your favourite story about a show
B: I don’t know if I should tell this one. I
did a show in Brooklyn and I performed,
and after me there was a stripper.
Somehow, someway, the line blurred
and it turned into a dick-sucking
competition where the audience
members volunteered to give him
head. Then he had to pick which one
was the best, and that’s the most
shocking thing I’ve ever seen at my
shows. I can’t really top that.
Bry’Nt performs at Yes Yes Y’all on Fri,
Feb 18 at the Annex WreckRoom, 794
Bathurst St. Info: brynt.bandcamp.com
Matt Thomas is a fab associate editor who loves a
fly MC with dope beats and much love for dicks.