Posters for LGBTQ and feminist plays in Hamilton Fringe festival defaced

Posters for at least two plays featured in this month’s Hamilton Fringe Festival have been defaced by pieces of paper bearing typed verses from the Bible, appearing to attack the shows’ LGBTQ- and feminist-forward message and themes.

Councillor: 'If you’re out there propagating hate or intolerance against anybody ... you need to stop'

The Saskatoon-based theatre company behind a production of "SCUM: A Manifesto" posted a photo of the vandalism on its Facebook page. (Scantily Glad Theatre/Facebook)

Posters for at least two plays featured in this month's Hamilton Fringe Festival have been defaced by pieces of white paper bearing typed verses from the Bible and other messages, appearing to attack the shows' LGBTQ- and feminist-forward message and themes.

The production of Coal from Hades was hit first, with at least three posters being covered by the vandalism.

And Saturday, artists behind a production of SCUM: A Manifesto noticed a poster near King William and John streets had been nearly entirely covered, including the artists' faces and their showtimes and location. Written in 1967, the radically feminist play contemplates a world without men.

The vandalism included a message suggesting that women should "learn in silence with all subjection" and not "to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."

One of the four Saskatoon-based artists with Scantily Glad Theatre in town for the production said the message was chilling as the group wants women to be treated equally, as human beings.

"It made me sick to my stomach," Sarah Grummett said. "It went from dejecting and rejecting our ideas to trying to actively censor us and our message and our show, to get people not to come to our show."

'It's very sad to think that there's this kind of intolerance'

On the Coal from Hades poster, the verses included descriptions condemning "men, leaving the natural use of the woman, [burning] in their lust one toward another."

Coal from Hades, by Toronto-based Jeffrey Canton and Marcus Peterson, tells a true story of the people behind the first gay and lesbian periodical in North America, which was published in Montreal in 1918.

"What I find particularly saddening is, this is 2017," Canton said. "You know, here we are, we're doing a show that's about a world so different, nearly 100 years ago, in which you couldn't be openly gay or lesbian or transgender or bisexual, and here we are in the moment, where this is all supposed to be the way the world works now. And it's very sad to think that there's this kind of intolerance."

'All for love and love for all'

Saturday, festival organizers fought back, covering some of the verses on the Coal from Hades posters with stickers reading "All for love and love for all."

Grummett said her Christian grandmother has been to her show three times, bringing friends and being supportive. She said the messages from the group don't reflect others she knows who are Christian.

Beyound the frustration and hurt caused by the vandalism, Grummett said, "It lit a fire under our asses."

"OK, this show is working," she said. "I'm thinking it's definitely going to carry us through the rest of this show on Hamilton."

'Where do I even begin?'

Coun Matthew Green posted a video statement on Twitter Sunday morning denouncing the work of the "so-called Christians" and told those affected he criticizes any kind of intimidation.

He said Christians he knows in the city would not do such a thing.

"That's not the God that I know," he said.

"Sunday morning, and I've got to wake up to this ridiculous-ness?" Green said. "Where do I even begin?"

"Surely these plays are not propagating hate, or intolerance, or any type of discrimination, so if you don't like it, don't go. It's that simple," Green said. "If you're out there propagating hate or intolerance against anybody, in a discriminatory way, you need to stop."

'Our most successful Fringe to date'

Claire Calnan, the executive director of the festival, said the whole situation is "very disheartening" but that the festival organizers have been "buoyed by the support."

She has called police, who have asked for narrower time windows when the vandalism may have taken place so they can narrow down video surveillance to comb through to find the possible vandals.

Calnan said the poster damage has been hard to keep up with while the festival has been running. "It will definitely be our most successful Fringe to date," she said.

She said organizers are working on getting more stickers printed and would welcome any help or donations to cover the damage or help individual shows reprint posters.

Coal from Hades

Fringe runs through July 30. More information about Coal from Hades and SCUM: A Manifesto. See promos of Hamilton Fringe plays on our YouTube page