4 Questions: Sky Gilbert
This article continues our series 50 Years of Disruption, in celebration of the Department of Theatre’s 50th Anniversary. In it, we’ll ask each participant four questions about themselves and their time at York.
1. Who are you?
Sky Gilbert (BFA Theatre 1976) is a poet, novelist, actor, playwright, filmmaker, theatre director, and drag queen extraordinaire. He was co-founder and artistic director of Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times Theatre—one of the world’s largest gay and lesbian theatres—from 1979 to 1997. He has had more than 40 plays produced, and written 7 critically acclaimed novels including Guilty (also translated into French) Brother Dumb, Wit in Love, and Come Back and three award-winning poetry collections—Digressions of A Naked Party Girl, Confessions of a Juvenile Delinquent and A Nice Place to Visit, as well as a memoir Ejaculations from the Charm Factory. His plays, including the iconic Drag Queens on Trial, have found a place in the Canadian theatrical canon. He has received three Dora Mavor Moore Awards for his theatre work, as well as the Pauline McGibbon Award, and The Silver Ticket Award. He also received the ReLit Award for his novel An English Gentleman in 2004. There is a street in Toronto named after him: ‘Sky Gilbert Lane.’ His latest novel Sad Old Faggot (ECW Press) was critically acclaimed. He is presently working on a cantata—Shakespeare’s Criminal—with composer Dustin Peters to be presented during Buddies 40th anniversary season. In fall of 2018 Guernica Press will publish Sky’s new book of essays entitled Small Things and in 2019 Playwrights Canada Press will publish Sky’s critically acclaimed play It’s All True (first produced at Buddies in 2017). Dr. Gilbert is a Professor at the School of English and Theatre Studies in Guelph where specializes in creative writing, sexuality and Shakespeare.
2. What was your favourite moment during your time in the Theatre Department, and why?
Being a squirrel. Jeff Henry had us all be animals. My triumph was the squirrel.
3. What comment, quotation, statement, or action that a professor—or classmate—offered had the greatest impact on you?
When Neil Freeman called me “The man of the slow burn. You learn very slowly but when you learn you really learn.” It’s a comment that has stayed with me—I used it on my partner recently—”Don’t rush me, I learn slowly but I really learn!”
4. Is there a way you incorporate a particular aspect of your theatre training in your current work?
I am actually working presently along with retired professor Don Rubin on the Shakespeare authorship issue. Don was a great influence on me as a professor of ‘criticism’ back in the day. I’m proud to be working with him to research the true author of Shakespeare’s works: Edward De Vere!