Playwright, Producer, and Performer Makram Ayache is back in Edmonton with his show The Hooves Belonged to the Deer hot off its Toronto premiere with Tarragon Theatre. We sat down with him to chat about the process of the piece, its development history, and about queer theatre in Canada.
Tickets are available now! Check out more information here.
Makram Ayache is a multiple award-winning playwright, performer, director, and educator living between Alberta and Toronto. His playwriting explores representations of queer Arab voices and aims to bridge political struggles to the intimate experiences of the people impacted by them.Check out more on his website.
Q & A With Makram Ayache
Why are you telling this story now?
The Hooves Belonged to the Deer is all about how religion is weaponized against queer people. Unfortunately, that feels so timely given the intense misinformation and cultural attacks on 2SLGBTQ+ people on both local and global contexts right now.
My story looks at how this impacts a queer Muslim boy as he grows into adulthood. Hooves examines the intersecting impacts of a certain kind of White, Christian, supremacy. It’s a narrative we’re confronting right now as we’re seeing in real time how the Western world spins stories of Arab and Muslim people as the antithesis of the liberated, Secular, Christian, West.
It’s a lot.
Hooves is a queer tragedy – and I think sometimes we need to reckon with our pain before we can move on from it. For anyone who might have been told their queerness or faith is a sin, this play sits in the spiritual shame of that pain. It’s a casting off and cauterization, with the hope that we can begin again in new and liberating ways.
How did this story come to be?
The story is rooted in a very personal experience. The first person I ever came out to was a Christian youth pastor. What was I, a Druze-Muslim boy, doing at a Christian youth church in small town Alberta? And why did I feel he was the only person I could come out to?
The play begins there, but it’s largely fictionalized. Over three years, between the Alberta Queer Calendar Project, Buddies in Bad Times Audio Play, the Tarragon Theatre premiere, and now this production in Edmonton, I kept discovering and rediscovering the story. Each revision brought me closer to the emotional truth I was searching for.
This Edmonton production has a very different ending than the one that premiered in Toronto. I feel I found the emotional truth I was in pursuit of at long last.
What do you hope your audiences take away?
Hooves doesn’t give easy answers, no one character is purely malicious or purely benevolent, so I hope at its core, we’re able to recognize our inherent humanity within each other.
My own core value leading this play is that my queerness is innocent, it is pure, it is neither grand nor demonic, it simply is an unalterable truth of my being. There’s something spiritually freeing in that recognition. I hope people see that too.
I hope cis and straight people feel resolved to care and uplift queer people.
I hope to promote dialogue to stimulate a shared understanding about how the seemingly, innocuous and love-coded language of religion can lead to real harm. It can really mutilate a queer person’s sense of self, and sense of spiritual belonging.
More than that, I hope queer people who have gone through similar experiences feel that their pain is articulated and witnessed. It’s a kind of catharsis that I think can only happen in tragedy.
Describe the process of bringing this show to Edmonton. Are there significant surprises or changes to the show? How has going through one process with this piece informed how you approach it now?
The development of this play has been a tremendous journey. The list of people to thank is endless. It genuinely took a village.
Firstly, it was Peter Hinton-Davis who championed and supported the very first draft of the script. He’s been a teacher, mentor, and now a friend who has guided me through every iteration of this play.
Then I was part of Generator Toronto’s “Artist Producer Training Program” during the 2020 lockdowns and at the end of that program I set the goal of producing a 2-city premiere of Hooves. Tarragon Theatre, with the support of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, agreed to produce it as part of Mike Payette’s inaugural season. Then, with a tremendous amount of help from Jessie Van Rijn, Sedina Fiat, and Kristina Lemieux I was able to put together a strong series of successful grants for an independent production for the Edmonton premiere. Murray Utas, Fringe Theatre’s Artistic Director, agreed to house it at The Westbury Theatre and the rest is history!
Being the Producer on the Edmonton version of the show is freeing in so many ways but fatiguing in others. I would absolutely encourage the Producer/Writer/Actor/Graphic Designer/Marketer types to seek out producing support. You don’t have to take it all on by yourself! It has been a tremendous learning experience for me, and the team that’s come together for the Edmonton production is fierce, from Liv Bunge, our brilliant Technical Director/Production Manager, and Tori Morrison, the abundantly generous Associate Production Manager, to our fearless Director, Peter Hinton-Davis, we are in such capable hands. Our team has always been a merging of Edmonton and Toronto artists and we were able to honor the successes and learnings from our Tarragon production in this one.
My favourite part of bringing Hooves to Edmonton is that this is a very Alberta story. It did well in Toronto; people really responded to the story because a rural Canadian experience can be felt across this country. But at the piece’s core are its Albertan roots. It feels good to be back, and I’m excited to share it with Edmonton audiences!
Talk a little bit about Queer Theatre. What role does queerness play in your work and your storytelling?
Queerness is vast. We can witness the many manifestations of queer experiences and never tire including shows by our Trans, Non-Binary, and 2-Spirit siblings and friends. Shows about queerness that are existential, that are mundane, prosaic, realistic, fantastical, imaginary, heightened or classical reimaginings, and historically resurrected or reinterpreted works.
Queer theatre is the only theatre I’ve ever done and, perhaps, by my nature, will be the only theatre I ever do. I just can’t imagine a day when queerness isn’t central to my storytelling. This doesn’t mean all my tales will be about Queer struggles, but I see queerly, I move, think, feel, love, and express queerly. I don’t ever want to uncenter this notion. An extension of that is my Arabhood, which is central to my understanding of how my queerness exists.
I think queerness, at this moment, and certainly my Arab queerness, comes with inevitable pain, shame, and resistance (amongst joy, ecstasy, and celebration). But so long as transphobia, homophobia, racism, and Islamophobia exist, we must reckon with this. So, a lot of my work explores that – that’s certainly what I set out to do with Hooves.
I am also giving myself permission to explore Queer joy, creativity, celebration, and integrity. My next play Small Gods (at the Start of the World) is about a group of Queer teens about to graduate high school. It is a huge, comedic love letter to my younger self and future generations.
Queerness is here and it simply is. I hope Queer Theatre continues to be folded and integrated into the cultural understandings of our communities in real and lasting ways.
The Hooves Belonged to the Deer by Makram Ayache and presented by In Arms Queer Collective will play from October 27 to November 4 (Preview performances are October 24-26)).
- Buy One Get One Free! (Date Night?!)
- Tuesday, October 24 (Preview)
- Wednesday, October 25 (Preview)
- Tuesday, October 31
- Wednesday, November 1
Queer Celebration Night:
- Friday, November 3
- Celebrate Queer Theatre events by purchasing your tickets to Hooves and getting free entry into Evolution Wonderlounge after the show.
“The Hooves Belonged to the Deer, a smart and sensual new play by Makram Ayache…is the most excitingly theatrical piece of new writing to premiere in Toronto so far this season.”
– Kelly J. Nestruck, The Globe and Mail, Critics’ Pick.
“Epic in its deliverance and its panorama, I experienced the same sort of sharp emotional jabs as when, for the first time, I saw Angels in America and The Inheritance.”
– Ross, Time Square Chronicles
Directed by Peter Hinton-Davis.
Brett Dahl – Steve/Jake
Adrian Pavone – Aadam/Reza
Bahareh Yaraghi – Hawa/Becky
David Ley – Pastor Isaac
Eric Wigston – Will
Makram Ayache – Izzy
Bringing back the Dora Award-nominated set design is Anahita Dehbonehie
Stage Management by Andrea Handal Rivera
Intimacy and Movement Choreography by Corey Tazmania
Dramaturgy by Evan Medd
Sound Design by Chris Pereira
Light Design by Whittyn Jason
Technical Director/Production Manager Liv Bunge
Associate Production Manager Tori Morrison
Head Carpenter – Hannah Bailey
Carpenter – Breanna Thomas
Please note that the play deals with heavy topics which can be disturbing for some viewers. If you want an overview of the content advisories, click the drop-down on the ticket page below. If you want a more detailed overview of the content advisories, please click on this Audience and Artist Care Document. Please note that the document includes spoilers for the show.