In honour of the first documented gay social club in Calgary, Third Street Theatre, Calgary Gay History Project and One Yellow Rabbit’s High Performance Rodeo are presenting Club Carousel: A Celebration of Calgary’s Gay History in the Big Secret Theatre on Jan. 30.
Club Carousel, which opened in 1968, holds a special place in Calgary’s LGBT history.
“We look at [Club Carousel] as the beginning of safe spaces for queer people in Calgary,” says Jonathan Brower, artistic producer of Third Street Theatre.
Club Carousel was once located on 12th Ave. and 1st St. southeast in Victoria Park and first opened its doors while same-sex relationships were still a criminal offence in Canada. The club was a small underground space with low ceilings and walls painted in circus themes that provided a venue for Calgary’s LGBT community to socialize, dance, play games and put on theatre performances and musicals. Patrons required a membership code to enter and no one used their last names.
Third Street Theatre’s Club Carousel is a cabaret format performance much like those performed at the original club from time to time.
“We want to honour the people who started Club Carousel and their members, the Scarth Street Society,” Brower says. “They did a lot of groundwork for creating that first safe space in Calgary.”
One of those who was involved with Club Carousel is Lois Szabo who, along with four members of Calgary’s LGBT community and Kevin Allen, lead researcher for Calgary Gay History Project, will be running a panel discussion about the evolution of Calgary’s LGBT community after the cabaret.
The cabaret features 11 performances by eight performers: a drag queen and drag king, two musical theatre performers, two singer-songwriters, a burlesque dancer and a spoken-word poet.
In between the performances, Brower and Paul Welch, artistic director of Third Street Theatre, will host the event and present on Calgary’s gay history and Club Carousel.
Third Street Theatre is in its second season and was founded by Brower and Welch for the positive promotion of LGBT content on stages in Calgary.