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Dane Stewart’s Resurrection podcast uncovers the life of a forgotten queer playwright

The Concordia grad takes listeners on a journey into history through Daryl Allen, who died from AIDS in 1991
August 10, 2023
By Jordan Whitehouse

Headshot of a man with short light brown hair and a beard, wearing a black shirt, stands in front of a black backdrop “Once I started seeing the parallels between Daryl’s life and mine and the different periods he had lived through — whether it’s the Vietnam War or gay liberation, the AIDS crisis — I became fascinated and wanted to fill in the gaps,” says Dane Stewart, MFA 17. | Photo: Cuto Reed

One of the more common questions many artists get is “Where do your ideas come from?” But for playwright Dane Stewart, MA 17, it’s one he’s happy to be asked, particularly when it comes to his new podcast Resurrection.  

His answer: a chance meeting at a Montreal gay bar in August 2016. 

That’s when Stewart met Dan Wylie, the ex-partner of a playwright named Daryl Allen. A year later, Wylie went to Stewart’s master’s thesis play, handed him one of Allen’s old typewritten scripts, effectively launching Stewart down a rabbit hole of a queer love story begging to be told.     

The result is Resurrection, an eight-episode podcast about Stewart’s five-year journey uncovering a trove of love letters and scripts written by Allen, who died in 1991 from HIV/AIDS. Accompanied by Stewart’s own personal reflections, it uncovers what life was like for an artist and gay man in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.   

Two other Concordia alumni were also involved in the project: producer Matthew Kariatsumari, BComm 13, and editor/sound designer Matthew Rogers, BA 17. 

At the time of writing, Resurrection was the number one podcast on Apple’s Arts charts in Canada and number 13 overall. 

A photo of a man in 1979 with short, dark hair and beard smiling as he poses wearing a white collard shirt and blue jeans Daryl Allen during a trip to Montreal in 1979. | Photo: Dan Wylie

“It’s really gratifying to see that,” says Stewart. “If I had never met Dan, he never would have seen the play I wrote, he never would have given me that script and none of this would be happening.”

‘Teach yourself new disciplines’

That first script was for a play called Mustang Zero-One, which follows two men deployed together in the Vietnam War. (Allen himself was a Vietnam War vet.) It’s largely about the two men’s struggle to accept the love they have for one another and overcome their shame.    

The script instantly struck a chord with Stewart. 

“There are these moments where it felt like what Daryl Allen seemed to be saying about his own queer identity and his own shame were just so relevant to the same things I was feeling, despite the fact that he had written this decades earlier,” says Stewart. 

As Stewart read more of Allen’s scripts and love letters, he was also drawn to Allen as a person. 

“All of my research at Concordia and what fascinates me as an artist are the stories of ordinary people,” says Stewart. “And so once I started seeing the parallels between Daryl’s life and mine and the different periods he had lived through — whether it’s the Vietnam War or gay liberation, the AIDS crisis — I became fascinated and wanted to fill in the gaps.” 

It helped that Stewart had an MFA from Concordia, where he designed his own Individualized Program (INDI) with courses in theatre, sexuality studies and communication studies. 

The practical coursework was huge for tackling this project, says Stewart. So was the mentorship of his three supervisors — Ted LittleMark Sussman and Tom Waugh. But overall, one of his biggest takeaways from the INDI program was how to teach himself new skills.  

“When you’re in this program, you’re designing some of your own courses and so you need to teach yourself new disciplines,” says Stewart. “That’s a skillset I’ve used multiple times in multiple areas since graduating — like producing a podcast, which I’d never done before.”   

Past becomes present

Stewart says that although Resurrection traces queer history through the life of a man living decades in the past, the podcast has particular relevance today. 

For one, it’s a way to teach younger queer folks about what the community went through during the AIDS crisis, he says. “It’s a really tragic but important moment in queer history, because it helps us to understand what was required to get governments to take action and actually start humanizing queer people.”

Dane Stewart talks about his new podcast Resurrection

The podcast is also an exercise in empathy — something that’s definitely needed today, he adds. “We all consume a lot of news coverage that’s designed to elicit anger and division, but this story is a five-year deep dive into a person’s life we’ve never heard of before. I think we can all use that kind of empathy these days, especially when it comes to conversations about queer people and particularly trans folks.” 

As for what Stewart hopes people take away from listening to the podcast, it’s twofold. 

“For queer people, I hope they feel like they can see a part of themselves, they feel seen, listened to, represented,” he says. 

“For folks who aren’t queer, I hope they leave with a sense of empathy and understanding for the different views of their world — specifically queer folks’ — and have a bit more space and love in their hearts for these communities.”

View Concordia’s PRIDE-related video interviews online.

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