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The F Word tackles the final frontier: being fat

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Space might be the final frontier if you're Jeff Bezos and the rest of those billionaire bros, but down here on earth, the final frontier is being fat.

In a social media-driven world, where TikTok videos and Instagram influencers lavish likes – and merchandise and followers - on size 0 models, and Marvel superhero movies reliably feature shredded dudes in skin tight costumes, there might be no greater act of political resistance than to be OK with who you are no matter what size you are.

That frontier is being tackled head-on in a new play, The F Word, created and performed by Calgarians Keshia Cheesman and Bianca Miranda.

The show is a Downstage Theatre production receiving its world premiere production from Alberta Theatre Projects.

"The F Word takes on a subject that is too often considered taboo, and does it with humour, grace, and even some song and dance numbers. This bold new show doesn’t shy away from exploring what it feels like to live in a fat body in the world today. We are thrilled to bring their fearless and funny play to our audience," said Marcie Januska, producer at ATP.

The play itself is described as "fairytales, lectures, dance and songs are infused with wild whimsy...as Cheesman and Miranda confront fatphobia, diet culture and the intersection of fatness with race in this powerful, playfully political pop-art piece."

For Cheesman and Miranda, the premiere is the culmination of years of developing the material.

In an interview with CTV News anchor Camilla Di Giuseppe Tuesday, Cheesman explained that the origin of the show started with a 2017 show produced by Handsome Alice where she teamed up with Miranda to create a 10 minute piece about identity.

"Bianca and I got together for a piece kind of dissecting the word 'fat' and kind of figuring out how that became a weaponized word in our lives," Cheesman said. "And then we ended that piece singing 'We're fat and awesome and beautiful', and we tried to get the audience to sing along and it had such a great response that eventually other companies picked it up and wanted us to do other iterations."

Eventually, Downstage found them. Theatre Calgary commissioned a first draft. And now it's about to have its premiere.

"After five-and-a-half years of dreaming and creating, we’re so excited to have the chance to tell our story in the way that we want to tell it," they said.

"This is our first time on a main stage together," they added, "and we’re grateful to be working with an incredible team of artists, whose hearts and minds are bringing our vision to life."

"As fat women of colour, we are proud to have a small part in demanding a better future for fellow fat folks who deserve to feel seen and celebrated on and off stage."

For Downstage artistic director Clare Preuss, part of the appeal is the approach the two creators take to theatricalizing a challenging, uncomfortable subject.

"The F Word is filled with adventure, honest, humour and music," Preuss said, in a release."The (show's) final song Go, Glow, Grow is bound to have audiences singing along in their seats."

With The Whale nominated for Oscars including one for Brendan Fraser for best actor, and artists such as Lizzo, Cheesman agrees there are signs the final frontier is being breached.

"It seems like there is a movement," she says. "Bianca and I love Lizzo. We went to one of her concerts in November in Vancouver, and it was amazing.

"It is great," she adds, to see celebrities who are fat who are not chasing weight loss or going through this [physical] transformation and just being themselves - and that is definitely something that the world still isn't ready for."

There's a preview Thursday before The F Word enjoys its world premiere Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are on sale at the ATP website, including size-accessible seating.

With files from Camilla Di Giuseppe

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