With new LGBTQ voices, GayFest mixes things up
Rich Rubin, artistic director of Quince Productions is about to launch the second GayFest at their new venue, the beaux arts environs of Plays and Players Theater on Delancey Street.
This year with a more ambitious month long, lineup of performances to represent new GLBTQ voices in the theater. Even though Rubin is coordinating every aspect of the festival which involves around 70 performers and tech teams, his steel blue eyes radiate calmness. "Well, at the moment anyway," he warns.
EDGE caught up with him the day before they are loading set pieces into the third floor studio space at Plays and Players. "People are going to hurt me about going up three floors, but it will be worth it. Plus it is so cool inside the theater," he assures.
"Plays and Players really wanted us here. It’s nice home for us. It’s near the gayborhood." Rubin said. "And the shows are spread out all month."
The Bang Group
Rubin noted that everyone is working overtime to make everything click.
"There is something vogue about a gay and lesbian festival that attracts a lot of talent, gay and straight, devoted actors, directors and designers are devoted to making this happen with 48 or so performances."
The festival kicks off with "Misters and Sisters" by The Bang Group, the inventive dance troupe based in New York directed by David Parker and Jeffrey Kazin.
It was a Bang Group show - "Backwards and in Heels" - that launched Quince Productions in 2008 and Rubin could not be more thrilled to have them back.
"They don’t tour a lot, but they are not divas on the road...(they’re) just hilarious."
Shows in rep
This year’s full productions in repertory are:
"The Well of Horniness"
This is a scabrous lesbian crime caper from Holly Hughes, one of the infamous NEA four, vilified in the halls of Congress for her lesbian explicit art. "Holly calls her play ’dyke noir,’ but with ’The Well of Horniness,’ she’s definitely more interested in the laughs rather than who-dun-it," described Rubin. "It is a nod back to the 1940s. This is the most purely comic piece we are doing."
"The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later"
Moises Kaufman play recounting Matthew Shepard’s murder, the aftermath, the trial and how the events affected the residents, gay and straight, in the town of Laramie could not be more serious. "Josh Hitchens is directing, with a cast of eight, with the cast doubling some of the roles," explained Rubin. He feels that this follow up to "The Laramie Project" benefits from "the additional perspective of time. And of course it includes the documentary quality of interviews with the murderers."
"The Crumple Zone"
"The Crumple Zone" is a dark comedy by Buddy Thomas, who co-wrote "Devil Boys from Beyond" that was a hit last year. "That was a drag show; this is about five gay men in crappy apartment on Staten Island at Christmas. It’s about how we screw up our relationships, drink a lot and try to find good ones. It’s a dysfunctional household to behold," Rubin assured.
"Mike & Seth"
This play is so close to my heart," Rubin said. "It’s by Daniel Talbott, who wrote ’Slipping,’ which we did last year at the festival. It really was one of the most joyful experiences I’ve had as a director. I had the best cast and it was such a beautiful play." How the new play came about was fairly simple. "Daniel contacted me, we started corresponding, and I suggested that he write something especially for GayFest and he did. This play is lyrical and funny about two lifelong friends, one straight and one gay, without any sexual subplot. It’s a testament to their abiding friendship, loyalty and a male relationship," Rubin explained. Calvin Attinkson, who played the teen in "Slipping," plays Seth opposite Ben Storey as Mike.
One Night Stands & Staged Readings
Rubin said he wanted as much variety as he could get for the one-night-stand series. "Michael Medvidick is doing ’What? Like It’s Hard?’ a song cycle about gay male issues. Shannon Agnew is doing a non-cabaret performance called ’Transient Summer’ in which he plays different characters, each of whom is related to a young woman who is in the process of transitioning to male. Rae Drew, a transgender standup comic will celebrate the whole spectrum of translife with stories, poetry and rap with his cabaret called ’LOL@Gender.’"
The other shows in the line-up are- R. Eric Thomas in "Always the Bridesmaid;" Marc McCloughan in "The Beautiful Refrigerator is Empty;" Josh Hitchens in "Guilty But Insane: A Confessional Monologue;" and Daniel Student in "The Daniel Student Gay Porn Viewing Party."
There are three staged readings taking place on Sunday afternoons. "We did only one last year ’Living Space’ by David Ebersole and it sold out. This year we have three," Rubin said. "We’re really committed to doing new work, David’s back with a reading of his new play called "’Subdivision,’ about a gay couple dealing with issues of prejudice. When one of them hears racist comments at work, their different feelings about it expose problems between them.’
The other readings are "Mother Tongue" by F.J. Hartland, a comedy about two guys who might start a relationship; and "Cold" by Sarah Pappalardo about generational conflicts among a group of lesbians that emerge when one of them includes a transgender friend.
Mixing it up
GayFest is a chance to mix up standard fare even in the GLBTQ community.
"Last year we only had one lesbian play. I was talking to an audience member who had seen everything else, but planned to skip that one and asked him why. And he answered, ’That’s not me.’ I replied, ’how much time do you spend seeing shows about straight people -- they’re not you either. ’
So I badgered him into coming. He ended up loving the play," Rubin said with a glint in those steel blues.
GayFest runs through September 1, 2012 at Plays and Players (3rd floor Skinner Studio), 1714 Delancey Place, Philadelphia, PA. For the full schedule of plays in repertory, visit the GayFest website.