Preview: Farewell, Philadelphia

A love letter to the city becomes an original play for an inspiring queer writer and performer

The playwright soaks in Philly during PIFA (courtesy of Leyla Eraslan)

When Leyla Eraslan made the decision to leave Philly, she began writing a kind of love letter to her old stomping grounds. Eventually the notes and memories became Farewell, Philadelphia, a new play that debuts Pride weekend (June 12-13) at the Baja Room (7 p.m.).

As Eraslan gets ready to relocate to the West Coast for graduate school, she talked to us about what inspired her foray into theatre and what’s next for this emerging playwright.

What’s the play about?

Farewell, Philadelphia is a collection of stories from my travels and my experiences in the city. I’ve described it as a one-man show with three people – because I can’t imagine a world in which people would want to watch just me stand around and talk for an hour. It’s an eclectic little blend of theater and storytelling to essentially present a love letter to the city of Philadelphia.

What was the inspiration for your love letter?

I’ll be leaving Philadelphia – and eventually the East Coast – for a graduate school program in California. I’ve been here for eight years and love this city, and I wanted to say “so long” in style. I love the sort of Spalding Gray, Dave Sedaris or Augusten Borroughs style of storytelling, in that they find the humor in personal experiences. Everyone has an interesting story to share, and Philly’s given me more than my fair share.

What do you have to say about the city?

It says a lot about Philly – and is probably a little more adoring than Philly deserves, but that’s how you get when you say goodbye. Philadelphia is, to pull a quote from the play, the “most bizarre, dysfunctional, random, manic depressive, eccentric, amazing and alive place I’ve ever been.”

As a queer writer, do you address any gay themes in the play?

It was a serious challenge to figure out which stories to share. I could have talked about how my first foray into dating women ended somewhat inevitably with happy hour and a misdirected text message, or about bringing a staunch hetero from the Northeast to Woody’s, or how OutFest is continually one of my favorite days of the year in this city. But I had to save some material for the sequel, Did You Miss Me, Philadelphia?, slated for production sometime in the year “two thousand and question mark.”

Who’s involved in your project?

There’s myself, and our director Crystal Davis, who works so hard sometimes I think we should pay her to take a break. The on-stage cast includes Crystal Why, a local actress and artist affiliated with the Dumpsta Players, and Steve Hyams, who is a local actor and generally awesome guy. The people at the Baja Room, who are lending us their patio for the performance, are cool and very supportive – and also make pretty great sangria.

Farewell, Philadelphia, June 12-13 (7 p.m.), The Baja Room, 15th and South.