Preview: GayFest!

A weekend preview party gives audiences a glimpse of a new LGBT theatre festival

It’s drag fantasia meets…Beebo Brinker? That’s only the beginning of what audiences will see during GayFest, a new LGBT theatre festival in Philly next month (Aug. 12-28). And starting this Saturday at Tabu (July 30), we’ll get a preview of events, along with a meet-and-greet with Rich Rubin, producer and artistic director of Philly’s Quince Productions (8-11:30 p.m.) during the official preview party. Quince is producing each of the four shows running during GayFest.

“We’re excited to announce that we just received our 501(c)(3) status,” says Rubin. “Four gay and lesbian plays running in repertory make the intimate Shubin Theatre the place to be.”

GayFest is the first in what’s anticipated to become an annual festival in Philly. “Quince is presenting the shows – all Philadelphia premieres – as well as a staged reading of a new gay play by area playwright Dave Ebersole,” says Rubin, who’s produced past gay plays like Victor Bumbalo’s Niagara Falls and Show/Tell, Martin Sherman’s Passing By and David J. Mauriello’s Just Say Love.

This year’s plays include:

Adam Darrow (left) and Andrew Tardif in The Last Sunday in June (photo by John Donges and courtesy of Quince Productions)

The Last Sunday in June (directed by Josh Hitchens) is a comedy that tells the story of a group of gay men gathered in a New York apartment on Gay Pride. Beneath the many laughs is a serious exploration of modern, urban gay life written by Jonathan Tolins. The New York Times has called the play “smart, timely, and very funny.”

Devil Boys From Beyond (directed by Dave Ebersole) is a kind of drag fantasia (think Rosalind Russell meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers) by Buddy Thomas and Kenneth Elliott. From spaceships to scantily-clad Plutopians, the play won last year’s “Best Play” award at the New York Fringe Festival. The play’s Philly director will also be presenting a one-night only reading of Living Space during GayFest.

The Beebo Brinker Chronicles (directed by Allison Heishman) is based on the pulp novels by Ann Bannon from the 1950s and 60s (we love them!). The play is penned by Kate Moira Ryan and Linda S. Chapman, and follows the life and loves of Laura, Beth and Beebo as they navigate uncharted territories of desire at a time when love definitely dared not speak its name. It’s a fascinating, funny (and sexy) glimpse into pre-Stonewall lesbian life in New York’s Greenwich Village.

Slipping (directed by Rich Rubin) is Daniel Talbott’s edgy and sometimes haunting work about gay teens. It was selected as one the “10 Best Plays of the Year” by the Advocate in 2009. Larry Kramer, author of The Normal Heart, has said about it: “I really love this play. I love the charm and sweetness of it, and, yes, the pain it so wisely explores.”

GayFest, Aug. 12-28, Shubin Theatre, 407 Bainbridge St., 215-627-1088.