Closing Thoughts on GayFest

Quince Productions' producing artistic director Rich Rubin tells all

As our first GayFest approaches closing weekend, I’m amazed, frankly, at the reaction it’s gotten. I hear the same thing over and over again from audiences: “We really need this kind of thing in Philadelphia.” And there’s a sort of “all in the family” feeling among the crowds (and I do mean crowds).

There’s another phenomenon at play here, too, as we close the first-ever GayFest. According to our audience surveys, about 85 percent of the people at events are seeing their first Quince production—so they’ve been drawn by the subject matter and the festival atmosphere. Press, too, has been incredibly supportive.

With more than 35 cast and crew, it’s by far the largest event we’ve ever done. Three actors played roles in more than one show, and stage managers, designers and crew members have handled multiple assignments. Probably three-fourth of the cast members have seen each other’s shows; actors are making connections and friendships beyond their own casts, and that’s one of the most gratifying parts of the experience.

Kara Boland and Carly Bodner heat things up in The Beebo Brinker Chronicles (photo by John Donges and courtesy of Quince Productions)

It’s no easy task pulling off a festival this size in a theater this small, and the expected friction has really been minimal (sorry if you all wanted drama, but we’ve kept that onstage). The other thing that’s been important – the casts aren’t limited to gay actors. In fact, heterosexual actors have thrown themselves into the roles with a comfort level that I find incredible, and I defy any audience member to figure out who’s what in real life.

And of the four plays we’ve produced in the past month – The Last Sunday in June, Devil Boys from Beyond, The Beebo Brinker Chronicles and Slipping – there isn’t one that can be singled out as the hit of the festival, though Beebo seems to have had the fastest action after its opening.

Perhaps my favorite experience was speaking with a gay man who’d already seen three of the plays. He told me he had no plans to see “the lesbian play.” I asked why not. It’s not like everyone on stage has to be just like him, right? Well, guess what? He showed up to Beebo and thanked me afterwards for encouraging him, saying it might well have been his favorite of the four. Lesbians always turn out in droves to support gay male plays – let’s start getting the process to work in reverse!

And as we look to next year, we’d like more one-time performances to supplement the regular runs of the mainstage plays. I’ve been talking with a lesbian performance artist, a transgender monologist, a cabaret singer, and others about doing one-night-stands at the festival. We’re also looking at bigger spaces and a four-week run. I’d invite any audience member who has suggestions to share them below. Let’s make it a two-way street so we can present what you really want to see.

Rich Rubin is the producing artistic director of Quince Productions and created GayFest.