PIFA My Heart: LGBTQ Offerings at This Year’s Festival

From Scarlett O'Hara to Judy Garland to a dragged-out Reagan exposé, this year's PIFA is one big gay time traveling bonanza.

After a one-year hiatus from its first go-round, the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA) kicks off this Thursday, and, no surprise, the month-long affair is overflowing with LGBTQ artists and productions. The theme for this year’s festival is time travel, with each offering recalling a different time in history. Know where you’d like to go if you could be transported to another era?  Here I round up a handful of PIFA’s gay options, which’ll take you from Scarlett’s Civil War-torn South to Judy’s Carnegie Hall performance and beyond. You better buckle up, art lovers. It’s gonna be a fabulous, gay ride.

No Face Performance Group — led by Mark McCloughan (aka Teena Geist) — uses the day Reagan was shot as, according to McCloughan, “a jumping-off point to explore [the president’s] mythology and ideology.” He goes on to say that, while many of the members of the theater group weren’t alive during the the early ’80s, “they’ve nevertheless spent the last year delving into the glittering decade when Ronald Reagan led the world” and Nancy brought a Jackie-O sense of style back to the White House. March 27-April 14, various times, $20, Aux Performance Space, Third Floor, 319, N. 11th St.

Azuka Theatre and the American Poetry Review have created an original work inspired by “The Day Lady Died,” the haunting poem written by gay poet Frank O’Hara on the day Billie Holiday died in 1959. This world premiere stars Azuka vets Mike Dees and Kimberly S. Fairbanks as O’Hara and Holiday, respectively. March 28-April 7, various times, $26-$31, Hamilton Garden at the Kimmel Center.

The Bearded Ladies Cabaret looked to Gone with the Wind for inspiration for this “folk-punk extravaganza” that asserts the Civil War never really ended. The 33-song musical blends traditionally Southern tunes (“Swanee”) with more-modern, liberal-slanted ones (“Come Together”) and stars Philly based-performance artist John Jarboe as Dixie, a Scarlett O’Hara inspired chanteuse in the biggest hoop skirt this side of the Mason Dixon, y’all. March 28-April 7, various times, $29, Innovation Studio at the Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad St.

In this show, all-female dance troupes Pasión y Arte Flamenco Company and Fresh Blood begin back in time to the birth of the first female gynecologist, Troutula of Salerno, in 1096, then zip toward present day, touching on pivotal moments in women’s history along the way. The plot “coils and digs into contemporary questions of women’s self-knowledge, complicity, complacency,” asking “how do we reclaim our history?” April 5-6, 7:30 p.m. and April 7, 3 p.m., $25, Fleischer Art Memorial, 719 Catherine St.

Penn Dixie Productions’ Animal Animal Mammal Mine blends dance, projections and the sculpture to reflect on the change in the reproductive powers of women since drug company Searle got FDA approval to sell Envoid as a birth control pill in 1960. The devised theater piece “grows out of extensive interviews with women who have inherited the technology of the 60s. Sounds powerful and super timely after that ridiculous anti-abortion bill passed in the Kansas Senate this weekApril 10-11, 7 p.m.;April 12-13, 8 p.m.; April 14, 3 p.m.; and April 16-20, 7 p.m., $15, Underground Arts, 1200 Callowhill St.

Singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright sent Philly gays into a tizzy last month when he announced he’d be returning to the city to sing excerpts from Judy Garland’s beloved Carnegie Hall performance. But that’s only half of what he’ll be bringing to Kimmel’s Verizon Hall stage for this pshow. The first part of the evening’s program will include numbers from Wainwright’s opera Prima Donna, which takes place in the Paris apartment of a female opera singer the night before Bastille Day. Sun., April 21, 7:30 p.m., $35-$100, Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center.

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