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A Question of Pride: Gayfest 2004!
Review by Doric Wilson
June 5, 2004

With the 35th anniversary of Stonewall fast upon us, “Gay Pride” is a concept worth a second thought or three. It is not — however noble and necessary — marching to make same-sex marriages legal. It is clearly not dancing till you drop from the latest designer drugs. It is definitely not being fashion-bashed by a gang of queer-eyed style police. Gay Pride, as I was reminded recently, is simply the act of individuals determined to make a contribution to our community.

I can think of no one who better exemplify this than Bruce Robert Harris and Andy N. Sich. In the face of New York City’s frequently indifferent gay community, they managed to pull together an astonishing collection of commercial, organizational, and media sponsors to produce their Gayfest 2004! This sort of support is not only extraordinary, it is a minor miracle. And all a short block from Broadway.

During three weeks in May, they presented a festival of three programs described as “premiering and furthering the work of exceptional new authors” and aimed at “a greater sense of pride and acceptance.”

Not since 1980 and John Glines’ First Gay American Arts Festival has a gay theater festival come so far uptown. That First Festival introduced plays still central to our literature: Jane Chamber’s “Last Summer at Blue Fish Cove,” and Robert Patrick’s “T-Shirts,” among others.

First Program

actors unknown
photo: ?  

Gayfest 2004! opened with Dan Clancy’s “108 Waverly,” a smart and sensitive musical with music by Lynn Porta. It tells the tale of two male couples who inhabit — decades apart — the same Greenwich Village apartment. As was the case with all the festival plays, this was perfectly cast.

Alexander Quiroga and Patrick Porter were the star-crossed contemporary lovers fated to be separated by lifestyle, if not by life’s expectations. Jamie McGonnigal and Chris Weikel, the couple from the 1920s, already separated by the restrictions of their era, try desperately to co-habit.

The love stories are interlaced in a compelling and informative survey of where we were and where we could be going. Dan Clancy’s show has, as they say, legs. Expect “108 Waverly” at a theater near you. It has already played Chicago’s Bailiwick.

Here I abandon any pretense of objectivity, and, in the face of a humongous conflict of interest, to rave that Chris Weikel is a major musical theater talent. His voice alone makes mince meat of the miked midgets of today’s Great White Way.

Second Program

The second program was a double bill.

Andy Phelan, Chad Ryan
photo: Michael D. Jackson  

Michael D. Jackson’s “A Taste of Heaven” takes us even further into the past with the coming out, and together, of two students in the 1880s. A major word of mouth hit at last years Fringe Festival, it is a melancholy chamber duet of a play, played with great virtuosity by Andy Phelan and Chad Ryan.

Susan Jeremy

Susan Jeremy’s one woman show, “P.S. 69” is a demented and very funny update of “Up the Down Staircase.” Lanky blond Susan Jeremy risks whiplash with her rapid delineation of students and teachers who leads us gleefully through the jungle gym of middle education, and ultimately to the undulating dance of true romance.
Third Program

As could be expected, Gayfest 2004! takes us, at last, to Fire Island. Watching Russell Bouthiller’s “Joseph & Napoleon,” I was constantly reminded of how far we have come since the 1970s and Terry Miller’s “Pines 69.” And how far we haven’t.

I have never understood why, when surrounded with such physical beauty — both natural and human — we need to grab a handful of pills and a large of bottle of booze to simply make it to the beach. Russell Bouthiller seems to be a Fire Island fixture which gives his very interesting play the clarion ring of authenticity.

The script is complete with that lovable new stock character dear to the fans of Will and Grace, the mischievous scamp of a misogynist. Drew Geraci has directed Chris Aruda, Jack Garrity, Darin Riggi and Stephen Zinnato with such convincing flair you walk out of the theater with sand in your shoes.

Bruce Robert Harris’ concern and respect for our community was evidenced when he personally repainted the lobby of The Director’s Company Theater to make it presentable. This is true Gay Pride.

Bruce Robert Harris and Andy N. Sich are already planning next year’s Emerging Playwright Series. I cannot wait, and encourage them with all my heart.

Gayfest 2005!

To be considered for Gayfest 2005!, please send plays with complete contact information, and background on the author. The plays are read and considered, then sent to our board for a discussion and vote.

Bruce Robert Harris and Andy N. Sich
SunnySpot Productions Inc.
One River Place Suite 917, New York, NY 10036

Doric Wilson

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