The shows will be presented at four different venues around center city. Plays and Players, The Playground at the Adrienne, and 2nd Stage at the Adrienne are all in the Rittenhouse area, and Tabu is smack in the middle of the Gayborhood.
Though, of course, every show is GLBT-themed in one-way or another, the range and scope of this year's GayFest repertoire offers something for everybody. "I am very happy," says Rich Rubin, artistic director and founder of Quince, reflecting on three years of presenting GayFest!
"Both our audiences and the people involved, from actors to directors to designers to stage managers, have not been an exclusively gay group. If somehow our marketing kept our audience limited to gay audiences," he points out, "some of the people who might benefit the most and enjoy seeing these shows the most would not be seeing them."
There are four main-stage productions, three staged readings (at Tabu, during brunch or happy hour, the $5 admission buys the reading and a free drink), ten "one night stands"—single-performance shows created by Philly artists—and two nights of the raucous Cirque du Gay.
Cirque, a somewhat racy ("but PG-rated," ensures Rich) circus show, is a Philly premier fresh from two years of first place victories at the Kansas Fringe Festival. Incorporating back stage into front stage, Cirque presents not only the tricks and excitement of modern circus but also how those tricks are done.
Cirque costs $25. "Quince does not believe in people not seeing shows because they're not able to afford them," says Rich. $25 is a big chunk of the modern theater-goer's monthly allowance, but with admission to Cirque, audience members get a code which unlocks half-price tickets to nearly all of GayFest's offerings throughout the rest of the festival. The opening night performance also comes with a reception at Plays and Players and an after-party at Tabu's upstairs lounge.
Quince also offers a few discount ticket packages for the fest, and, Rich points out, "there are ushering slots at every show. So that for people who can't really afford it, there are options. You can usher, you can help us out hanging posters. Being willing to do a little bit of work is, for a small company like us, better than gold."
The one night stands, costing $10-$15 each, recall both the FringeArts Festival and The SoLow Festival in that they offer an opportunity for fame or funding challenged Philly artists to present their most daring work.
Highlights among the one night stands will certainly include PHIT, Philadelphia's premier (and most prolific) improv group, with their first GLBT-themed improv show. And Philadelphia artist Ben Storey will perform Manic Depressive Pixie Dreamboat, an adaptation of his SoLow piece.
"Ben is one of our most beloved actors," says Rich, "a really original and unique talent." Pixie Dreamboat will be an interactive, multimedia exploration of "depression/anxiety, gender identity, OKCupid, and the pursuit of happiness" with a touch of game show and motivational seminar thrown in.
The main attractions of the festival, and the money-makers too, are the main-stage productions. Of these, none have been seen in Philadelphia in their present form, and two are world premiers.
"We're always trying to present something Philadelphia hasn't seen," says Rich, reflecting part of Quince's mission statement: "To educate, enlighten, and entertain the public with an eclectic collection of shows they might not otherwise see."
Cold, by New York playwright Sarah Pappalardo, was part of GayFest 2012 as a staged reading. Now receiving a world premier, Pappalardo's play, takes place in the wake of an aborted suicide, explores the more and more relevant theme of the closing gay bar and a changing gay culture.
And Daniel Talbott, whose plays have been a part of GayFest for three years running, has written Someone Brought Me specifically for the festival. It is set in the not-too-distant future in what was once New York, "this really sort of bleak and brutal world," says Rich, who is directing it. Exploring fame, freedom, and a growing disparity between rich and poor, Someone Brought Me promises to leave audience members reeling. "Eventually by the end of the play we see the capacity for kindness in this awful world of the future. But we have to go through a lot to be allowed to get that. It's 45 minutes long, and it's an entire evening's worth of a emotional roller-coaster ride packed into that."
The festival's antidote to Someone Brought Me is Paul Rudnick's The New Century. The only show of the festival by a mainstream (Broadway) writer, the New York run of The New Century has been described as one of the funniest shows on the circuit, if a bit frivolous. Composed of three comic monologues capped by one full-ensemble scene, audiences can expect a finely crafted script and outrageous hilarity.
Perhaps most exciting, though, is The Homosexuals, the most recent offering by acclaimed Chicago playwright Philip Dawkins. Dawkins' play, which has received enthusiastic reviews everywhere it has played, has been called the fundamental play about gay relationships in the 2000s. Revolving around the successes, failures, and dreams of a single group of friends, the play moves backwards in time from 2010 to 2000.
GayFest! is an opportunity not only to see a number of shows for a low dollar cost, but also to experience an eclectic collection of works, including some of Philadelphia's experimental theater-makers, and a few of America's more exciting contemporary playwrights.