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September 1, 2006

Something fabulous this way comes

Third queer theater festival in Columbus needs room to grow

Columbus--Go outside and sniff the air. Go ahead, do it. Nobody’s watching.

That scent borne on the wind? That delicate, delicious aroma, slightly cinnamon-y, a little sweet, like orange and spice tea . . .  You’ll only smell it once every two years.

It is the smell of an impending festival. Or, to put it more succinctly (and to paraphrase William Shakespeare), “By the pricking of my thumbs, the National Gay and Lesbian Theater Festival this way comes.”

After being held sporadically across the country in the years preceding 2002, Frank Barnhart brought the festival to Columbus and made it a biennial event, six years after the last one before he took over.

Now in its third go-round from September 7 to 16, Barnhart faces the question the organizer of an event like that dreads: What is he looking forward to the most?

“Of course, we are excited and thrilled to have all of our performers involved,” he said diplomatically.

“It’s great that Jade Esteban Estrada is returning for the third time with his final installment of Icons: Gay and Lesbian History of the World. He has debuted all three of these productions at our festival in Columbus,” Barnhart noted.

“We’re also pleased to have Richmond Triangle Players returning for the second time and Ragged Blade from St. Louis making their third appearance,” he said.

In four years, the reinvigorated National Gay and Lesbian Theater Festival has found itself the center of attention in the drama world.

“Now that people are familiar with us, we’re much more in demand from performers and groups wanting to be included,” Barnhart said. “The festival has become so large that we can’t accept everyone who applies, which is too bad and wonderful at the same time.”

The size of the festival is one of the main issues that will have to be addressed in the coming years, according to Barnhart. He says that finding the venues for the shows is a constant battle.

“One of our largest obstacles in Columbus is viable performance space,” he pointed out. “We would like to see the festival continue to grow, and indeed, it could grow in size immediately if we had the space to accommodate all of the groups.”

“Also, we have received some minor national attention, but we would like to see a greater focus on this event around the country,” Barnhart continued. “We would also like to see increased involvement from Ohio performers.”

“There is a great deal of talent in the state and we would like to showcase it during this festival,” he concluded.

Festivals, however, do not exist in a vacuum. There must be a theater scene before there can be a theater festival. So how does Barnhart think queer drama is doing in Columbus now?

“I think it is still doing well,” he said. “There have been some noticeable changes since the ’90s when GLBT theater was at its highest point.”

“As GLBT issues become more mainstream, the need for GLBT art has become less prominent,” he posited. “However, throughout theater history, the pendulum has always swung both ways. It’s just a matter of time before GLBT theater will become the hot ticket again.”

Complete listings of productions for the 2006 National Gay and Lesbian Theater Festival can be found at www.columbustheatrefestival.com. Here is a small sampling of productions available to theatergoers.

Does This Monologue Make Me Look Fat?

Awkward Moment Productions/Amy Salloway

Amy’s having one of those lives. Her uterus is rebelling, her perfect younger sister is destined for stardom, her boyfriend won’t give her a kidney and the body-image workshop she signs up for becomes a surreal lesbian adventure. Is this going to be another night spent commiserating with pot pies in the frozen foods aisle? Or somewhere, somehow, can a single, spherical girl figure out where she fits?

Monday Night in Westerbork

S. Bear Bergman

A difficult, surprisingly funny, often complex and ultimately joyous piece set along the plot lines of the theater group at concentration camp Westerbork. The piece finds Bergman solidly in hir storytelling element, investigating points of intersection and impact among identity, art, persecution and resistance. (Appropriate for audience members 13 and over)

Thanks for the Scabies, Jerkface!

Dan Bernitt

Meet Dan. He met his boyfriend at an audition for a reality TV show, his first roommate in college turns out to be homophobic, and the entire checkout aisle at Wal-Mart knows he has scabies. After moving out of his parents’ house, will this gay kid from Kentucky grow to find a home?

Wonder Woman: The Musical

Elizabeth Whitney

The story of Princess Diana, better known as liberal feminist superheroine Wonder Woman. In this campy cabaret, Diana chats with her audience during the last leg of her Magic Lasso Comeback Tour. She generously shares her fan letters and sings unique covers of standards, ranging from “I’m Wonder Woman, Hear Me Roar” to “Stand By Your Butch.”

Pussy Trouble!
The Secret History of Gilgamesh and Enkidu

Michael Burke

Queer performance artist Michael Burke embarks on a perilous performative journey into the unknown world of heterosexuality! Using the homoerotic relationship between the mythical doppelgangers Gilgamesh and Enkidu, Burke tackles topics including queer identity, “reparative” therapy, queer curiosities about heterosexual sex, objectification of the body and voyeurism.

There will also be performances of two shows by Ohio natives:

They Must Be Felt

The Puppet-Queers, Columbus

Take some Broadway show tunes, add a heaping dose of filthy lyrics, mix in some life-sized puppets, bake with some queer puppeteers, then sit back and enjoy the Puppet-Queers latest concoction. It’s a non-stop performance of songs, silliness and smut.

Will Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Will Davis, Yellow Springs

An offbeat, darkly funny lounge act which blends off-kilter arrangements of popular songs with autobiographical vignettes and biting social commentary.

For more information, go to www.columbustheatrefestival.com, e-mail fabact1@aol.com or call 614-2639448.       

 

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