I like theater. I don’t attend nearly often enough for my own satisfaction, but I always come away with this inexplicable sense of wonder and puzzlement. I want to rush into the theater lobby and talk about it all to everyone, while also wanting to rush home and be quiet with my thoughts.
Note. I don’t really like musicals <ducks> but I like theater that involves talking. Words. Ideas. Sentences. Stomping. Dramatic pauses. Minimal sets. It is probably why I like soap operas so much – the staging is often much like a theater set. Don’t tell Ted Hoover I said that.
That being said, when I read that Ted Hoover was involved as a director of 2 of the plays, I knew that I would attend.
This is what brought me to Liberty Avenue last night to check out the 6th Annual Pittsburgh Pride Theater Festival known as “Acting Out” – a series of 4 brief one-act plays all focused on LGBTQ characters and themes. Well, in this case L , B and G characters and themes. No overtly T themes so take note playwright friends, for next year.
All four plays were enthusiastically acted by a somewhat younger cast. While some of the roles seemed intended for older actors, I give these folks a lot of credit for embracing and inhabiting LGBTQ roles. Without their willingness to accept the roles, we wouldn’t have these stories to contemplate.
Shaving the Beard is a tongue in cheek exploration of coming out and losing the BFF/female girlfriend beard. It was one of the stronger pieces with a clear focus on a reality some of us may lose sight of – the fear of losing what tenuous binds we may have with our family when we tell them who we really are.
Mercy was set in a prison visiting room and suffers by the natural comparison with the return of Orange is the New Black to Netflix this weekend. Amelia is visiting her ex-lover Mercy and their dialogue frames and reframes the essence of dysfunctional relationships tied up with genuine emotional connections. I was somewhat uncomfortable with the Mercy character’s accent. It was the one note that rang jarringly false. It distracted me from the dialogue. I was rooting for Amelia to stop torturing Mercy for answers she could only find in herself and leave. But that would mean no play. It stayed with me and that’s good.
(Un)Packing is a short exploration of what might have been for two young men who again seemed a little young for the roles. It was a bittersweet moment of regret tied up in interesting political metaphors.
The show wraps up with a strong play Nightingale a science fiction analogy for the complexities of friendship, love, loyalty and star ship controls. This was actually pretty hysterical and the four actors meshed very well, with Crystal Noel’s Libby the stand out performance of the evening.
Overall, it was a thought-provoking evening that touched on themes common to many of our lives – coming out, family, letting go of old relationships, reconnecting, and the power of friendship.
The Festival is an initiative of Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater Company. It brings an important cultural component to Pride month and I encourage you to attend one of the remaining performances. We need to nuture LGBTQ themed arts and the talent that creates them.
I want to give a special acknowledgement to the stage crew – wow, they did a great job and were also all volunteers. I also want to thank the management for being gracious and dignified about accommodations both for myself and for others in attendance. Making theater accessible sometimes requires some simply but important tools like saving the aisle seat. Thank you for that.
The only question I have is – who voiced the Bureau in Nightingale?
Be sure to check out Pittsburgh Pride Theater Festival and encourage the continued development of a vibrant LGBTQ arts scene in Pittsburgh.
Thursday, June 12: 8:00 PM