Times They Are A Changing
There are those who lament the good old days. The days of San Francisco/East Village styled gay culture when being gay was both underground and out there, as glittered and discreet as a disco ball in an illegal night club. A force for change, subversion and revolution when it was still illegal to be gay, as it still is in many parts of the world today. When Pride was an act of defiance and celebration and not, as some argue, a celebration of corporate advertising by companies who once would have turned away. Fifty years on this year from Stonewall, which many see as the defining moment when things began to change, gay culture and identity, as well as gay politics, have undergone radical transformation. For some, its greater mainstream acceptance has resulted in a gentrification of gay culture with something vital being lost along the way. For others, the only time you should time warp back to the Seventies is in the middle of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. When I was a child I talked in childish ways, they add. Adults need to behave like adults. There’s new challenges now that couldn’t be addressed before. Such as parenting, conversion therapy, and trans-issues.
Whatever your position, gay culture and identity is always refining and redefining itself. And, as a direct consequence, the world around it, gay or otherwise. Which makes the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, hitting the city from May 6th to May 19th, an occasion for celebrating and interrogating the joys, passions and heartaches of gay histories and lived experience. Offering a snapshot of the themes informing gay culture and identity today. Or should that be gay cultures and identities?
With a strong US presence, IDGTF 2019 sees award winning, Seattle based comedian and storyteller, Woody Shticks presents SCHLONG SONG (USA). Stand-up, hip-hop heroics and emotional nudity collide as days inside a Puritan cult give way to nights inside consenting adults in this smash-hit smackdown of sexual misadventure. The hilarious, profound, and curious Julie Gieseke presents the one woman BORDERLINE A**HOLE (USA). After years chasing unavailable women, Julie’s found her ideal girlfriend. Only they can’t agree if Julie is an asshole or a borderline asshole. THE BABY MONITOR (USA) sees Claire’s concerns over the welfare of her two-year-old cousin being dangerously validated in this crucial new play exploring same-sex parenting, race, and contemporary family values. OBLIGATORY SCENE (USA) sees Brooklyn based producer and director Amelia Cain return to IDGTF with a play by world renowned playwright Carolyn Gage exploring sexual assault and healing in a once loving relationship. Cape Cod based Provincetown Dramatic Arts’s period piece, MISS FURR AND MISS SKEENE (USA), featuring IDGTF outstanding female performance award winner Lynda Sturner, explores the loving, yet complicated relationship of artists Ethel Mars and Maud Hunt Squire.
There’s also two for the price of one in a set of Irish/international double acts. In A DRUNK LESBIAN LOVE AFFAIR (CANADA-ECUADOR) seasoned Canadian-Ecuadorian writer and performer Thalia Gonzalez Kane explores the vulnerability of love and sexuality, queerness and coming into one's own. Partnered with CELLO (IRELAND), the latest piece from Lesley-Ann Reilly about a grieving daughter who comes across a bunch of revealing letters left by her deceased father. The double act format continues with A SOUTHERN FAIRYTALE (USA) which illuminates the challenges facing a young, gay Christian growing up in the Deep South and the impact of conversion therapy and excommunication. Partnered with THE NUMBER (IRELAND) which see queer theatre writer, actor, and director Simon Murphy in a true life, confessional piece about growing up gay in a country where it was illegal to be gay until 1993.
Our friends from the UK make their welcome presence felt with National Octagon prizewinner ALL I SEE IS YOU (UK), inspired by real accounts of queer life from 50 years ago. In VELVET (UK) Tom Ratcliffe explores the complex realities of harassment within the British entertainment industry. THE LITTLE PINK BOOK OF MASCULINITY (UK) is a hilariously camp frolic on the pressure to conform to masculine stereotypes.
Other international acts include the critically acclaimed Gavin Roach, who makes his Dublin debut with his one man show, THE MEASURE OF A MAN (AUSTRALIA). A show that stares into the heart of one man's sexual anxieties with the kinds of stories much LGBTI theatre shies away from, delivered with Roach’s trademark humour. In GERTRUDE STEIN AND COMPANION (SOUTH AFRICA,) Fleur Du Cap Best Performance by an Ensemble Nominee (March 2019), a tender story of love and loss is brought to life by South African company Gottaluvit. IDGTF award winning veterans Theatre Outre from Canada present LIKE ORPHEUS (CANADA) which explore the trauma of assault as a young boy, following an assault at a club, encounters a man haunted by recurring visions of horror. Starring Theatre Calgary Stephen Hair Emerging Actor Award Winner, Brett Dahl.
Homegrown talent sets the bar high with writer, director, and producer, Sonya Mulligan’s REVOLTING WOMEN - A REBEL CABARET (IRELAND) which looks at women in Irish history who fought for their country. Kildare based Fíor Scéal Theatre present I SEE YOU; TOM KENNEDY (IRELAND), the latest piece by actor, writer and director Tom Noone in which a retired Garda feels the need to make amends with his past. PARTY BOY (IRELAND) is the explosive new Irish play by Brian Merriman based on the true story of Ireland’s first international gay go-go dancer in which we meet shy boy Patrick, his mother and a string of porn star boyfriends as Patrick journeys from humble beginnings in 1990s Dublin through Australia and the European sex club circuit. Witty and engaging, writer/performer Alan Flanagan presents the brilliantly dark comedy BINGO (IRELAND) which asks what do you get the man who has everything? A question Cormac finds himself asking as he stumbles out of an STI clinic shortly after being told he's contracted the colloquial "Full House.” David Donovan’s latest work, MONASTIC (IRELAND), is based on the true story of the Maynooth Grindr Seminary scandal of 2016.
“We are pleased that new Irish companies are embracing this genre with challenging and important LGBT stories for the stage,” said artistic director, Brian Merriman, “This opportunity to share stages and network internationally within this theatrical genre is hugely important for all writers and artists and has sustained us for our 16th year. We are very pleased to have increased support this year from The Arts Council and Dublin City Council to help us build mainstream audiences for such an innovative programme of work, as we meet the challenges to let audiences know that everyone is welcome at our Festival.”
Like gay culture, the once modest IDGTF seems to undergoing its own transformations after sixteen years, with its more mainstream presence presenting new challenges. If IDGTF 2019 seems to be covering many of the issues of the day, for others there are under representations, thematically and theatrically, in what is now the world’s biggest Gay Theatre event. An exploration of Trans issues (are they even gay issues a voice in the distance asks) and THISISPOPBABY styled subversions in theatrical glamour and glory, of dance and body based performances as well as the inclusion of forums for discussion offer avenues for growth in both what is being presented and in how gay issues are represented onstage. Let’s hope funding can be found in 2020 to explore some of these options. For IDGTF plays an important role in articulating gay lived experience, at home and internationally, by bringing together international and homegrown talents. And this years festival looks set to do the same.
IDGTF 2019 hits the city for two glorious weeks of celebration and interrogation on May 6th, featuring twenty plays on four different stages. The programme was officially launched today by Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD. It's online now. So what are you waiting for?
For more information on times, tickets and venues, as well as for a copy of the the IDGTF 2019 Programme, visit The International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival 2019