| Art |

LGBT Plays Take Center Stage at OUTLOUD in Downtown Phoenix

The man behind this week’s cleverly titled OUTLOUD: More Stories from the Gayborhood insists there’s still relevance in a gay-specific plays festival.

“There’s less of a need to be on a soapbox about gay rights these days,” says the event’s organizer, journalist Richard Schultz. “But there are still points of view about how we’re living in the 21st century. Now that gays and lesbians have a higher profile, playwrights have to be more creative in their approach to depicting our issues.”

The festival premiered in 2014 at Phoenix’s LGBT Community Center. This year’s edition, also sponsored by the Center, will take its bows from the stage of downtown’s Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center. Comprised of a half-dozen one-acts written by and often about homosexuals, OUTLOUD features exclusively local playwrights, directors, and actors. The six short works include a musical, a surrealist comedy, and an historical drama.

Death appears to be a secondary theme in most of the plays here. Bee Dee Heywood’s Two Dragons is a drama set in 17th century Japan in which a vanquished warlord hooks up with a military captain on the night before he kills himself. In Execution of a Queen, which Schultz directed, a transgender woman reflects on her life moments after she’s died. Rohno Geppert’s Waiting in the Guff is set in Heaven’s lobby and concerns itself with the possibility of life after death.

The writers involved made a year’s commitment to developing scripts. “The majority of them had never written in the dramatic form before,” Schultz admits. “So part of the process became a kind of Theater 101, where we talked a lot about conflict and how to write dialogue for actors.” Many of the pieces, Schultz says, are adapted from the writers’ own stories and novels.

Schultz, a columnist for gay monthly The Echo, hopes to make the festival an annual thing. “Because we have no gay-specific theater here, there’s really a need to give voices to these stories,” he says. “These stories still need to be told.”

OUTLOUD: More Stories from the Gayborhood performs March 3 through  5 at the Helen Mason Performing Arts Center, 1333 East Washington Street. Call 602-258-8128.

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