Saturday, April 4, 2015

BRIEFS: A Festival of Short LGBT Plays • That Uppity Theatre Company and Vital VOICE Magazine

That Uppity Theatre Company and Vital VOICE team up once again for "Briefs", a festival of short LGBT plays that celebrates its fourth anniversary, founded by Uppity Theatre's Joan Lipkin, and Darin Slyman of Vital VOICE magazine. This year, another stable of talented actors and artists are featured in eight LGBT-centric plays that appeal to diverse audiences. It's also the inaugural year for the Ken Haller Playwriting Competition for LGBTQ and Allied Youth, named after longtime LGBT activist, pediatrician and actor.

Things kick off with Sharon Goldner's "Recently Discovered", a staged reading that turns Dr. Seuss, complete with illustrations, into a lesbian coming out story and all of its complications. A different "Special Guest" was featured with each showing, along with a "Cat in the Hat", that played opposite Lipkin.

Kristina Cirone (Bartender), Aaron Dodd (Cute Guy)
and Pete Winfrey (Walker).
Photo credit: John Lamb
"Mermaid In a Gay Bar", written by Brigham Mosley, looks at the gay dating scene, with a curve ball. It takes a humorous look at the challenges that Walker (Pete Winfrey), a mermaid, faces when he visits his local bar. Finely directed by Philip Boehm & Michael Dorsey, this piece also featured Aaron Dodd and Kristina Cirone, and subtly underscores the prejudices that lurk beneath the surface in most of us -- regardless of orientation.

The sliding scale of romantic and physical attraction is explored in Michael Yichao's "Bread", introducing us to Dan (Brian Coats) and Olivia (Emmeline McCabe) -- two adolescent best buddies. While Dan has an eye for the fellas, he's always supported and encouraged by his best friend, even when he expresses an attraction to her that she didn't expect. Gad Guterman directs and gets great performances from Coats and McCabe.

Rachel Tibbetts (Hannah) and Rachel Hanks (Allie).
Photo credit: John Lamb
In Wendy MacLeod's "This Flight Tonight", Allie (Rachel Hanks) and Hannah (Rachel Tibbetts) are in an airport, nervously anticipating their flight to Iowa where same-sex marriage has recently been made legal. Though these California natives would much rather get married in Los Angeles, the jitters they experience are unique, but sweetly universal. Directed by Christopher Limber, Hanks and Tibbetts turn in winning performances.

"A Little Splash of Brandy" was written by J.R. Schmidt, the recipient of the Ken Haller Playwriting Competition, and was directed by Todd Schaefer. Maxwell (Donald C. Miller) recalls a sharp memory of his son, Brandy (Ryan Wiechmann), with nagging regret and confusion, while Brandy, preparing for a drag show, struggles with the conflicts between his father, and the confidence he has in who he is.

Darian Michael Garey (Randall), Julie Layton (Ellie)
and Theresa Masters (Linda).
Photo credit: John Lamb
"Periodic Maintenance", written by Arnold Johnston and Deborah Ann Percy, with solid direction by Lee Anne Mathews, finds Ellie (Julie Layton), and Linda (Theresa Masters) after their car breaks down on their way home for Thanksgiving. As much as they'd like to get back on the road, Linda is a little taken aback when Ellie breaks out her feminine wiles to convince Randall the mechanic (Darian Michael Garey) to make their car a priority. Layton is convincing as the flirtatious Ellie, as well as Masters as her serious other half, and Garey as the shop's mechanic, anxious to get home himself.

Lipkin's piece, "Ferguson", looks at the tragic events that took place this past August through the eyes of a gay couple. When Michael Brown Jr. was shot by officer Darren Wilson, a number of LGBT individuals joined the protests in a show of solidarity and social responsibility. This piece, featuring Clayton Bury as Chad and Michael Dewar as Matt, illustrate differing reactions to the fallout, with one feeling the need to answer a call to action, and the other preferring to not get involved. Dewar and Bury play well off of each other, with smooth direction from Lipkin.

Kelley Weber (Gabrielle)
and Michael B. Perkins (Michael).
Photo credit: John Lamb
"My Husband", written by Paul Rudnick and directed by Marty Stanberry, centers around Gabrielle (Kelley Weber) and her single gay son Michael (Michael B. Perkins). Itching to outshine the gay wedding of a friend's son, she puts a fake, over-the-top wedding announcement in the paper. Weber and Perkins turn in great comedic performances, providing a nice wrap-up for the evening.

While this year's plays, selected from over 150 submissions, ran the gamut from comedies to dramas, the stories they present highlight LGBT stories without being preachy, and focused on themes everyone can relate to. With a relocation to Grand Center's Rialto Ballroom this year, next year's "Briefs" promises to be bigger and better. It only runs for a weekend, so keep an eye out for next year's festival.


Ryan Wiechmann (Brandy) and Donald C. Miller (Maxwell).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Rialto Ballroom, 3547 Olive, St. Louis 63103
Run complete | tickets: $18 in Advance, $25 at Door, $50 VIP Pre-Show Reception for Ken Haller Play Wright Award Recipient, Plus Admission for Two, VIP Table Seating & Complimentary Bottle of Barefoot Wine.

"Recently Discovered" written by Sharon Goldner.
Special Guest (Amy Gill) and Joan Lipkin.

"Mermaid In a Gay Bar" written by Brigham Mosley, directed by Philip Boehm & Michael Dorsey.
Pete Winfrey (Walker), Aaron Dodd (Cute Guy/Fish Head) and Kristina Cirone (Bartender).

"Bread" written by Michael Yichao, directed by Gad Guterman.
Brian Coats (Dan) and Emmeline McCabe (Olivia).

"This Flight Tonight" written by Wendy MacLeod, directed by Christopher Limber.
Rachel Hanks (Allie) and Rachel Tibbetts (Hannah).

"A Little Splash of Brandy" written by J.R. Schmidt, directed by Todd Schaefer.
Ryan Wiechmann (Brandy) and Donald C. Miller (Maxwell).

"Periodic Maintenance" written by Arnold Johnston & Deborah Ann Percy, directed by Lee Anne Mathews.
Julie Layton (Ellie), Theresa Masters (Linda) and Darian Michael Garey (Randall).

"Ferguson" written and directed by Joan Lipkin, assistant directed by Kate Warden.
Clayton Bury (Chad) and Michael Dewar (Matt).

"My Husband" written by Paul Rudnick, directed by Marty Stanberry.
Kelley Weber (Gabrielle) and Michael B. Perkins (Michael).

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