Vocalists, musicians, actors and dancers will come together next weekend for the first event in the city to highlight a cross-section of LGBT artists.
The first annual GLBT Arts Festival will run May 28-June 1 at various locations throughout the city and will feature more than 20 LGBT performers from the United States and Canada.
T. Desiree Hines, project coordinator for the Traverse Arts Project, which is staging the event, said planning for the festival began in December 2007.
Hines, a classical organist and transgender woman, said she was interested in creating an outlet for LGBT artists in a variety of fields. She looked into what type of arts festivals the city offered — including the Philadelphia International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (now known as QFest), the Gay and Lesbian Theater Festival and the non-LGBT-specific Fringe Festival — and said she saw a real need for another platform for LGBT artists.
“We wanted to produce a festival where the performers themselves were actually out and openly GLBT,” Hines said. “The works they are performing are not necessarily GLBT-themed, it’s just that the artists are GLBT individuals coming together to celebrate their artistry and also to engage the community at large in social-change issues affecting the GLBT community through artistic expression.”
The festival will kick off with an opening celebration featuring performances by mezzo-soprano Elspeth Kincaid, pianist Laurent Phillipe and Hines at 8 p.m. May 28 at First Unitarian Church Philadelphia, 2125 Chestnut St.
Music lovers can also enjoy performances by Matthew Cimino and Andrew Sheranian as they explore songs by Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann, at 7 p.m. May 29 at Arch Street United Methodist Church, 55 N. Broad St., and baritone Vaughn Lindquist, who will perform compositions by LGBT artists, at 5 p.m. May 30 at Arch Street UMC.
Hines noted that the festival will offer options for fans of all musical genres, such as “Bending the Pitch,” a jazz concert with Paul Clark, at 1 p.m. May 30 at Arch Street UMC, which is followed by LGBT Christian contemporary trio Three Twelve at 3 p.m.
Theater will also play an integral role in the festival, with all performances at the new 119 Arts Center, 119 South St.
Gail Schwartz’s “Crazy: One Woman’s Search for Sanity,” with three performances May 29 and 30, is a comedic, yet poignant, one-woman show about depression that seeks to engage the community in discussions about mental health. One-man play “Obscene,” starring Ian Mozden in four performances from May 29-31, is, according to Hines, the most “avant garde” of the festival — featuring frequent frontal nudity and depicting self-castration — centering on a professor who is struggling to understand his gender identity.
“Three Mothers for Zachary,” which tells of a gay teen’s complicated homelife, was written by Shareef Hadid Jenkins, who was inspired to pen the play based on the time he spent at The Attic Youth Center as a teen. The play will be staged at 8 p.m. May 29 and 2 p.m. May 30.
“Starlight Supply,” by local out playwright Shawn O’Shea, will run in three performances May 30 and 31. Although the show is not LGBT-themed, it is centered on the idea of acceptance.
The Theater Showcase, at 5 p.m. May 30 and 7:30 p.m. May 31, will feature excerpts from Robert Woods’ “Welcome to the Freak Show,” as well as clown burlesque act “Pina’s Playhouse” and spoken-word performance “Pussies, Pens and Politics” by Ms. Wise and Ms. Misconception.
The festival will also feature performances by the Philly Contact Collective and Marcel Williams Foster at 1 p.m. May 30 and 6 p.m. May 31 at 119, where dancers will explore improvisational dance and other forms. The map dance collective will take the 119 stage at 8:30 p.m. May 30 and 2 p.m. May 31.
Hines said she was impressed by the high caliber and experiences of the performers who wanted to be involved in the festival. The artists — who represent a wide range of ages, races and sexual orientations — received training at such institutions as the Yale School of Music, Simon Fraser University and Tufts University.
For more information or to purchase tickets for the GLBT Arts Festival, visit www.traversetheater.org or call (800) 595-4849.