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Last year, That Uppity Theatre Company and The Vital Voice co-produced the first annual "Briefs: A Festival of Short LGBT Plays." And they did very, very well for a first-year event: all four performances sold out. (So before we even get rolling on the details, know that advance ticket purchases are highly recommended; they may or may not be available at the door.)
The festival's concept is simple: one 90-minute show consisting of 7 one-act, 10-minute plays. That format allows for a multitude of LGBT voices—young and old, extroverted and introverted, funny and sad—and makes for a lively night of theater to boot. Doors open one hour before shows (and stay open one hour after), with a DJ and a cash bar, to make the festival "more than just a theatrical production." In fact, Briefs' slogan is "come for the plays, stay for the party;" the plays are being staged at La Perla, a rehabbed downtown bank, rather than in a traditional theater.
The productions are also a showcase for some of St. Louis' most veteran actors, directors, and playwrights. This year's lineup includes "Are You Married?" a one-act written and directed by Uppity's artistic director, Joan Lipkin; "Black Eye," by Carolyn Gage, directed by Christopher Limber; "My Jesus Year," by Tony Foster, directed by Lee Anne Matthews; "Waiting for the Skell," by EM Lewis, directed by Bonnie Taylor; "Surprise," by Ken Haller, directed by Michael B. Perkins; "Zoo Story 2.0," by Rich Espey, directed by Marty Stanberry; and "Lady and the Tramp," a piece performed by local burlesque stars Lola van Ella and Sammich the Tramp. Other performers include Robert Davis, Wendy Greenwood, Ken Haller, Daniel John Kelly, Annamaria Pileggi, Hannah Ryan, Joshua Thomas, Theresa Masters, Nicole Angeli, Justin Ivan Brown, Troy P. Turnipseed, and Maggie Conroy.
"Briefs is distinctive because the festival was the first of its kind in St. Louis," says "Skell," director Bonnie Taylor. "It brings together gay and non-gay communities, modeled by a diverse group of directors, and material written by both gay and lesbian and allied playwrights."
The festival's also unique in its community outreach. This Thursday, the festival's opening night, organizers are offering reduced ticket prices and a pizza party for youth; on the closing day, they will honor LGBT seniors with a brunch. But for theater audiences—both gay and straight—it's also about pure entertainment. As Co-Executive producer Leon Braxton observes in the video below, "Where else can you go to a theater, see a play, have a drink, meet people you may or may not know, and have one heck of a good time?" Good question! And there's only one way to find out.
"Briefs: A Festival of Short LGBT Plays," February 28 through March 3. Performances take place at La Perla, 312 North 8th. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door; they can be purchased online at Brown Paper Tickets. For more information, call 314-995-4600.