GayFest takes center stage in its third year

This year Philadelphia’s LGBT theater festival expands its programming and takes on more venues.

When Rich Rubin discovered the long-running Philadelphia Gay and Lesbian Theatre Festival had disbanded, he took it upon himself to bring Philadelphia a new LGBT theater festival. Thus, GayFest was born.

“I went to my board [of directors] and said, ‘we gotta do something,’” said Rubin, the producing artistic director for Quince Productions. “As we were facedwith the prospect of not having [a LGBT theater festival], I thought this fits right in with Quince’s mission. We’re not a gay theater company, per se, but we’ve always done a lot of LGBT work.”

GayFest opened in August 2011 with four plays and one staged reading at the Shubin Theater.

“August is a great month, contrary to popular wisdom because the big theaters aren’t doing anything,” Rubin said. “It’s not like the old days where everybody goes out of town for the summer, and the advantage of a small company like ours is that we can make the decision and move on it.”

The following year, GayFest opened in its second year with more programming.

“Last year we moved to Plays and Players and expanded [the festival] to four plays, three staged readings and added the one night stands,” Rubin said.

The one-night stands are one-night only events that can vary from traditional cabaret performances to concerts to stand up or improv comedy. This year, GayFest has six booked one-night stands and Rubin said he hopes to add four more. GayFest will open on Aug. 6 at Plays and Players with “Cirque du Gay,” a gay circus troupe from Kansas City, Mo.

“It’s a lot more intimate and really ranges from sexy to funny with all that circus stuff and a little S&M thrown is,” Rubin said.

Other programming will take place at Plays and Players, Tabu and the Adrienne Theater. Of the four main stage plays for GayFest, two are Philadelphia premieres – “The Homosexuals” and “The New Century” – and two are world premieres – “Cold,” which was a GayFest staged reading last year, and “Someone Brought Me.”

Rubin added he wanted to make sure to include all aspects of LGBT culture in the festival’s programming, especially in the main stage productions. “Cold,” for example, features lesbian characters and one transgender character.

“I’ve always wanted to include – as much as we can – all of the aspects of LGBT and whatever other letters get added to the end of [the acronym] now,” Rubin said.

Community response to the festival, Rubin said, has been positive and he attributed the success to the “homegrown” aspect in putting GayFest together. Rubin said remembers one audience member’s response in particular.

“This young gay man came up to me [after one of our shows] – he couldn’t have been more than 21 years old, a person of color – and he said, ‘no one else has put my life on stage and it means so much to me that you’re doing this.’” Rubin said. “I think it’s important for the theater community to do something they’re committed to, because that’s important. I think it’s important for the gay community to see our lives on stage, and it’s not very often we get to see our lives on stage. Somewhere among all these main stage plays and staged reading and one night stands someone is going to find something that he or she feels is his or her life on stage. It’s not just a gay and lesbian or bisexual or transgender project, but it’s also showing the diversity within our community.”

GayFest will run Aug. 6 to Aug. 24, and programming will cast $5 – $25. for more information.

Luis Fernando Rodriguez can be reached at or on Twitter @theluisfernando.

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