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The Kennedy Center’s Page-to-Stage festival is back. Now in its 14th year, the annual festival features about 40 D.C.-area theater companies in a series of free readings and open rehearsals of plays and musicals, giving audiences a look at new works being prepared for Washington premiers.
Over Labor Day Weekend (Saturday, Sept. 5-Monday, Sept. 7), much of the Kennedy Center will be teeming with local theater folks launching new works. And without question, says festival curator Gregg Henry, Page-to-Stage consistently gives a voice to LGBT playwrights. Following are a few such selections.
This time around, Adventure Theatre MTC presents out playwright Norman Allen’s adaptation of
“Lemony Snicket’s The Lump of Coal” (Saturday morning at the Terrace Theatre), a holiday story about a discontented Lump of Coal who finds fulfillment in a naughty kid’s Christmas stocking. The staged reading is directed by out actor/director Holly Twyford.
“Without being cliché,” Allen says, “Lump of Coal is an outsider. In trying to find his place in the world, he’s repeatedly rejected because of who is. He has to deal with lumpophobics, but it gets better for Lump. It will be a familiar story to many people.”
All the festival’s staged readings are followed by talkbacks with the audience. Allen, who has successfully participated in Page-to-Stage in the past, says “the experience — with all its encouragement and feedback — is invaluable to playwrights.”
On Saturday night (also in the Terrace Theatre), African-American Collective Theater (ACT) presents “Missing Pieces,” written and directed by the company’s out artistic director Alan Sharpe. This new work centers on the violent murder of a prominent gay activist in D.C. and the subsequent investigation by a veteran cop and his rookie (closeted) partner. The duo is led “into a world of sex, lies and corruption in urgent pursuit of the killer among the victim’s friends, co-workers, ex-lovers, drug dealers, strippers, street trade and random pickups.”
“For many companies it’s a blessing to get exposure,” Sharpe says. “For a smaller company like ACT, there’s a lot of validity in playing at the Kennedy Center. There’s a lot of prestige attached. This opens us up to new audiences. In a way this validation and visibility is just another facet of the burgeoning movement that ‘Black Lives Matter’ because black LGBTQ lives are included in that equation, as well. One way to work toward that goal is by ensuring that people see representations of us in arts and the media. These are representations that we ourselves control. That type of self-expression and self-determination is a form a validation essential to affirming our place in the community. Just as increased visibility is an important and empowering component of that struggle.”
Theater Alliance Hothouse New Play Development Series’ staged readings include “Absalom” (Monday morning in the Israeli Lounge), a Bible-based story documenting the high drama House of David (rape, murder, etc.) penned in classical language by trailblazing African-American trans woman author, actor and playwright Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi.
“The story resonates with me. I was molested as a child. My mother is an evangelist. And I grew up in a community where storytelling is very important,” Edidi says. “Over the years I’ve worked on many new drafts of this play. Part of that evolution has included inserting themes of how laws don’t always protect you. ‘Absalom’ also features a trans woman character.”
And Monday afternoon, in the Terrace Gallery, Forum Theater is presenting “Bliss” by out playwright Steve Yockey and directed by Michael Dove. It’s the story Scott and Jeremy, a perfect gay couple whose perfect world falls apart when the past comes back to haunt them. The cast features local actors Alexander Strain, Laura Harris, Kim Schraf and Wyatt Fenner.
Many of the festival’s plays are in pipelines for the upcoming season or next: “A few years back,” reports curator Henry, “we did an overview and 80 percent of the Page-to-Stage plays were produced within 18 months.”
For listings, dates and times, go here.