Monthly Archive May 2022

ByIDGTF

2022 Award Winners Announced

Our Gala Awards Night took place on May 15th 2022 in the Teacher’s Club Main Hall.
Here are the nominees and winners of our 2022 Awards, celebrating excellence in LGBTQ+ theatre.

We would like to congratulate all nominees, award-winners and all of our participants who took part in Festival 2022.

Oscar Wilde Award Best Writing
Nominations: ‘Curiosity’ by Amanda Brunker IRL
‘Babies and Bathwater‘ by Amy Garner Buchanan AUS
‘What Doesn’t Kill You’ by James Hindman USA
‘The Silver Bell’ by Alan Flanagan IRL
Winner: Natalie Meisner for ‘Legislating Love’ CAN

Amy Dalton Award for Best Volunteer
Winner: David Eden, volunteer, CAN

Eva Gore Booth Award for Best performance in a Female identifying role
Nominations: Alix Bailey in ‘Who Pays The Bill?’ IRL
Amy Garner Buchanan in ‘Babies and Bathwater’ AUS
Joanne Callum Powers in ‘Miss Delta Township’ USA
Rachel Fayne, ‘Suzanne’, ‘The Death of Me’ IRL
Winner: Sorcha Furlong as ‘Martha’ in ‘Curiosity’ IRL

Micheál Mac Liammóir Award for Best performance in a male identifying role
Nominations: Les Kurkendall Barrett, ‘The Real Black Swann’ USA
James Hindman in ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’ USA
Joe Mac Dougall, various ‘Quickies from Provincetown’ USA
Jordan Payne Rhu in ‘333’ CAN
Winner: Brendan O’Rourke and Alan Flanagan, ‘The Silver Bell’ IRL/UK

Hilton Edwards Award for Best Aspect of Production
Nominations: ‘Miss Delta Township’ use of soundtrack USA
Gilly Pardy, Lighting ‘The Silver Bell’ IRL/UK
‘What Doesn’t Kill You’ – production values USA
‘Quickies from Provincetown’ Production values USA
Winner: Production, Performance, Lighting and Design ‘The Death of Me’ IRL

Sean Meehan Award for Identity Theatre
Nominations: Amanda Brunker bisexuality in ‘Curiosity’
Les Kurkendall Barrett race ‘The Real Black Swann’
Theatre Outre – lgbt history in ‘333’
Wallace Norman ‘Brother’s Keeper’ voice for the abused
Aerach Aiteach Gaelach LGBT+ themes in Irish language
Winner: Amy Garner Buchanan ‘Babies and Bathwater’ religion, patriarchy and control.

Patrick Murray Award for Best Contribution to Irish LGBT+ Theatre
Winner: ‘Street 66’ hosting, box-office facilities and always saying ‘yes’ to us! IRL

The Doric Wilson Award for Intercultural Dialogue
Nominations: Amanda Brunker ‘Curiosity’, female sexuality IRL
Lynda Sturner, ‘Look What You Made Me Do?’ Quickies from Provinceton, female domestic abuse USA
Alan Flanagan ‘The Silver Bell’, themes of loss IRL/UK
Wallace Norman, ‘Brother’s Keeper’, religious abuse USA
Winner: Les Kurkendall-Barrett – ‘The Real Black Swann’ racial histories USA

Congratulations all! And a big thank you to all of our 2022 participants.

ByIDGTF

2022 REVIEW: MISS DELTA TOWNSHIP

Written and performed by Joanne Powers
Review by Kerric Harvey

From a shocking opening that grabs both your attention and your nervous system from the moment the stage lights come up, “Miss Delta Township” locks on and never lets go, kicking off in the 1960’s and then moving at warp speed through several decades of life and longing in a “typical” suburban American family . Except that this family, as it turns out, is anything but typical, although there are times during the show that ring eerie bells for almost anyone who came of age in that awkward and often cruelly conventional era.
Joanne Powers’ exuberantly creative and energetically delivered performance is, fundamentally, a romp through childhood trauma and the special people who bring it to you. It’s funny, fast moving, articulate, incisive, and over-the-top in the best way possible. Peppered with apt cultural references that lend a good dose of political subtext to the non-stop comedic action, there’s not a wasted word in this tightly woven collection of scenes from the author’s life. Unlike many “rememberies” pieces, however, there’s not a shred of insularity or self-absorption in Powers’ long solo show.

On the contrary, “Miss Delta Township” exudes such an exquisite sense of shared humanity, both the enormous strength and the shattering frailties of this Earth-bound journey, that it invites audience self-reflection even at some of its funniest moments. Humour disarms the ego, and Powers makes brilliant use of that principle as she shepherds us through her wince-worthy childhood and adolescence into an even darker adulthood.

Stuffed with emotional misery wrapped in belly laughter, this feels like a longer one-act than the 70 minutes it occupies on the clock. In fact, I wonder if it might be even better as a two-act play, still short, but with enough breathing space for the two sets of narrative material – childhood and grown-up years – to settle more fully into their respective story arcs. Then, too, the sheer amount of stamina it must take for the actor to maintain the play’s rolling boil is staggering. One act or two, however, “Miss Delta Township” is also a pitch-perfect showcase for Powers, whose wide range of performance talent is both elastic and impressive. She dances, she marches, she prays; she performs classical theatre as an adjunct to high drag. And we are all the better for it.
Most of all, she transforms everyday household objects into the stuff of imagined Hollywood glamour, and mundane places like grocery stores into high drama performance venues. In doing so, she raises oddly-shaped but nonetheless critical questions about cruelty and love, disappointment and hope, illusion and reality, compassion, hypocrisy, and unexpected grace. And she keeps you laughing, all the way through.

“Miss Delta Township” may sound like a narrated tour through someone else’s family photo album, but it’s really a poignant and vivid reminder of the connectedness of all things, and the impossible paradox of being yourself in the noisy company of those who love you. See it. You won’t be sorry.

ByIDGTF

2022 REVIEW: THE REAL BLACK SWANN

Written and performed by Les Kurdendall
Review by Kerric Harvey

It’s not easy, being Queen.
It’s especially not easy if you’re a gay, Black, male born into slavery in the 19th century American South.
And if you like to give parties for everyone you can find who might be, well, more than a little bit like you, life actually becomes quite difficult. Downright dangerous, really, because those “parties” are really nothing less than political actions, even if the people attending them are extraordinarily well dressed. And you, yourself, become a living, breathing, walking threat to the status quo, just by being yourself. And that can get you killed. Certainly, it can get you jailed.
Over, and over, and over again.
But it cannot stop you, if you have decided to be unstoppable. A lesson from the 1800’s, as relevant and as needful today as it ever was, then…especially if you’re a Black, gay male, born into the 21st century’s lingering and lethal systematic racism.
This is the deftly told story of William Dorsey Swann, also known as “The Queen,” who presided over Washington, D.C.’s gay “party scene” in the aftermath of the Civil War. By creating a space in which gender fluidity could be expressed and explored in a period when most forms of sexual variety were against one law or another, Swann also became a role model, an inspiration, and quite possibly the first American gay activist of record for LGBTQ+ people of all races and varieties during a time of turbulent social transition in the nation’s capital. It is also the story of the writer/performer’s personal and political unfolding, based on some remarkable experiences during an unexpected surgical procedure.

It’s not easy being Queen, and it’s not easy telling the Queen’s story in a 60-minute one-person show, either. A play this ambitious could easily slide into glib superficiality on the one hand, or pedanticism, on the other. But, instead, Kurdendall has created an engaging, approachable, forceful and fascinating tale that feels intimate while still addressing epic historical events and illustrating their relevance for social justice movements today. “The Real Black Swann” is that rarest of all things: A history lesson that feels like it actually happened to real human beings, superbly wrought into a story that makes us realize that “history” just means “today,” only earlier.
It’s the storytelling that’s the dominant gene in this potent and important mix, which is exactly as it should be. Kurdendall’s work has a defined and robust dramatic arc, in which he coaxes both of his characters (the contemporary “him” and the Queen as encountered in a time-travelling, drug-induced form) through a classic three-act structure in such an artful fashion that the structure itself becomes invisible.
But it’s there, guiding the characters through their respective hero’s journeys, and bringing us, the audience, along with them so that we leave the theatre as slightly different people than when we entered it. Along the way, we revisit some of the racial tragedies – and outrages – of our own time, as well as getting an introduction to antebellum pioneers in the gay rights movement — who would have been shocked to hear themselves described as such.

They were just trying to live their lives, as authentically as they could. They were just trying to live, period, to survive the hate that so often flared into physical violence.
Over and over and over again.

Which brings us back to the dramatic brilliance and the social urgency of Kurdendall’s play.
Partly an express lane education in several hundred years of gay activism, partly a re-exploration of contemporary racial violence in today’s United States, partly an exuberant homage to the narrative tradition of snapshot visits to life’s unexpectedly pivotal moments, reminiscent of “A Christmas Carol,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and “The Wizard of Oz,” but most of all, a rattling good story, “The Real Black Swann” is a real gem.

Urgent, important, innovative, engaging, and superbly executed by an able and talented artist. Everybody should see it.  I hope to see it again.

ByIDGTF

FESTIVAL REVIEW: TAKE DESIRE AWAY

Take Desire Away,
Venue: Ireland Institute, 27 Pearse Street Dublin 2.
Time: 7.30pm and Saturday matinee up to May 7th.

AE Housman’s ‘The Shropshire Lad’ emotes in ‘Is My Team Ploughing?’ (a poem set to music by George Butterworth and Vaughan Williams), “Is my friend hearty, Now I am thin and pine, And has he found to sleep in, A better bed than mine?” This was published in 1896 – a year after the sensational scandal of Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment. How brave. How courageous. How honest.

‘Pride Poets’ would do well to hear his words in the modern era in ‘Take Desire Away’. Mansel David (Yes, Minister etc) digs deep into the gentle texts of Housman’s prose and poetry to illuminate what he could and couldn’t say in more hostile times. Imagine a poet and writer being silenced by society who were only willing to publish, read and hear what they predetermined to be ‘acceptable’?
To navigate such censorship with truth is a rare thing indeed and Housman did what all writers must do…tell their own truth.

David’s diction and delivery is reminiscent of those hushed times. It is full of respect. He is ‘careful’ as was required by those times and yet he finds the honesty and integrity of what the writer was brave enough to hint at, validate and imply in wider society, where ruin awaited any openly, or detected gay person.
Housman’s writing and David’s collation of this material shows an admirable grasp of Housman’s literary constraints which dogged many a gay contemporary in his life and times. David’s calm delivery is intelligent and authentic.

We all stand on braver shoulders today. It is good when we are reminded of that and this is good theatre. This was the time of ‘the love that dare not speak it’s name’ and Housman and now David continue to speak truthfully and eloquently. A lovely night of quality theatre and warm remembrance.

ByIDGTF

2022 REVIEW: STRAIGHT ACTING

Written by Brian Merriman
Starring Colin Malone and Jeremie Cyr-Cooke
Review by Kerric Harvey

 

Veteran playwright Brian Merriman has done it again.

 

His new one act, “Straight Acting,” is thoughtful, engaging, articulate, funny, and exquisitely well-crafted in the tradition of “situational comic drama,” which brings to mind “comedies of manners” like “The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Pygmalion,” and quite possibly the entire first season of “Downton Abbey” if you don’t take all the bed-hopping and the clothes-changing too seriously. Underscoring the humour in the “situational” genres, however, lurks vast opportunity for mounting challenges to the social status quo that produced those “situations” in the first place, with the concomitant invitation for the author to make a fair bit of serious political commentary.
Merriman’s new work, while deeply entertaining, takes every single advantage of every single one of those subtle and sometimes subterranean opportunities to gleefully disrupt the heteronormative narrative of what it means to be “a man” in today’s society, breaking open gender stereotypes on both sides of the gay/straight divide…which, as it turns out, is not such a wide chasm, after all.
Merriman’s classical education in dramatic structure is a sometimes surprising ally in achieving this mental upheaval. “Situational comedic drama” depends on devising plausible plot developments in unexpected ways and places for a set of fundamentally contrasting characters – it rests of the writer’s ability to being able to make improbable events seem not just possible, but actually inevitable. A kind of carefully choreographed free-fall lands people who have no business being in the same room together into an enforced proximity, which is when the fun really starts….

 

…and “Straight Acting” is fun, make no mistake. It’s cast perfectly, with two superb actors who rise to the challenge of playing two actors easily and gracefully. Strong performances by both Malone and Cyr-Cooke make the core and crucial implausibility of the epically awkward situation in which their characters find themselves not just “believable,” but empathetic in a way that has the audience rooting for both of them. Deft directing and the simple, yet evocative set, lighting, and audio design complete the sense of storytelling satisfaction this play promises, and then delivers in spades, leaving the opening night audience applauding wildly and this reviewer realizing that I didn’t have any notes to work from because I literally could not tear my eyes away from the stage long enough to write them.
Complementing “Straight Acting’s” stylistic romp, however, is that underground river of social commentary, pushing for change in cultural constructions of masculinity, which bubbles up and across the surface of the narrative action at key moments. As the two characters struggle and lurch and grope (occasionally literally) towards their common goal, approaching it from what seems like the opposite ends of the Earth, each of their separate odysseys provokes different questions about love and friendship, sex and intimacy, achievement and ambition, desire and solitude. And, yes, about women, too. This is a play for men of all intimate preferences; it’s about recognizing the community of emotional resources that are theoretically available to all, but which men, as Merriman’s actors explore, so often deny themselves.

 

To the detriment of all, this play reminds us, including the women in men’s lives, no matter what role they may occupy. This a play for everyone, not just for men, although clearly that is the main focus. No matter what your orientation, see this play and bring friends who may not share it. It’ll make for a great conversation at the after-party…and food for thought, for a very long time.

 

Merriman set out to write a true comedy, in the style of high and intelligent social farce, and he did. “Straight Acting” is 50 minutes of sheer delight.   But it’s also an incisive and eloquent statement about “what could be,” for his characters, and for us all.
ByIDGTF

REVIEW 2022: HALF OF NOTHING and PORN

‘Half of Nothing’ and ‘Porn’, at Pennylane Bar, free play reading May 1st.
Ella Skolimowski is a Playwright worth watching. She likes to turn things on their head which makes us re-examine our norms and notions of ‘logic’. We were told in the introduction that she won the ‘Amy Dalton Bursary ‘ organised by the Gay Theatre Festival during lockdown and that the play reading was often the penultimate step before a full production.

Half of Nothing‘ should be produced. We found ourselves in 2067, not sure where but mono-sexuality no longer exists. Ever human has both male and female sexual organs and hence are self sufficient. Their is no patriarchy in relationships, because there are no longer traditional roles to be fulfilled, especially around childbirth and rearing that long economically disadvantaged women in existing societies. A dilemma arises when a person faces inevitable duosexial puberty rebels and wants a single mono sexual identity instead. The impact on self, family and a insistent society are stories long known to our Trans family. Skolimowski is a political writer, gender politics, social norms, insisted identity, all end up on their heads. Yet her characters still face the dilemma of a (new) society that still imposes gender identity and norms. This lense of opposites is used in lgbt+ writing and her treatment is fresh and revealing. Her talented cast read well and the audience response in discussion must encourage her to complete this challenging plot.

Porn is her short play that reached the ‘Scene and Heard’ stage earlier this year. This was a great opportunity to hear the text of a play that unravels our relationship with porn, from soft to hardcore, from spectator to participant, entrapped or age exploited. Her treatment and the reading of the underage role was particularly effective. Skolimowski doesn’t pull her punches. She shines a light on behaviour and issues that exist…the reason they aren’t acknowledged more in society as real debate is often drowned out by ‘moral outrage’. Theatre at least silences that so we can all listen. The audience in Pennylane did listen and learned from the fearless pen of Ella Skolimowski and we can look forward to a lot more challenging theatre in her future. What a great festival opener and it augurs well for the rest of the diverse programme.