StageQ’s ‘Queer Shorts’ embraces love

Michael Muckian, Contributing writer

StageQ, Madison’s LGBT theater company, changed the dates for its popular short play festival, seeking to attract more interest and involvement from participants and audience members.

Queer Shorts 2.1: Queer Love will run for six performances Feb. 10–18 at the Bartell Theatre, just off Madison’s Capitol Square. Ten new plays 5-10 minutes in length comprise the program, a series now in its 12th year.

Queer Shorts had always run in late spring, competing with various LGBTQ Pride events, said Michael Bruno, StageQ’s artistic consultant and social media coordinator. The move to February is an experiment to see if the series would attract more submissions and audience members.

The first part of the strategy proved successful.

“We were flooded with submissions from across the country,” Bruno said.

“I am proud to say that three of our 10 chosen plays were written by local authors,” he added.

Queer Shorts’ run during the two weekends before and after Valentine’s Day automatically suggested the show’s love theme.

Bruno said many kinds of love are explored in the 10 works. A look at the offerings:

A Life Enriching Community, written by Philip Middleton Williams and directed by Malissa Petterson, concerns gay couple Adam and Paul and the changes and emotional baggage they bring with them to their new home in a Florida retirement community.

Non-refundable, written by C.J. Ehrlich and directed by Isa Leigh, focuses on a lesbian couple escaping their Bible Belt hometown for a much-needed vacation. They learn more about themselves and each other during an unlikely hotel room invasion.

A Lovely Little Life, written by Dan Berkowitz and directed by Heather Renken, finds Kitty and Sylvia reminiscing about their long life together and how it ended.

Never Too Old, written by Eli Effinger-Weintraub and directed by Simone LaPierre, focuses on Troy’s midlife sexual identity crisis and how Evan shows Troy new possibilities.

Lunch with “Friends,” written by Rhea MacCallum and directed by Jan Levine Thal, considers the reaction of old “friends” meeting for lunch to a guest who arrives with unexpected news.

Perfect 10, written by Kent Forsberg and directed by Dan Jendrzejewski, finds college students Jessica, Alex and Cody searching for the “perfect 10” on campus.

Rex Turns 50, written by Steven Smith and directed by Jim Chiolino, concerns Rex’s birthday and what partner Spencer has up his sleeve in the way of surprises.

Fairy: Tale of Two Brothers Separate(d), written by Steven P. Perkins and directed by Edric Johnson, explores men and masculinity, gender and sexuality and power and privilege — and the way they all come together.

Here or Back at My Place, written and directed by John Siewert, offers a “biblical experiment” with love, lust and the male libido.

Finally, Bruno said he is intrigued by the playlet he is directing, Adam Szudrich’s Slow Dating, an 8-minute solo monologue in which a seventy-something senior, portrayed by Sarah Wehlan, describes a speed-dating-for-seniors event in which her most likely match is not any of the men in attendance.

“It’s a wonderful monologue in which a woman of a certain age finds herself questioning her heterosexuality,” Bruno said. “You don’t find many pieces that deal with seniors in a meaningful way.”

The three locally written plays are by Steven Smith, Kent Forsburgh and John Siewert, who is the first Queer Shorts author to direct his own work.

StageQ’s optimism for Queer Shorts is buoyed by the uptick in submissions and participants brought on by the date change.

The other four theatrical companies that call The Bartell home — Madison Theatre Guild, Stroller Theatre, Mercury Players Theatre and Kathie Rasmussen Women’s Theater — also benefit from the influx of interest and talent, Bruno said.

Queer Shorts is perfect for first-time actors and directors who can’t commit the time and effort necessary to participate in a full-length play,” Bruno said. “It also helps us because it brings in people who otherwise might not have auditioned for a play.”

Bruno hopes the audience response will be just as enthusiastic.

On Stage

StageQ presents Queer Shorts 2.1: Queer Love Feb. 10–18 at the Bartell Theatre, 113 E. Mifflin St., Madison. Tickets are $15 for Thursday and Sunday performances and $20 for Friday and Saturday performances. The box office is open 2-6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and an hour before and during all performances. For more, call 608-661-9696 or go online to stageq.com.