”It’s urban — in Welsh terms,” says Sian Summers, literary manager for the Sherman Cymru theater company, of the upcoming Studio Theatre reading of Cardiff East, of the piece’s namesake city, Wales’ capital and home to 300,000 people. The Cardiff-based play is a 12-year-old work by the noted and openly gay Welsh writer Peter Gill, offered as part of “Welsh Words: Theatre From Wales,” a component of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Coming of age and coming to terms with his sexuality in Cardiff in the 1950s, many of Gill’s plays revisit the rough neighborhood of his childhood. Much of his work is semi-autobiographical, centered around being gay in a working-class Cardiff community.
Urban or not, the Cardiff of Peter Gill is populated by closely knit, hardscrabble people, making due during his post-war era childhood, and flavored with the isolation and homophobia he experienced.
Unlike previous works by Gill, however, Cardiff East takes place in contemporary Cardiff over the course of one day, following three storylines, each of a different generation from the same gritty neighborhood. The play doesn’t focus exclusively on gay themes, but one storyline follows two young men in a burgeoning romantic relationship.
Summers says the piece is well-suited to gay audiences in both the U.S. and Wales.
”It would resonate with anyone from a small community, 10 or 20 years behind the larger urban setting, where you’re not even seeing examples of your sexuality and you have felt like it’s not an accepted part of the community.”
The play is one of seven presented as a collaboration between the Studio Theatre and Sherman Cymru, a leading Welsh theater for new work.
Though Cardiff East is the only play with a specifically gay theme, Summers feels many of the other plays will appeal to a gay audience. House of America, for instance, tells the story of young residents of a rural town dreaming of escaping to a big city in the U.S., while Art and Guff explores the intricacies of male interaction.
“Welsh Words: Theatre From Wales,” runs at the Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW, from June 27-28 and July 4-5. Admission is free to all readings. For reservations, visit www.studiotheatre.org/wales, or call 202-332-3300.