”There’s no real local GLBT theater company that’s producing regularly,” says Matt Ripa. ”When you do see theater companies that are doing plays with gay themes, it’s very specifically gay-white-male themes. We want to be a voice for the rest of our community.”
DC Queer Theatre Festival: Matt Ripa and Alan Balch
Ripa is referring to the DC Queer Theatre Festival, which he started last year with Rebecca Gingrich-Jones and Alan Balch at the behest of The DC Center. ”When we did the first year of the festival we weren’t sure if we were going to do more, but we really liked how it turned out,” says Ripa, noting that last year’s festival raised over $800 for The DC Center. They decided to expand the festival to three days, but focus it on just one program of six 10-minute plays. And instead of staging the plays at The DC Center offices, Ripa and company rented out space at Flashpoint in downtown’s Penn Quarter. Local spoken-word artist and poet Regie Cabico will serve as host for the event, which remains a fundraiser for The DC Center.
Over 120 playwrights submitted plays this year, up from only 40 in 2012. Among the six that made the cut: Marjorie Conn’s play about intersex males At A Snail’s Space and Janis Holm’s lesbian-identified Bar Belle. While there’s only one D.C.-area playwright represented — Jon Jon Johnson, whose Grips is about college roommates who reunite — local directors are leading the productions of all six plays. And everyone but the actors are getting paid a small amount for their work, to ensure they ”would really be willing to put in the time,” says Ripa, a freelance theater director and artistic director of Maryland’s Doorway Arts Ensemble — as well as a special education teacher in Rockville.
Says Ripa, “It’s really about bringing the community together … and presenting plays with various points of view.” ‘
The DC Queer Theatre Festival is Thursday, May 30, Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1, at 8 p.m. ‘Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint, 916 G St. NW. Tickets are $16. Call 202-315-1310 or visit dcqueertheatrefest.org.