More and more, D.C.’s most prominent theater companies, H. Lee Gable concedes, “don’t shy away from plays with gay themes.”
And yet, Gable continues, “there’s so much more work available that is not being done. The top 20 [plays] are being done everywhere, but what about all the other stuff?”
A few years ago Gable signed on to help Michael Kelly realize his dream of offering a fuller representation of the LGBT experience. “Michael always said there should be a theater dedicated to the gay community in Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital.” Now, the Rainbow Theatre Project, with Kelly as its managing director, is gearing up for a second season. The fledgling company is taking a responsible, gradual, ramp-up approach to its work, mostly focusing on “concert readings” rather than full productions of plays. These readings, according to Gable, Rainbow Theatre Project’s producing artistic director, go beyond just actors simply reading a script to include some scenic and staging elements “to give a fuller idea of what a production would look like.” The season launches with concert readings of four short plays in Mary Steelsmith’s The Betty & Veronica Plays series as well as David Csontos’s one-act play My Night with Rock Hudson, which is about a mixed-gender double-date gone awry.
During this second season, Rainbow Theatre Project will offer its first cabaret at Black Fox Lounge next March, and then help kick off Capital Pride with its first full production, Paula Vogel’s The Oldest Profession. The company will follow that run at Flashpoint the first weekend in June with a “campy, vampy, trampy” double feature of two one-act plays, also getting full productions: Charles Ludlum’s Big Hotel and Charles Busch’s Vampire Lesbians of Sodom. In addition, the company next month teams up with Brave Soul Collective, a local African-American LGBT arts-centered nonprofit, for a remount of Thembi Duncan’s WTF Happened to Baby Sister?, a play offering a glimpse into Harlem’s house/ball community.
“What we’ve been surprised by is the response,” says Gable, who has worked in various capacities at several leading theaters around the region. The first season generated “a lot of excitement and passion…. To be honest, no one has really asked, ‘Is this necessary?’ They’re more interested in, ‘What are you going to do? What’s next?'”
The Betty & Veronica Plays and My Night with Rock Hudson take place Monday, Oct. 20, at 7:30 p.m., at Source, 1835 14th St. NW. Tickets are $10. Call 202-204-7760 or visit rainbowtheatreproject.org.