The Page-to-Stage Festival turns eighteen with a bang-up slate of new, unproduced, or work-in-progress plays, presented as staged readings or open rehearsals by D.C.-area theatre companies. And the free-admission event — which fills the Kennedy Center over Labor Day weekend — offers several plays that will put LGBTQ characters and themes center stage.
Among the queer-themed work at the festival on Saturday, August 31, the Brave Soul Collective performs a selection of short pieces under the telling heading #BlackGayRage. On Monday, September 2, the Rainbow Theatre Project previews the company’s upcoming season opener Blue Camp with a reading of the Tim Caggiano and Jack Calvin Hanna drama about gay soldiers and criminals awaiting dishonorable discharge at the start of the Vietnam War. Also on that Monday, multidisciplinary arts collective Hue.Man.Ati performs a dramatic reading of Barry Moton’s Day Dream, inspired by the life of gay jazz composer-lyricist Billy Strayhorn.
The festival’s Saturday slate brings playwright and director Alan Sharpe’s work to the stage, courtesy of the actors of the African-American Collective Theatre (ACT), founded by Sharpe over four decades ago. Performing Come to Find Out, a collection of Sharpe’s short plays, ACT will mark its seventh year participating in Page-to-Stage. “Obviously it’s been an experience that we enjoy and that has proven to be very helpful for us,” says Sharpe, who applauds the festival’s service to theatergoers, “in terms of giving them the chance to explore other types of theater, and it serves the companies because they get to widen and broaden their audience.”
ACT will greet that audience with a broad range of characters and subject matter, from two black prep school students finding common ground, to a cop and a trans woman confronting each other over Stonewall, to a pair of ’40s-era pullman porters putting their relationship on the line. Although diverse in scope, the plays share an underlying theme.
“The umbrella title for our program is, Come To Find Out, which means a lot of different things. Certainly as a colloquialism, it expresses the idea of discovery, something that you didn’t realize previously. I realized that it also means ‘come to find out’ in the sense of being out. How we each find our own path, take our own path to coming out, and recognizing and acknowledging who we are. This year’s theme seems to play on that, the idea of discovery and particularly self-discovery.”
Whether on a quest to discover new talent, or just beat the heat, audiences will have to come to find out for themselves, over the jam-packed weekend, what other gems there are to be discovered at Page-to-Stage.
The Page-to-Stage Festival runs Saturday, August 31 through Monday, September 2, at the Kennedy Center. Free. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.