"Girl Play 2014"

From 2011 Girl Play at the Pride Center in Wilton Manors. (left to right) Genie Croft, Nikki Bromberg, Sally Bondi, Patti Gardner, Kent Wilson and Keith Garsson. (Women's Theatre Project / June 18, 2014)

The scripts have changed over the past five years for the lesbian theater festival "Girl Play," which is returning to the Pride Center in Wilton Manors June 27-29.

“The first time, the stories were almost universally about coming out and sex, sex and more sex,” says Genie Croft, artistic director and events coordinator of the Women’s Theatre Project. “In the last two years, the big trend has been gay marriage and equality. … The shift has come away from what society thinks to focusing on relationships. The scripts are [saying], ‘We’re just regular people, and these are the problems we are having.’ This could be a guy and a girl or two girls or two guys.”

The Women’s Theatre Project, a company dedicated to “producing theatrical works exploring the female voice,” stages Girl Play in addition to mounting plays at Boca Raton’s Willow Theatre in Sugar Sand Park. The company puts out the call for 10-minute plays and then organizes an all-day session — usually on Cinco de Mayo — for the directors and actors to whittle down the hundreds of entries.

As in years past, Girl Play will offer three programs over the weekend, with each featuring staged readings of six new playlets every night. After every performance, the audience will vote on the best play from that program. The festival also will include Foreplay, a nightly half-hour cocktail mixer preceding showtime.

“We have equal comedies and dramas,” Croft says. “We don’t want to be only comedies. There are serious topics that need to be dealt with.”

Kim Ehly, who has her own company, Kutumba Theatre Project, will direct one of her own playlets, titled “The Happy Ones,” a comedy about a disastrous first date disguised as a wine tasting, where only one party knows romance is in the air.

“I directed ‘The Happy Ones’ last summer [at Island City Stage’s Shorts Gone Wild],” Ehly says. “But there was such a focus on the [gay audience] in that, so there weren’t a lot of lesbians that saw it. I am really excited to put it in front of a lesbian audience.”

Ehly is also directing “Don’t Play It Safe” by Inbal Kashtan, about a blind date between two lesbians from vastly different cultures. “They both want to kind of get real with one another,” she says. “It touches on some serious topics.”

Steven Chambers, who has been involved with Girl Play since its inception (“I’m an honorary lesbian, if you will”) and is this year directing two of the short plays, has seen the event become a must-attend for the lesbian community.

“The women who have come to the plays each year are so receptive and so excited,” says Chambers, who is also a company member of New Theatre in Miami. “It has a really positive specialness about it.”

Chambers is directing “The Conductress” by Lynn Wells Nelson (in which a mature symphony conductor mistakes the interest from a young reporter) and “Essie and Rachel Raising a Son” by Sharon Goldner (two mothers worry about what to do when one of them walks in on their son during a very private moment).

He says he feels he brings a unique perspective to the works. “Because I am seeing it through other gender’s eyes,” Chambers says. “I’m seeing through my experience as a gay male. And through the friendships and relationships with lesbian women I have, I am seeing their experience from the outside, too. Sometimes, it’s interesting to put that tweak on it.”

Croft adds, “We do want the voices to be heard. It’s very interesting the conversations that are spurred. Sometimes, they get angry with what the playwright is saying about our society, and other times they are moved.”

IF YOU GO:

"Girl Play 2014"

When: 7:30 p.m Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: The Pride Center, 2040 N. Dixie Highway, Wilton Manors

Cost: $10 per night; $25 for all three nights

Contact: 866-811-4111 or WomensTheatreProject.com.


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