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'Lesbian Shorts' returns for its third year with nine plays

From blithe romantic comedy to atmospheric ruminations on suicide, the Bloody Unicorn Theater Company's latest production, Lesbian Shorts III, features nine one-act plays that either focus on or include lesbian or bisexual characters.

As you might guess from the title, this is the third year in a row that Bloody Unicorn is producing its increasingly popular festival, and the first that it'll include two full, alternating evenings of short plays.

That's a total of nine short plays running in repertory. The plays range in length from 10 minutes to almost an hour, and each has, as the press release puts it, a Sapphic slant.

The festival opens Thursday, Sept. 14, and continues Sept. 16 and 17, and Sept. 22-24 in the Cabaret Theatre at the Temple of Music and Art. Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday matinees are at 2:30 p.m.

The company is doing a special performance in Scottsdale on Sept. 15.

Variety is the spice of Lesbian Shorts III, says the company's artistic director, Ry Herman.

"We've got everything from raucous, very fast-paced plays to quiet and thoughtful pieces," says Herman, who is also directing all nine works in Lesbian Shorts III.

Bloody Unicorn presented its first Lesbian Shorts program two years ago, and it has increased in popularity with Tucson audiences since.

"The response from the audience was incredible (the first year). We got asked over and over again if we intended to do it again next year. We eventually realized that we had stumbled into something people really wanted to see, possibly even something important."

Herman says companies all over the country produce theater festivals that are billed as focusing on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) characters, but few of them closely examine lesbian issues.

"Almost all of the plays presented at them are about gay men; there's usually just a token lesbian piece or two. These plays get relegated to a subcategory of a subcategory, and there ends up being no venue for all of these wonderful shows."

Obviously, more people than simply those from the GLBT community are drawn to Lesbian Shorts, Herman says.

"I would definitely say that these shows are not limited to that audience. We get people who just love theater, and just love the spoken word, and just love well-written characters.

Last year, the search for plays went nationwide, yielding 200 submissions from all over the country. This year, it exceeded 300, Herman says.

"The quality of the work has always been strong, but especially so since we put out national calls for scripts. Now, this year, I would say we have a greater range of plays than we have had in the past."

Herman says Lesbian Shorts III features plays authors with a wide range of experience. "We've gotten some scripts from first-time authors, and scripts by some quite well-known playwrights. And, given that it is a themed evening, they've covered a surprising variety of topics and situations.

For instance, Phoebe Weiss' Here Come the Brides features a variety of wedding guests who inundate a pair of brides-to-be with advice, concerns, encouragement and objections. Sara Thompson plays all of the characters, which number more than 30, Herman says.

Andrea Lepcio's Second Kiss finds a 16-year-old girl (played by Kira Woodworth) struggling to understand why she's not interested in making out with and dating boys, like everyone else.

Linda Suzuki offers two works, Just Sex (Jazz Hands) and Hot Re-Strike, featuring the same characters at different stages of their romantic liaisons.

And then there's Herman's play, Man on Dog, the longest of the festival, clocking in at almost an hour. In it, a woman (played by Jillian Courtney) involved in a three-way affair with a married couple learns a shocking secret they have been keeping from her.

Herman says the Cabaret Theatre at the Temple of Music and Art is the ideal venue for these intimate plays.

"I love working in a small theater. I do it by preference. You can get close enough to the actors to see minute details of character in their performances."

Bloody Unicorn has invited some talented friends to add to the festivities. During Series A, there'll be performances by Dragstar Cabaret. During the Series B shows Midriff Crisis Belly Dance Troupe will perform.

Making things a little more special, a wine and cheese social and raffle will take place after all matinees.

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