Sapphic Stagings

Teresa Simone doesn't want you to get the wrong idea about the festival of lesbian plays she's participating in. "When you think 'lesbian plays,' you imagine it'll be all these tearful stories of coming out," she says. "But all the plays in our festival are different from each other, and complement one another."

Simone is talking about Lesbian Shorts II: A Festival of Original One-Act Plays with a Sapphic Slant. Produced by the Bloody Unicorn Theater Company, the festival made its debut last November and was enough of a hit to become an annual event.

Simone, who is part of the five-member ensemble acting in this year's five plays, and doubles as the festival's publicity guru, says that the only thing the pieces have in common is that each includes a lesbian character or relationship as a central plot element. Some of the plays are quite serious; others are, well ...

"One of them is What If I Don't, by Rebekah Lopata," says Simone. "It's set in the 1960s, and it's about a girl on her wedding day who's in the bathroom contemplating suicide. It's actually a comedy."

Then there's A Lover's Quarrel, a Parent/Child Conflict, and a High-Speed Car Chase All Neatly Resolved in Under Fifteen Minutes (Just Like in Real Life), by Matthew Hanson, which is billed as "a surreal work about money, love and the bionic mother." And how about Lemonade, by the intriguingly named Ginger Lazarus--"That's the one that's probably going to most resonate with lesbian audiences, because it's got a lot of inside references," says Simone. "It's also a comedy, about a teacher who's very obviously a big dyke trying to teach a lot of elementary kids music."

On the other hand, there's Paris, by Lyralen Kaye, about two women struggling to have a nice anniversary dinner in spite of their mutual eccentricities. And Save, by Adam Szymkowicz, a lyrical piece about a young woman whose mother discovers one of her love poems: yes, the obligatory tearful story of coming out.

Simone emphasizes that as far as the audience goes, this is not a lesbian-only celebration. "Straight people will love these plays, too," she says. "There's nothing so specific to lesbians that it won't make straight people laugh as well."

She admits that some of the works do play off lesbian stereotypes, "but putting on a festival with five short plays and a bunch of different characters and situations works against the urge to rely on caricatures."

The five shorts were selected from nearly 200 that came in response to a nationwide call for submissions. The Bloody Unicorn people shouldn't have felt overwhelmed; sifting through new works has been the company's specialty in its seven years of existence.

"Shakespeare is great, but he's been done," says Simone. "Our philosophy is that if you can take a risk on new works, you never know what kind of masterpiece you might discover. That's especially important for the lesbian play festival; it's not like there are lots of plays on Broadway with lesbian characters in them.

"This is a way for queer people, and people interested in human rights generally, to push theater as an art form and expand its boundaries and allow representation of a lot of different people. It's also good if you happen to be a starving lesbian actress."

Not that this is by any means an all-lesbian cast. "There may be some actresses who would come to an audition and object to kissing another girl," says Simone, "but I think the straight women who have actually participated in this enjoy the chance to try on different roles. Playing a lesbian character is not any more of a stretch than playing a character who is desperately poor, or living in a foreign country."

Besides Simone, the cast includes Lisa Mae Roether, Allison Rose, Sara Thompson and Martie van der Voort. Between scenes, Midriff Crisis, described as "Tucson's leading tribal bellydance troupe," will take the stage, as it did last year.

All of the works will be presented on a single bill, repeated over the course of several days. Performances take place at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays Sept. 2-11. It all happens at the Cabaret Theater, upstairs in the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave. Tickets cost $14 and can be reserved by calling 990-3628 or e-mailing bloodyunicorntheater@yahoo.com. More information is a mouse click away at www.bloodyunicorn.com.

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