Philly Theater Week abounds with queer offerings

“Ignite” is the latest work from The Strides Collective.

Philly Theatre Week returns this month (April 22 to May 2), highlighting 75 unique artistic experiences happening throughout the region. This year’s lineup will include live streaming productions, audio experiences and some COVID-safe, socially distanced in-person performances. Launched in 2018 by Theatre Philadelphia, this loosely organized festival centralizes the breadth and depth of theater being made by local artists, many of whom are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Here are some of the queer showcases that we are most excited about.

“Fat Ham” (Wilma Theater, streaming, $30): Out playwright James Ijames reimagines “Hamlet” from a Black, Southern and queer perspective. This world-premiere streaming production was shot on location in Virginia and features members of the HotHouse, the Wilma’s resident acting company. Streaming begins April 29.

Brennen S. Malone stars in the Wilma Theater’s film of James Ijames’ new play “Fat Ham.” (Photo by Caro Ramirez.)

“The Dumpster Dive” (Jenna Kuerzi & Val Dunn, live outdoor event, free): Queer artists Jenna Kuerzi and Val Dunn describe their latest collaboration as a “personalized punk experience”: talk about a new way to consider PPE after a long pandemic year. The duo will write and perform an original punk song for participants, and they will go home with a customized copy of their DIY ditty. Kuerzi, who’s taken to making candles in the pandemic, will also have their wares available for purchase. Pop-ups will occur at various locations throughout Philly between April 24 and May 2.

“The #Knightlife Renaissance Faire” (The Hum’n’bards Theatre Troupe, streaming, pay what you can): This fast-rising queer collective brings a unique spin of RenFaire traditions to the digital space, and even if you can’t physically dance around the Maypole this spring, you’re bound to have a good time. The event showcases the talent of artisans and will feature a plethora of performances, as well as a raffle with proceeds going to the Black Theatre Alliance of Philadelphia. This live-only event will be streamed through the company’s Facebook page on May 1.

“Talk Dirty to Me: Plays With Dirty Words in the Title” (Philadelphia Dramatists Center, streaming, $15): We may not be able to print some of the words uttered in this short-play festival, but that won’t stop the artists involved from saying them! Philadelphia Dramatists Center recruited local playwrights to craft 10-minute vignettes that are decidedly NSFW, and the best among them will be featured here. Live streaming performances take place April 22 to 25, with pay-what-you-can reruns April 30 to May 2.

“Ignite” (The Strides Collective, streaming, free): This immersive audio play chronicles the experiences of students at an elite college as they deal with their own growing pains amid the backdrop of a devastating fire at their school. It’s the latest work from The Strides Collective, an emerging, LGBTQ-focused theater company comprised of young Philadelphia artists. The creators encourage listeners to consume the story in a linear fashion or create their own adventure. Streaming begins April 22.

“Spilled Milk (& other messy bits)” (Wings of Paper, streaming, pay what you can): This offering of short plays from Wings of Paper describes itself as “Wes Anderson meets Fleabag with no budget set to pop music.” Say no more. Streaming begins April 26, and all performances are pay-what-you-can.

“ESSENTIAL: Behind the Scenes/A Launch Party” (Drexel Co-Op Theatre Company, streaming, free): Members of Drexel University’s Co-Op Theatre Company crafted “ESSENTIAL,” a 24-episode web series exploring the pandemic, from interviews with individuals from every walk of life, with the goal of portraying the diversity of COVID-19 and its impact. The series premieres April 23, and audiences are invited to a free virtual launch party with the cast and creative team on that date.

“THICKETT/Quest 2” (Cirque du Nuit, in-person event, pay what you can): In what’s described as a “virtual immersive quest,” participants will search out pages from a lost spell book and interactively explore the world of fairy tales. Performances take place on April 30 and May 1.

For more information on Philly Theatre Week, visit https://www.theatrephiladelphia.org/.