Entertainment » Theatre

LezFest Chicago Motivates Community for Women's Words Weekend

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Wednesday Jul 23, 2014

On July 28, Pride Films and Plays presents "LezFest: A One Night Fling," a celebration in words, songs, music and theater at Mary's Attic. Join PFP for an evening all about ladies who love ladies who are artists, showcasing a vast mix of Chicago's best and brightest women including Christy Hasselson, renowned storyteller Lauren Sivak, singers Liz Pazik and Libby Lane, performance artists Angelica Roque and Rebecca Kling, and Chicago stage star Ali Hoefnagle. The emcee for the evening is Shanna Brown.

"This is our inaugural LezFest event, and hopefully the first of many," said producer Libby Lane. "It's solely a fundraising opportunity for our big Women's Words Weekend this September 19-21, one of three play/film festivals we do for Pride Films and Plays each year. So we want to kick off the excitement, and get the word out to the Chicago community and beyond."

Pride Films and Plays is dedicated to raising awareness of the growing presence of the LGBT community in the arts, from film directors to scriptwriters. Lane said that while it's become relatively easy to find material about men loving men for both stage and screen, it's more difficult when it comes to the lesbian community. Her mission with LezFest is to spark works from the female perspective to showcase at events like the Women's Words Weekend.

"It's really coming together," said Lane. "We have some awesome people booked, and there's some big happenings creating a growing buzz on Facebook."

Among the many participants about whom Lane is excited is Rebecca Kling, a transgender artist and educator who explores gender and identity through pieces and educational workshops.

"She is insanely dynamic and to have her on stage with us is great! She's going to be a highlight," said Lane.

Another surefire crowd favorite is Christy Hasselson, a vocalist who won the 2006 Windy City Gay Idol contest. As the winner, she sang the national anthem during Out at Wrigley, the largest annual LGBT sporting event in the country. She also sang the national anthem during a large marriage equality march in Springfield. Hasselson will be performing an Adele song at LezFest.

Lauren Sivak, who does education outreach at Youth Steppenwolf Theatre, is performing her published story "Beginnings," a narrative about the first time she fell in love at 16.

"Their journey of self-awareness and discovering each other is full of fear and excitement, questions about 'is this who I really am?' It is a fabulous piece," said Lane.

Another heavy hitter is Shannon Matesky, the slam poetry champion of Chicago, known for her stand-up act, "She Think She Grown." Local comedian Shanna Brown will also serve as emcee for the evening.

"This is coming together in an amazing way," said Lane. "The response to the event and the intrigue behind it has caught fire, and we hope to have many packed nights."

Lane said that LezFest was a way for women to come together and have this platform to tell their stories, not just via theater pieces, but through all different mediums, from comedy to rap. She envisions the performances as weaving themselves together to form this two-hour showcase.

"I think it's gonna rock; it'll be a total party," said Lane. "That's what we want the feel to be: very laid back. We want to clear the dance floor area for ladies playing guitars and dancing."

The event is a fundraiser for Pride Films and Plays, and Lane said she hoped it would raise a couple thousand dollars. But more importantly, she said, "It really goes above and beyond the money aspect. It's more like a call to the community to come together and connect, to meet each other."

LezFest will also function as a springboard for the Women's Words Weekend, Sept. 19-21 at the Center at Halsted. It will feature plays, performances, writing exercises and celebrity appearances, all celebrating screenplays and plays written by women.

Lane is at the beginning stages of opening the event on September 15 with a short film festival. And she and her cohorts have already received a pool of entries, and are reading through 20 plays to decide which five or so they will perform. They will cast local, unpaid actors to do staged reading of the play. Audiences will vote for their favorite and a winner will be named. Tara Branham directs, and the evening will be produced by Lane and Chrystle Morman.

Founded in 2010, PFP is a script and screenplay development company that works with an international network of writers to develop work with LGBT characters or themes. PFP won two Jeff Awards in 2013 for Best Musical and Best New Work for Leo Schwartz's "Under A Rainbow Flag," and one Jeff Award in 2014 for "The Children's Hour." PFP's "At The Flash" performed at the Dublin International Gay Fest recently, and David Leeper was nominated for Best Male Performer, with authors Sean Chandler and David Leeper were nominated for Best New Writing.

"LezFest: A One Night Fling," will be held at 7 p.m. on July 28 at Mary's Attic, 5400 North Clark St. in Chicago. Tickets are $10/$50 VIP two-somes with two drink tickets and reserved seats. For tickets or information, call 800-83803006 or visit www.brownpapertickets.com.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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