Pride Films and Plays Executive Director David Zak is making sure that the two-theater Pride Arts Center will be buzzing for its first Pride Month.
"If you want to see a film, see a play, go to a cabaret concert like we recently had with a star like Charles Busch, there are lots of options that the building gives us which we have never had before," Zak said. "So we're excited about this opportunity to present a smorgasbord of limited runs on top of the Pride Films and Plays subscription series."
Before the Chicago premiere of Douglas Carter Beane's 2013 historical burlesque Broadway drama The Nance arrives at the end of June, the Pride Arts Center plays host to a Pride festival titled "Nearly 50." It's named so to mark the nearly 50th anniversary of Mart Crowley's seminal 1968 off-Broadway gay drama The Boys in the Band, which opens the festival as a one-night-only play reading on May 17.
"We need to continue to educate ourselves,"said Zak, shocked at the fact that the twentysomething actors he cast for the reading had never seen, much less heard of The Boys in the Band before they auditioned.
"How do you come of age as a gay man without hearing of The Boys in the Band?" Zak said. "We need to remind ourselves of our history and to celebrate some of the historical work that went before because that work reminds us of the consistency of our path of the struggles that came before us."
More gay history comes with Beds, a double-bill staging of Robert Chelsey's explicit 1986 AIDS drama Jerker and James Edwin Parker's 1995 off-Broadway drama Two Boys in Bed on a Cold Winter's Night. It's a late tie-in to the recent Art AIDS Chicago exhibit.
Zak is also excited to welcome back Skokie native David Pevsner for the Chicago debut of Musical Comedy Whore, a one-man autobiographical musical about an openly gay actor famed for playing "daddy types" in projects ranging from Scrooge & Marley to Old Dogs & New Tricks.
"He's a really funny guy," said Zak, pointing out that Pevsner is also famed for contributing songs like "The Perky Little Pornstar from Skokie, Illinois" and "The Naked Maid" to the long-running off-Broadway revue Naked Boys Singing.
"Musical Comedy Whore has been playing around the L.A. area and Palm Springs and we wanted to bring it here," Zak said. "It's bawdy and it talks about his experience as a gay man and being in New York with all the partying, so that some of our older subscribers will know of all the various touchstones that he's referring to."
Zak also wanted to ensure that Nearly 50 looked forward to the future. That's why he's asked trans performer Delia Kropp to direct readings of the Great Trans* Play Contest Winner so that new works featuring trans characters can be in the potential pipeline for future productions.
Zak was also keen to open up the Pride Arts Center to dance possibilities. He's excited about the show Unity in Dance on June 18, which features same-sex dances choreographed and performed by members of Giordano Dance Chicago.
"I would love it if we could be a place for gay choreographers to come in and do a showcase," Zak said. "We're interested to see how many different types of things can happen in the building."
The Nearly 50 schedule features:
A staged reading of The Boys in the Band at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 17. $25 VIP and $20 general admission
Beds, a double bill of the two-character dramas Jerker and Two Boys in Bed on a Cold Winter's Night, plays seven performances June 4-16. $30 VIP and $25 general admission
David Pevsner's Musical Comedy Whore plays five performances between May 31 to June 4. $25 VIP and $20 general admission
A staged reading of Tom Wells' homophobia-in-sports drama Jumpers for Goalposts is 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 6. Admission is pay-what-you-can.
The cabaret revue Broadway in the Broadway is 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 8. $25 VIP and $20 general admission
Readings of the Great Trans* Play Contest Winner is 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 9 and 10. Pay-what-you-can tickets.
SheFest, an evening of performances featuring queer women, is 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 12. $15 VIP and $10 general admission
The Queer Bits Film Festival is 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 17. $10
Unity in Dance featuring Jacob Frazier from Giordano Dance Chicago is 7 p.m. Sunday, June 18. $50 VIP and $30 general admission.
All performances in The Broadway space of the Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway St., except for The Great Trans* Play Contest Winner Reading in The Buena space at 4147 N. Broadway St. For tickets and more information, call 800-737-0984 or visit PrideArtsCenter.com .