Kansas City Festival Of Short Plays By Queer Writers Aims To Tell Universal Stories

Oct 6, 2016

Can a play – even a short, ten-minute one-act – change the world we live in?

That question is part of the mission of Alphabet Soup: Stories From Queer Voices, a collection of new short plays assembled by playwright and producer Kevin King.

Each of the plays, by six different local authors, confronts different themes within the LGBTQ community, although King feels the production, playing for this weekend only, has a more universal appeal.

After all, there's precedent for this sort of thing. One groundbreaking moment in the gay-rights movement was a theatrical opening in 1968: the first New York production of Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band, which galvanized both gay and straight audiences with its portrayal of homosexual characters that didn’t fall into traditional stereotypes. It changed the notion of gay life both inside and outside the community. The Stonewall riots erupted 14 months later.

In an event designed to coincide with LGBT History Month and National Coming Out Day (Tuesday, October 11), King mounts this sextet of plays, all under 20 minutes, at the Stage Two space at the Musical Theatre Heritage in Crown Center.

King produced the first Alphabet Soup for the Fringe Festival in 2015, but chose to move it to a different space and time slot this year so he could have more creative freedom.

“By moving it to October, we could be part of LGBT History month and not be restricted by the Fringe time restrictions, which can’t go over 50 minutes and limits the number of plays we can do," King says. "Right now, the evening is running between 75 and 90 minutes.”

This year’s Alphabet Soup uses the short plays to illustrate a wider gamut of themes, including a drag queen visiting his father in the hospital in full regalia, lesbian flirtations on a college campus, and “the politics of lesbian potlucks.”

Left to right: Harvey Williams, Dashawn Young and Brad Shaw in Cynthia Hardeman's 'Mannford and Son.'
Credit Cynthia Hardeman

Three of the six plays are by female writers and three are by men. One of the plays, “Mannford & Son,” features two male characters and was written by Cynthia Hardeman, who refuses to be pigeonholed into any category.

“I’m not a lesbian playwright,” she says. “I’m a lesbian who writes plays. But I write all kinds of stories. The important thing is that we all have individual voices that need to be heard. My voice is distinctly different from the other playwrights in this anthology. I’m an African-American woman, a mother, a grandmother, a Christian and a veteran.”

In addition to new works by Hardeman and Kevin King (premiering his “To Boldly Go,” set in a steamy bathhouse), the compilation show includes “Failed Seduction” by Jamie Mayo, “Boys Suck” by Jesse Ray Metcalf, “Lesbian Potluck” by Diane Hightower, and “Peggy and Paul at the Post Office in Provincetown” by David Wayne Reed.

Alphabet Soup: Stories From Queer Voices, 8 p.m. on Friday, October 7 and Saturday, October 8, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 9, at MTH Theater, Stage 2, on the 3rd Floor of Crown Center. Tickets are $15 (with a $2.75 service fee) at the door or at whimproductions.com.

KCUR contributor Charles Ferruzza's work can also be seen in the Independent and online at the Blue Valley Post. You can reach him at charlesjferruzza@gmail.com.