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2004 Columbus National
Gay & Lesbian Theatre Festival

September 9-18, 2004

Review by Bill Kaiser
November 1, 2004

For a theaterphile like me, there is nothing like the excitement of going to a theater festival and the 2004 Columbus Festival was no exception. The Festival was a feast of talent and diversity, and a source of pride to me that there really is a Purple Circuit.

Most of what I saw at this Festival was extraordinary. Unfortunately, I was only able to attend the last four days of the Festival. So was disappointed that I missed so much.

I expected something from the “stars” of the 2002 Festival — Jeffrey Solomon, Marjorie Conn, and Jade Esteban Estrada — and their entries lived up to their reputations.

It was also a pleasure to discover new performers like Journey Light, and works like Jane Chambers’ delightful short play, “Quintessential Image” comically done by Lara D. Haberberger and Lacey Lanier of Red Haired Grrlz.

The Conn Artist Performance Event production, “Deviant Women” was the edgiest show I saw at The Festival, and may have jarred mid-western sensibilities with its frankness about sex and violence. The three actors also performed bits from works by Marjorie Conn and others, strung together to form an intriguing evening.

Marjorie Conn ran the gamut from “Mistress Ecstasy’s Erotic Circus” — to portraying one of my heroes, pacifist Jeannette Rankin, as she bakes cookies and remembers her glory days in Congress as the first woman legislator, and only member, to vote against both World Wars. She also performed in “The Mystery of the Fortune Cookie,” comically pondering bathing suits, and fortune cookies.

Karen Maloney reminisces the loss of her longtime, lesbian lover in an excerpt from Elyse Nass’ “Alphabet of Flowers,” and portrays a scary Aileen Wvornos, the alleged serial killer, explaining her side of the “truth.”

The performance that steals your heart is that of Lulu Lolo, who wrote and performed “38 Witnessed Her Death, I Witnessed Her Love: The Lonely Secret of Mary Ann Zielonko.” Lulu Lolo plays Mary Ann Zielonko who was Kitty Genovese’s lover, the person Kitty was returning home to after work when she was brutally murdered in NYC. No one responded to her cries for help. I was moved to tears by this performance.

Another emotional high for me was the performance of spoken word artist Journey Light in from Darkness to Light. What she does with words is amazing and riveting. Unfortunately, the audience was sparse. More should have seen this dynamic performer from Atlanta.

Other performances also had low turnout, perhaps due to scheduling.

Jade Esteban Estrada, the hot Latino singer, director, writer, producer, and performer from NYC brought his touring show “ICONS, The Gay and Lesbian History of the World, Vol. 2” to Columbus. A fantastic performer, Jade has a unique interpretation of her/history complete with musical numbers. Who knew Susan B. Anthony could sing?

His portrayal of Billie Jean King is not to be missed. He also covers Alexander the Great, Queen Christina of Sweden, Harvey Milk, and Mark Bingham. What energy! Highly recommended. See his show.

Another highlight was Jeffrey Solomon’s “Houses on the Moon,” which he wrote and ably directed. The acting was in the very capable hands of Emily Weiner and Carlo D’Amore. The show is based on interviews and emails of young GLBT and Questioning people. It was an extremely moving experience and quite insightful about the isolation and needs of many young people. The company is touring the show to courageous high schools and colleges.

Also of Note:

  • The fabulous Karen Williams went beyond comic, to poetic, in “Essentially.”
  • Kevyn Cathreen Radcliffe gave us a well-documented portrait of “Christina, King of Sweden.”
  • Michael Burke did so much with cucumbers in his slick performance art piece, “Cucumber Dreams.”
  • Christopher Jackson’s “Not the Boy Next Door” with singers Damien Brett and Gary Cox blended darkness and optimism in a well-paced musical revue.
  • The Puppet Queers in “Innuendo” predated Avenue Q with musical parody of Bush and much more.
  • “Southern Gothic Novel” directed by Gabriel Shanks with Frank Blocker writing and performing is a solo tour de force.
  • The 2 Co’s Cabaret where many of the performances took place also showed the talents of their company (who also wait on the tables) in music, dance and acting in “Labor of Love.”

The ultimate success of The Festival must go to the tireless efforts of Act Out Productions’ artistic director Frank Barnhart and his admirable staff including Dale Gregory, Courtney De Cosky, Isaac Nippert, James Hutchison, Keri Godsey, Tom Cardinal, as well as the many volunteers and supporters of the Columbus community.

It will be exciting to see what they accomplish in 2006!

Some of the following performers may be found in our article: Touring Performers
Productions Showcased
Clearly Marked - S. Bear Bergman (Northampton, MA)
Gay Couplings - Cetacean Love Theatre Group (Columbus, Ohio)
Not the Boy Next Door - CJ Productions (St. Louis, MO)
Deviant Women - (C.A.P.E.) Inc. (Provincetown, MA)
Anna, Leona and the Lady Luck - GBD Unlimited (Sarasota, FL)
Icons Volume 2 - Jade Esteban Estrada (Brooklyn, NY)
Building Houses on the Moon - Houses On The Moon (New York, NY)
Confessions - Buffalo United Artists (Buffalo, NY)
Cucumber Dreams - Michael Burke (Brooklyn, NY)
Lounge-Zilla! - The Oops Guys (Orlando, Florida)
Empty Closets - RaggedBlade (St. Louis, MO)
Miss Gulch Returns - Richmond Triangle Players (Richmond, Virginia)
Innuendo - The Puppet-Queers (Columbus, Ohio)
Pop Culture Princess - Elizabeth Whitney (Milwaukee, WI)
The Book of Boyhood Joey Schultz (Columbus, Ohio)
Southern Gothic Novel - Emerging Writers (New York, NY)
Quintessential Image by Jane Chambers - Red Headed GRRLS (Baltimore, MD)
Christina: King of Sweden - Kevyn Radcliffe (Madison, WI)
Who’s That Lady? - The TAPIT Sisters (Madison, WI)
Labors of Love - 2Co’s Cabaret (Columbus, Ohio) - shorts:
      Class Dismissed by Rich Orloff
      People Who Need People by Roy Berkowitz
      Oh, Happy Day by Rich Orloff
Essentially - Karen Williams (Cleveland, Ohio)
Anticipating Miles - Lost in the Cove Productions (Minneapolis, MN)
Living Inside Myself - Jamie Black
Do Not Pass Go - Bobaloo (Los Angeles, CA)
Broken - Rogue Theatrics (Columbus, Ohio) - shorts:
      Lesbian Last Pizza
      Frozen Dog
Stillwater State: A Gay Oddessey Into a Bible College - by Paul Ricciardi (New York, NY)
From Darkness to Light - Journey Light (Fullerton, CA)
Shakespeare on Love - Actors’ Theatre (Columbus, Ohio)

Award Winners
Best Solo Female Performance
      Elizabeth Whitney for Pop Culture Princess
      Journey Light for From Darkness to Light
Best Solo Male Performance
      Frank Blocker for Southern Gothic Novel
Best Male Performance in an Ensemble
      Jeff Kin for Anna, Leona and the Lady Luck (GBD Unlimited)
      Carlo D’Amore for Building Houses on the Moon (Houses on the Moon)
Best Female Performance in an Ensemble
      Emily Weiner for Building Houses on the Moon (Houses on the Moon)
      Kate Meehan for Anticipating Miles (Lost in the Cove Productions)
      Pamela Wiley for Anna, Leona and the Lady Luck (GBD Unlimited)
Best Ensemble Cast
      Buffalo United Artists for Confessions
Best Drama
      GBD Unlimited for Anna, Leona and the Lady Luck
Best Comedy
      The Oops Guys for Lounge-zilla
Best Musical
      The Oops Guys for Lounge-zilla
Best Sociopolitical
      S. Bear Bergman for Clearly Marked
Best Improvisational
      Journey Light for From Darkness to Light
Best Director
      Kelli Bocock-Natale for Confessions (Buffalo United Artists)
Best Playwright for an Ensemble Show
      Jeffrey Solomon for Building Houses on the Moon (Houses on the Moon)
Best Playwright for a Solo Show
      Frank Blocker for Southern Gothic Novel
Best Original Script
      Matthew Higgins for Confessions (Buffalo United Artists)
Best Technical Elements
      The Puppet Queers for Innuendo
      Richmond Triangle Players for Miss Gulch Returns
Audience Favorite Solo
      Jade Esteban Estrada for Icons: Volume 2
Audience Favorite Ensemble
      The Puppet Queers for Innuendo
      2 CO’s Cabaret for Labor of Love
Directors Award for Outstanding Service
      Rogue Theatrics
      2 Co’s Cabaret
Best of the Festival Solo
      S. Bear Bergman for Clearly Marked
Best of the Festival Ensemble
      Buffalo United Artists for Confessions

History of the Festival
The roots of the National Gay and Lesbian Theatre Festival can be traced to the seventies when Tony Award-winning producer John Glines hosted the first event in New York City. The festival, which is “World’s Fair” in concept usually floats for four-six years until a host is found to implement the event. Most recent festivals include Phoenix in 1992, and Los Angeles in 1996.

Act Out Productions of Columbus, Ohio (the host group for the 2002 and 2004 event) appeared in the LA festival performing its original play, “One Edward 2.”

The 2004 Columbus National Gay and Lesbian Theatre Festival took place during September 9-18 in Central Ohio. Performances occured in facilities located throughout the city of Columbus.

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