Yay! It’s KC Fringe Fest time again! From July 17 to July 27, Kansas City’s annual arts festival will take over Westport, Midtown, and the Crossroads. If you haven’t attended a Fringe event before, your chance is here. Get on that!
Fringe consists of dozens of brand new plays, spoken word and musical performances, dance, visual art displays, films, and a whole lot of art that is too unusual to be easily categorized. Attending Fringe shows is local culture creation and consumption at its most democratic, surprising, and delightful. Oh, and also affordable. Most shows are $10. You also need to buy a $5 Fringe Button, sold at every performance venue, which you have to keep with you to get into shows; it’s a one-time purchase, good for the duration of Fringe. Tickets to individual shows can be purchased online (http://kc-fringe.ticketleap.com/), through a mobile app, or at each venue’s box office.
Make time to go see some Fringe stuff in July. You don’t have something better to do. You’ll see something strange and new. You’ll meet new people. You’ll look cute and artsy. Taking a date to a Fringe show is worth a drawer full of Andrew Christian.
And there’s a whole lot of great LGBTQ stuff at Fringe this summer! A lot of our artists are getting their stories told in new, weird, powerful ways. Go support them! Here are some of the LGBTQ highlights.
Stairway to Kevin 2: Heavy Fantasy by Kevin Thornton
I saw the first Stairway to Kevin last year at Fringe, and Kevin Thornton is so damn adorable. And talented! We’re talking a one-man comedy rock-n-roll musical here, folks. He’s the writer, the star, and the band. He’s been touring with his shows for the past few years to sold-out houses, as well as popping up on NPR and as a guest lecturer at Berkeley. This year’s installment has Thornton finding himself broke and homeless, but ready to sing adorable songs with his adorable voice and make thought-provoking — yet adorable — observations about the search for love, sex, and the meaning of life. Thornton’s also out as a member of the LGBT community, and his work boogies with happy, queer energy. Stairway to Kevin 2: Heavy Fantasy performs Friday, July 18 @ 8 p.m.; Sunday, July 20 @ 6:30 p.m.; Friday, July 25 @ 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, July 26 @ 9:30 p.m. The Buffalo Room (in the Westport Flea Market), 817 Westport Rd., Kansas City, Mo.
Melinda Ryder’s Delicious Divas!!!
Melinda, Melinda! Queen among Queens! Empress of the Plains! Fairy Godmother to even the lowliest of the Kansas City proletariat. Brush against us with but the hem of your gown and we shall be healed. Melinda and Kirk have wrangled up some of their favorite queens for an evening of draggy glamour, live vocal performances, and comedy. The lineup includes Loreal, Loretta Martin, Sandy Kay, and Rozz Smith. All proceeds go to LIKEME Lighthouse and GLAMA (Gay and Lesbian Archives of Mid-America), because Melinda Ryder never met a dollar she didn’t give right back to the community. The schedule for Melinda Ryder’s Delicious Divas!!! isn’t finalized, so keep checking the Fringe website, but it will be performed at Off Center Theatre at Crown Center, 2450 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo.
Drunks from Play On Productions and Pete Bakely
Hilarious jack-of-all-theater Pete Bakely wrote and Brian Moses (The Living Room’s maestro) directs this dark, naughty original comedy. Two actors and a screenwriter, stuck in an abandoned motel for the night, find themselves naked and duct-taped to a chair the next morning. Drinking, drugs, vomiting, banter, and the longest same-sex kiss you’ll see at Fringe this year. Drunks performs Saturday, July 19 @ 7:30 p.m.; Monday, July 21 @ 6:00 p.m.; Tuesday, July 22 @ 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday, July 23 @ 9 p.m.; Saturday, July 26 @10:30 p.m.. Phosphor Studios, 1730 Broadway, Kansas City, Mo.
How I Lost My Virginity at 29 & Other Embarrassing Tales
by Brian Schiller
Stand-up comic Brian Schiller is straight. How I Lost My Virginity… follows Schiller’s journey of self-discovery through surviving sexual abuse, therapy, and grief. None of which are funny topics (well, maybe therapy). But Schiller insists that LGBT audiences love his story. Schiller says one gay audience member said, “I think that your show resonates with a gay crowd because it is a story to which we can relate. As a community, gays have all experienced what it is like to be ‘othered,’ or to have an abnormal experience. …Our experience allows us to appreciate the humor of your show.” How I Lost My Virginity at 29 & Other Embarrassing Tales performs Friday, July 18 @ 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, July 19 @ 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.; Sunday, July 20 @ 6 p.m. The Fishtank, 1715 Wyandotte, Kansas City, Mo.
PathWays: The Digital Musical
by Lei Lei Lashawn
Now here’s the kind of boldly unique, multi-genre piece that makes Fringe so pleasantly unpredictable. LGBT community member and playwright Lei Lei Lashawn stars in this original percussion musical/spoken word/visual art/performance piece hybrid about one woman’s surreal quest to reconnect with her lost brother. The protagonist identifies at times as a butterfly, at other times as a woman whose consciousness leaks out beyond her own self, all over the course of a moving investigation into loss and sanity. Bring tissues and an appetite for the mysterious. PathWays: The Digital Musical performs Tuesday, July 22 @ 9 p.m.; Thursday, July 24 @ 9 p.m.; Saturday, July 26 @ 7:30 p.m. The Fishtank, 1715 Wyandotte, Kansas City, Mo.
Project Pride Presents Queerios!
from The Coterie Theater
The Coterie further cements its standing as the most progressive youth theater company with Queerios! Created by Project Pride, The Coterie’s queer youth theater troupe. You’ll tour Queer Company Labs, utilizing comedy, drama, and movement in dynamic scenes that explore issues of LGBT empowerment, bullying and superheroes. Things are getting better for queer kids, and it’s because of gutsy people like the teenagers who wrote this . A ticket to Queerios is a 2-for-1 deal: a scandalously charming hour of theater and an exhibition of contemporary queer youth courage. Queerios! performs Saturday, July 19 @ 5 p.m.; Sunday, July 20 @ 3 p.m.; Friday, July 25 @ 7:30 p.m. Off Center Theatre at Crown Center, 2450 Grand Ave., Kansas City, Mo.
Kings of Israel, by Schaeffer Nelson
This provocative, original play takes the audience through a gay’d up retelling of the David-King Saul story from the Bible. Kings of Israel picks up the Biblical narrative right after the shepherd David is secretly anointed the next king of Israel. Over a series of bedroom conversations, David must decide how intimate he can be with the paranoid King Saul, whom he is secretly about to overthrow. The show’s already ruffling feathers — just say the phrase “gay Bible story” aloud and watch the eyebrows rise. But LGBT people of faith, you’re gonna like this one. And Phil Kinen directs, hot off his work on DeDe DeVille’s hilarious First Lady? If you want controversial, arresting gay theater, here’s your ticket. Kings of Israel performs Friday, July 18 @ 6 p.m.; Sunday, July 20 @ 7:30 p.m.; Friday, July 25 @ 9 p.m.; Saturday, July 26 @ 6 p.m. Phosphor Studios, 1730 Broadway, Kansas City, Mo.
Bad Auditions from Whim Productions and Kevin King
From out, proud, and prolific gay KC playwright Kevin King. It takes audiences behind the scenes to the sometimes unintentionally funny experience of auditioning for a play. In theater-giddy Kansas City, Bad Auditions may repeat the big ticket sales of Whim Production’s 2011 Fringe hit Film Classics Presents: Heaven So Far. The phonebook of comic actors that make up the Whim-sized ensemble won’t hurt either — Stefanie Stevens, Genewa Stanwyck, Seth Macchi and Tara Varney, to name a few. The roster of performers will change every night; every performance will be unique. Bad Auditions will be Friday, July 18 @ 10:30 p.m.; Sunday, July 20 @ 4:30 p.m.; Tuesday, July 22 @ 6 p.m.; Thursday, July 24 @ 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, July 26 @ 9 p.m. The Fishtank, 1715 Wyandotte, Kansas City, Mo.
Mighty Mo Combo! from Mighty Mo Combo
From the loins of Kansas City’s LGBT Mid-America Freedom Band comes the Mighty Mo Combo, our very own queer, campy jazz ensemble. Their Fringe show offers a cheeky take on favorite classical works altered to fit jazz and rock idioms. “Fly Me to the Moon,” “Tuxedo Junction,” and high-brow goofball fare like “Funkythrustra” based on “Also Sprach Zarathustra.” Mighty Mo Combo! performs Saturday, July 19 @ 6:30 p.m.; Sunday, July 20 @ 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, July 26 @ 7:30 p.m. Off Center Theatre at Crown Center, 2450 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo.
(Virgin.) by Jesse Ray Metcalf
Out playwright Jesse Ray Metcalf teams up with talented, out director J. Will Fritz for this original send-up of Catholic school girl life. Some damn fine local actresses are performing this story of high school sinfulness, Sapphic tension, and virginities — Alisa Lynn and Ellen Kirk, to name a few. Oh, and Melissa Fennewald. A word about Melissa Fennewald. There are two types of people in this world. People who have witnessed Melissa Fennewald arch an eyebrow and deadpan a comedic line with goosebump perfection, and people who have not. Only one of those groups of people can die having led a full life. Lead a full life. Go see (Virgin.) (Virgin.) performs Friday, July 18 @ 9:30 p.m.; Saturday, July 19 @ 3:30 p.m.; Monday, July 21 @ 6:30 p.m.; Wednesday, July 23 @ 8 p.m.; Friday, July 25 @ 6 p.m.; Saturday, July 26 @ 9:30 p.m. Just Off Broadway Theatre, 3051 Central in Penn Valley Park, Kansas City, Mo.
More 4Play: Mmm! by Frank Higgins, Forrest Attaway, Teresa Leggard and Schaeffer Nelson
4Play series returns to offer KC audiences maximum pleasure and ultimate satisfaction. More 4Play is a collection of very sexy one-acts, and one of the entries is a gay narrative written by a gay playwright, me (sorry for the shameless self-promotion). My one-act, Fishers of Men, is about the über-awkward encounter between an unwitting evangelist and a man cruising a bathroom for anonymous sex. The other plays are written by local playwright legends. Frank Higgins gives us 99 Ways, the story of a straight couple struggling to incorporate a Cosmo sex article into their relationship. Forrest Attaway’s The Interview depicts a TV interview with a rock star who relates a shattering experience. And Teresa Leggard’s The Birthday sends a daughter back from the future to convince her mother to get into a sexual relationship pronto so that the daughter can eventually be born. And it’s all directed by Scott “Don’t-mind-me,-I’m-just-flawless” Cordes. You know you want to see this … and why resist your burning lust for good theater? More 4Play: Mmm! performs Saturday, July 19 @ 8 p.m.; Sunday, July 20 @ 6 p.m.; Monday, July 21 @ 9 p.m.; Wednesday, July 23 @ 6 p.m.; Thursday, July 24 @ 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, July 26 @ 10:30 p.m.. Off Center Theatre at Crown Center, 2450 Grand Ave., Kansas City, Mo.