“The Briefs Festival” Entertains Once Again In This, The Sixth And Final? Season

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The cast enjoys a curtain call at “Briefs.”

As the old line goes, “Say it ain’t so.” For the sixth season, “Briefs, A Festival Of Short LGBTQ Plays” is underscoring this as “The Final Act.” This has always been a highlight of the theatrical season because you get to see a wide range of talented actors, directors and playwrights who work under the parameters of short- ten to twenty minute normally- plays with LGBTQ themes. They usually offer eight plays that, with intermission, offer a delightful evening that is thought-provoking and always highly entertaining.

Sponsored by Joan Lipkin and her That Uppity Theatre Company, the Vital Voice the LGBTQ community and- since the beginning- the main sponsor has been Pearl Vodka, a home town product. Of course, the Regional Arts Commission, the Kranzberg Arts Foundation and the Missouri Arts Council add financial support as well. This year, besides the LGBTQ community, “Briefs” is honoring our brothers and sisters from the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis and the International Institute of St. Louis. A beautiful poster commemorating that unity was available for sale as well.

briefs-logoWritten by Jon Fraser and directed by Ryan Scott Foizey, “Gaga” opens the evening as Steve Callahan and Daniel John Kelly are enjoying a drink at their favorite bar when youngsters Andrew Kuhlman and Tielere Cheatem enter and start spouting names as if they are conversing in some “twin speak” language. The point becomes clear at play’s end. Then “Straight Up” by Lisa Konoplisky and directed by Pamela Reckamp brings a chemistry driven couple, Shane Signorino and Alice Kinsella together for some sparring. Shannon Geier wrote and Sarah Lynne Holt directs “Twenty Questions” which pits lovers Carl Overly, Jr. and Jaz Tucker in a hospital waiting room which brings on a discussion of their fidelity. “Our Friends” closes the first act and it is written and directed and stars Festival founder Joan Lipkin with Judi Mann as more questions come up about relationships.

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“Briefs” founder Joan Lipkin (seated) joins Judi Mann for a short play written and directed by Joan Lipkin.

The second act opens with a favorite from last year, “When Oprah Says Goodbye,” written by Dan Berkowitz and directed by Fannie Belle-Lebby. This touching story stars Peggy Calvin and Mary Hardcastle as they meet in a nursing home after breaking up many years earlier. Thomasina Clarke plays the overly eager nurse. Theresa Masters wrote and and Christopher Limber directs another touching story, “Danny Boy” which brings Daniel John Kelly back on stage with Troy P. Hargrove as they visit an ailing father, Gerry Love, who surprises them both. “Trial And Swear” is written by this year’s winner of the Ken Haller Playwrighting Competition for LGBTQ and Allied Youth, McKenzie Moser. Directed by Gad Gutterman, it features Kiah McKirnan and Delaney Piggins as roommates attempting a little experimentation. Finally, “Last Night At The Cherry Pie” is a play written by Daniel Hirsch and directed by the wonderful Marty Stanberry. Two solid acting performances from Donna Weinsting and Rich Scharf tell the story of the closing down of an iconic gay bar.

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The “Briefs” cast. Photo: Annie Dent

Stage Manager and Technical Director Michael Perkins said approximately 4,500 people attended the performances at both the Centenne Center and the new .Zack Performing Arts Center. So why not bring back a seventh season? I’ve been privileged to attend four of the six seasons so I consider myself lucky. In case another season pops up next year, be prepared and attend an entertaining and eye-opening evening of unusual theatre.

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