Each year, Chicago's Bailiwick Repertory Theatre presents an annual festival titled simply "PRIDE," celebrating gay lifestyles and theatre. For the last festival of the century, the theatre has scored quite a coup: a revised version of Larry Kramer's comedy Just Say No, starring Greg Louganis (Jeffrey) and Alexandra Billings, May 21 - July 4.
Famed gay activist Kramer, most recently accusing Abraham Lincoln of homosexuality in the web-based Salon Magazine, is the playwright of The Normal Heart & The Destiny of Me. First penned in 1988, Just Say No is Kramer's look into the end of the Reagan era. Now, with the distance of time - the play has become more of a bedroom farce. The play was inspired by a real event in 1983, where a videotape of sexual activity among Reagan's cabinet member surfaced then mysteriously disappeared.
Along with his work for the theatre, Kramer is the author of the novel, "Faggots" and was a founder of both ACT-UP and the New York Gay Men's Health Crisis. Bailiwick's founder and Artistic Director, David Zak will direct the piece.
Also featured at the festival will be "NEA four" performance artist, Tim Miller presenting his controversial Shirts and Skins at the festival, May 28 - 30.
Jonathan Wilson directs actor Byron Stewart in a solo performance, Conversations with a Diva by Dr. Shirlene Holmes, June 1 - July 4. The show tells the story of a brother's journey from being a sissy to becoming a proud black gay man. A new musical, Breathe by Dan Martin and Michael Biello, will play at the festival, June 10 - July 18. Told in a series of gay and lesbian vignettes -- an executive has an experience with The Goddess in the middle of a sales meeting, a young girl dreams of the woman she will marry, an old man and woman sit enjoying friendship in a park -- the musical present the joys and worries about being gay.
Self Help or The Tower of Psychobabble by Clark Carlton will play after a success in Los Angeles, June 15 - July 19. In Self Help Tyler, a struggling screenwriter, has broken up with Kyle, an unfaithful actor, and hopes to save their relationship through couples counseling, leading him on a trail through psychotherapy.
The American premiere of Australian hit, Barry Lowe's Homme Fatale: The Joey Stefano Story will play June 25 - July 18. The show traces the rise and fall of porn star, Joey Stefano.
America's only African-American Lesbigay Trans Performance Troupe, A Real Read will be making a mainstage appearance for the fest, July 8 - 11.
Damage and Desire by New Dramatist Kate Moira Ryan, is about a pair of lesbian sisters, their literary magazine and a piece of fiction which transforms them. Ryan is a longtime collaborator with the New York theatre group's New Georges -- the company that premiered Desire in New York.
Playwright Mark Dunn, the man who sued the film "The Truman Show" for stealing his premise, will have his play Scent of Rain play at the festival, July 27 - August 22. In Scent, a dying father's last wish is to see his three sons all happily married, and while the older brothers are engaged -- his special son has no one.
For tickets or more information on "Pride '99," call (773) 883-1090.
-- By Sean McGrath