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Pride Plays festival commemorates Stonewall's 50th anniversary

Pride Plays festival celebrates LGBTQ theater

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, which brought the fight for gay rights into public view in 1969, the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre is presenting Pride Plays, a festival of play readings that celebrate LGBTQ voices. 

Pride Plays aims to "capture the prideful spirit of the LGBTQ community" by resurrecting meaningful queer-themed works alongside brand-new voices, exploring the LGBTQ+ theatrical past and future. The festival, which runs June 20-24, is directed by Nick Mayo and co-produced by Doug Nevin and actor Michael Urie.

The festival also coincides with World Pride, being held in New York City. More than six million people are expected to participate in Pride Month events this year.

In an interview with CBS News, Doug Nevin spoke about the inspiration behind the festival, sharing that he and Michael Urie talked for a long time about "twin" priorities.

"One is providing a home and space for LGBT artists and new LGBT voices that we might not know, and performers that we might not know," said Nevin. "In tandem with that, to revisit some seminal work that maybe aren't acknowledged in the way they should be."

The collaboration came to fruition after Nevin had a conversation with Rattlestick Theater's artistic director, Daniella Topol. He shared the idea about the festival with her and she suggested holding it at the theatre, in New York City's West Village, to help commemorate the Stonewall anniversary. 

"That was the beginning of what became a 19 play, 5 day, 200 actor festival," Nevin said.

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Left to right: Pride Plays co-producer Doug Nevin, director Nick Mayo, and co-producer Michael Urie. Doug Nevin/Instagram

To ensure the selection of playwrights and plays included in the festival reflected diverse voices, Nevin said his team created an advisory committee comprised of major LGBTQ+ artists: Chay Yew, Moises Kaufman, Lucy Thurber, Sam Hunter, Lisa Scheps, Michael Sheppard, Miranda Haymon, and Ted Snowdon.

"We really fed off their experiences, and the writers that excited them," said Nevin. "That was a big part of the discovery, and with every play that we looked at a big question for us was, what does this play say about Pride, what does it have to say about being proud?"

When asked what he hopes to accomplish during the festival, Nevin told CBS News that he hopes Pride Plays provides a space where people can hear and see plays from their past, while also being introduced to new voices, ideas and talent.

"What we hope people take away from it as we go into World Pride is an acknowledgment and some brain space and thought into the idea that the movement over the last 50 years has always fed the theater," said Nevin. "But I also think the theater has fed the movement."

The festival will include pieces that directly address Stonewall, but Nevin told CBS News that the larger goal of the festival is to project the message and the moral of Stonewall, which he says is inclusiveness, pride, and standing up, standing out and being counted.

The festival lineup includes classics like William Hoffman's "As Is," Chay Yew's "A Language of Their Own" and Jane Chambers's "Last Summer at Bluefish Cove." The producers also plan to highlight work from emerging playwrights like MJ Kaufman and Daaimah Mubashshir, whose play "Room Enough (For Us All)" explores gay life and cultural identity for a young Muslim woman.

Doug Nevin said the Pride Plays team hopes the festival will address issues involving individuals within the LGBTQ+ community who feel voiceless.

"At least in a theatrical way," he said. "We have a very diverse set of programming. We're doing an evening of shorts work by trans lab. Our opening night gala reading is a reading of 'Our Town' featuring an entire gender-diverse cast. Our hope is that this festival highlights the diversity of the community and theatre artist within the community." 

Nevin added that he hopes festival-goers will be exposed to new talent and writers that will influence other institutional and commercial programming.

-Michelle Langer contributed to this story