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    LGBTQ Voices Spotlighted in 2022 Bay Area Playwrights Festival

    Want to see the future of American Theatre? Starting this weekend, you can—Playwrights Foundation’s nationally acclaimed Bay Area Playwrights Festival(BAPF) invites audiences to take a first glimpse at exciting future hit plays.

    Now in its 45th year, BAPF is spotlighting five powerful plays by five thrilling and diverse voices, with readings that will be presented both onstage from July 29 through August 7 and online August 5–7.

    Among the playwrights featured in this year’s festival are two celebrated LGBTQ artists: lesbian novelist Elana Dykewomon and trans Egyptian-American director and playwright Sharifa Yasmin.

    A long-time social justice activist and lauded voice in lesbian literature, Dykewomon has published eight books, including Riverfinger Women, They Will Know Me by My Teeth, and Lambda Award-winning Beyond the Pale. Sheserved as a long-time editor of the international lesbian feminist journal Sinister Wisdom, and most recently co-edited a special issue entitled “To Be a Jewish Dyke in the 21st Century” in 2021. 

    This seasoned writer has now turned her hand to playwriting, and BAPF audiences will be among the first to hear her newest work, the poignant and poetic How to Let Your Lover Die. Written in honor of her late spouse Susan, this moving play offers a compelling portrait of love, caregiving, community, and honoring the requests of the dying. Of the work, Dykewomon says, “I hope audiences absorb the enormous questions about the right to die, especially making those decisions for someone else.”

    Acclaimed director Tracy Ward will helm How to Let Your Lover Die. “As a director, it’s beyond a joy and privilege to work on a story that is about my community, and the world I came of age as a lesbian in,” says Ward. The talented cast includes Bay Area theatre veterans such as Nancy Carlin, Catherine Castellano, AJ Davenport, Anne Hallinan, Gwen Loeb, Sharon Omi, and Anne Darragh. An active participant in the rehearsal process, Dykewomon says she has thoroughly enjoyed the process of bringing her play to the stage, describing the Playwrights Foundation as both thoughtful and supportive.

    Playwright Sharifa Yasmin craved a queer rom-com after spending the pandemic watching queer films filled with heartbreaking stories. “It made me think back to when I was a teenager and how much I loved films filled with love and happy endings, but I never got to see someone who looked like me be on the receiving end of that joy,” says Yasmin.

    That longing became the inspiration for her new play Close to Home. Set in the American South, this work takes a witty deep dive into resilience, belonging, and the yearning for second chances among a trio of strangers from different cultures—teenage trans femme Zara, builder Colt, and Muslim immigrant Kaysar. “I wanted to write this play as a love letter to that young girl who felt so deeply alone. I wanted to write the queer-southern-Arab-Muslim love story I never got. I wanted to write a play where everyone’s heart smiled at the end because you got to see a family made—a queer family made.” 

    Playwright Sharifa Yasmin’s work, which often focuses on the intersection of queer and Arab identities, has been seen at leading regional theatres across America. “My hope for the future of American Theatre is that when I walk into a room, I’m not the only trans person or the only Arab person,” said Yasmin. “I come from two deeply underrepresented communities and my sincere hope is to be a part of the reason it becomes common to see our stories brought to life authentically on stage.”

    Both plays are rehearsing and performing online. “Since I can’t be in the rehearsal room in person due to health reasons, virtual is the next best thing,” Dykewomon says. Yasmin chose to workshop her play digitally to access artists that represented the lived experience of the story. Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Associate Artistic Director Evren Odcikin directs, and the cast includes Liam MacDougall, Martin Yousif Zebari, and playwright Sharifa Yasmin. “The majority of the rehearsal room is queer Arabs,” says Yasmin. “I’ve never gotten to be in a room like this before and I’m so thankful we were able to create it.”

    Playwrights Foundation will present livestreamed watch parties in the theatre for Close to Home and How to Let Your Lover Die. Audiences can gather at Potrero Stage to enjoy the plays in the theatre setting or will be able to watch from home via streaming during the second weekend.

    Also presented in the 2022 Festival are HBO and Shondaland screenwriter/playwright Inda Craig-Galván’s A Jumping-Off Point, acclaimed Bay Area performer and playwright Denmo Ibrahim’s Arab Spring, and Iraisa Ann Reilly’s Saturday Mourning Cartoons. These three plays will be performed live by an impressive roster of local actors at Potrero Stage, with the option to watch via online streaming during the second weekend.  

    In all, the 2022 Bay Area Playwrights Festival will present readings of five plays July 29–August 7, 2022. In-person performances, livestreamed watch parties, and other special events will take place at Potrero Stage, 1695 18th Street, San Francisco. Online streaming will also be available for all five plays August 5–7. Festival Passes ($35–200) and tickets to individual shows ($5–45) are available for purchase online (www.playwrightsfoundation.org). Come out or tune in to support art and LGBTQ+ artists, and discover some fascinating new works at one of America’s most venerated presenters of new plays.

    Published on July 28, 2022