StageQ Prepares to Open Queer Shorts for the Final Time.
Updated: Jul 19, 2019
MADISON, WI; "With my first Queer Shorts in 2009 I was hooked." Donnovan Moen, former StageQ president, is busy working on putting the finishing touches on what has been a Madison theatre mainstay for the last fourteen years. He is one of three producers on this year's production of Queer Shorts and it takes them and a practical armada of actors, designers, directors--along with a pair of brave and insanely talented stage managers--to mount a production of this size.
Amelia Speight is one of those stage managers. "This is the first Queer Shorts I've ever worked on, and to be honest I was intimidated to take on this big show," said Speight who, on top of serving as a stage manager is a co-producer as well. "What floored me from the beginning of this process is the true community spirit that brings this wonderful project together year after year."
Queer Shorts began in 2005 as an experiment for StageQ and quickly took off. What was meant to be a series of only ten productions across ten seasons past that mark in 2015 and kept on going. On this, the production's fourteenth year, StageQ is looking to try something new. "We felt that as StageQ grows we wanted our season to reflect that growth and the first thing we thought of was giving Queer Shorts a face lift," said StageQ's current president, Zak Stowe. That face lift evolved into a community-wide, queer theatre festival, and the resulting "CapitalQ Theatre Festival" will launch next season in May 2020. "It's an exciting opportunity to attract new audiences and artists to StageQ and to showcase all the amazing acting tropes, theatre companies, and drama clubs that the greater-Madison area and the state of Wisconsin have to offer." said Stowe, "but we are not letting Queer Shorts go without a rainbow-filled finale."
With the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the pivotal Stonewall Uprising, this year's production centers around the progress the queer community has made in the last 50 years and the unyielding pride that has carried the community through the decades. "Celebrating being out and proud while honoring our community's legacy and looking to its future is the best possible theme for our farewell production," said Stowe.
Planning a production like this is not easy. "It's a lot of work and moving parts, but that also means the best parts of local theatre: innovation, community, collaboration and creativity," says Bri Mueller who is on her fourth year with Shorts and serves as the show's Executive Producer this year. "From the beginning collecting new works--especially from those in our community--finding novice and seasoned directors, casting brand new actors and true veterans alike, and crafting a full length main stage show -- it's truly an amazing process."
"What many people do not know is that it takes 9 months to put together every Queer Shorts," says Moen. "So, pretty much when one season is wrapping up, eyes begin to set on [the next]Queer Shorts. From the initial call for play submissions to the close of the show, our board members and volunteers put in their time, blood, sweat and tears." After a nationwide call for short plays, dedicated volunteers start sifting through the submitted works for gems that eventually end up in the show--usually ten to twelve. Many of those pieces this year have come from StageQ's WorkShorts play writing workshop held last summer. Directors then throw their name in the ring, hoping to be chosen to direct one of the selected shorts. At auditions, the chaos of ten to twelve directors each trying to cast their respective shorts at the same time sometimes last all night, but eventually leads to a robust cast list. Rehearsals commence and eventually all the shorts are brought together and the show becomes one cohesive unit.
"You get this incredible ensemble of people together--Queer Shorts veterans and new faces alike," says Speight, "who have been so generous to me personally, to one another, and to the process as we bring the show together. I've been so touched particularly to hear little bits and pieces of "Queer Shorts History" -- shorts that people still remember acting in or seeing, shorts that really touched people."
Adds Mueller, "At the end, you step back and there's so much pride and joy in what's evolved from the hard work and dedication of so many."
With opening day looming for this year's cast and crew, they are hard at work right now polishing up their respective pieces. Come curtain, they will be more than ready and will give this community favorite the send off it deserves. "The biggest compliment we received over the lifetime of Queer Shorts is that the show gets better and better every year," says Moen, adding, "I could not be more proud to see how Queer Shorts has evolved into what it is today."
Speight reflects, "I'm truly sad to see Shorts go, but am excited to know how many wonderful folks will have that Queer Shorts space in their hearts for years to come." Her feelings are more than likely echoed by the entire production and many who will fill the seats at the Bartell during the show's three week run.
"At the end of my four years with Queer Shorts, I know that the new genesis of this show as a festival next season will be remarkable." said Mueller. "Each turn that Queer Shorts takes, it just keeps getting better, growing and changing, just like our community -- truly a reflection of the best elements of us."