The champion of Dallas theater festivals is at it again. Bishop Arts Theatre Center will present its third annual PlayPride LGBTQ Festival with a twist: six playwrights competing for cash prizes, American Idol-style. Winners are determined by audience vote. First prize receives $500, second is $250, with each place going home with some cash.
All of the playwrights are Texans, and each play represents the LGBTQ community. PlayPride was born after receiving several LGBTQ-themed submissions to the theatre’s annual New Play Competition. The theater received 28 submissions this year, double the number of entries from last year.
Executive artistic director Teresa Coleman Wash says she’s delighted the competition is growing and giving a platform to more female writers. “We were very intentional about attracting more voices from the LGBTQ [community],” she says. The first year of the event featured all male playwrights. Wash adds, “This competition is important because the theater is located in a very heavy LGBTQ community, and the Bishop Arts Theatre Center exists to serve our community.”
The six playwrights this year are Ruth Cantrell (Stall Tactics), Caroline Cole (Honestly), Addison DeWitt (Copeville), Sierra McCarley (If Fate Steps In), Ben Schroth (You Hear That?) and Shane Strawbridge (Widgets).
Shane Strawbridge participated in Bishop Arts’ New Play Festival several years ago as an actor, so this festival was on his radar. He spoke with playwrights who represent LGBTQ causes and found that transgender characters and issues are largely underrepresented in theater. He wrote his play in response to the controversy over transgender bathrooms in Texas.
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Strawbridge says he admires the work Bishop Arts is doing as one of the small handful of theaters consistently giving a platform to new playwrights.
The mission of Bishop Arts Theatre Center is to “cultivate a diverse and vibrant arts community while creating opportunities for local and emerging artists through performances and education.” Early in 2016, Bishop Arts Theatre Center held a one-act play festival featuring only female playwrights.
A theater center offering consistent opportunities to women as well as members of the LGBTQ community is meaningful to Dallas. Wash hopes the trend will continue with other theaters as she and her team work to give a voice to those without one in our community.
The PlayPride Festival takes place at the Bishop Arts Theatre Center, 215 S. Tyler St., from Sept. 15 to 25. Tickets are $18 here.