By Amy J. Parrent
It's Pride Month, and time to celebrate with – what else – some theater. Lucky for everyone, The Ringwald Theatre has rolled a seven – the seventh annual installment of the Gay Play Series (aka GPS). GPS offers entertainment from B to B (La Streisand to Midler), including second runs of popular past shows and two nights of one-acts by some of Michigan's best playwrights.
"We began the Gay Play Series in 2010 and have done it every prideful June since," said media director Brandy Joe Plambeck. "Although we often do gay-themed productions, we wanted to have a festival highlighting new gay works as well. Many of the local theaters have a play festival of some nature. We wanted to put our own Ringwald twist on it."
The two weekends of GPS kick off Friday, June 17 with Richard Payton resurrecting his Blanchette Deveraux character (from "Thank You for Being a Friend – The Unauthorized Golden Girls Musical") to host an evening of Golden Girls Trivia.
And what is the enduring appeal of "The Golden Girls" anyway? Plambeck said, "I think that the TV show is at core about a group of friends who have become one another's family. I think that a lot of gay men can relate to that. It is very much a precursor to 'Sex in the City' with a group of gals who each represent a different type of personality – the wise one, the slutty one, the naive one, the grouch – and we like watching them relate to one another as well as the men who come in and out of their lives."
Productions manager Dyan Bailey said "The Golden Girls" was always an advocate for the LGBT community, tackling a lot of topics that other mainstream shows (especially in the '80s and '90s) wouldn't approach. "The comedy is so strong, it crosses generations and genders," she said. "They are my grandmothers. Certain things people can strongly identify with and two of those things are talking about sex and food."
Richard Payton is one of the MVPs of the GPS, as he'll also appear in a one-night encore of the one-man show he starred in at The Ringwald last January, "Buyer & Cellar," as one of the actors in a staged reading of "The Newparts Project," and in a tribute to Bette Midler.
In the one-man show "Buyer & Cellar, Payton plays a struggling actor who gets a job working in the basement of the Malibu home of a superstar singer, during which time they sort of bond. Like two regular people.
"The play is a great love letter to Streisand," said Plambeck. "Richard is so amazingly talented, each of the characters that he approaches is filled with such humanity and life."
Dyan Bailey agreed. "Buyer and Cellar is a one-person show, told as monologues," she said. "He does go in and out of character voices when telling his tale, but I wouldn't say it's a portrayal of Babs. I WOULD say it's a great show and Richard Payton at his finest. If you missed it before, you would be a damn fool to miss it this time around."
In "The Newparts Project," a new comedy by Julia Lynn Marsh, the few remaining residents of Newparts, Colorado – a line cook, a receptionist and a manager who really pays the bills with phone sex – decide to raise money (and the town's profile) by hosting a festival.
A porn festival.
The Ringwald has previously worked with Marsh on her one-woman play, "Please Give Me Your Money So I Can Buy a Vagina." And their partnership has grown ever since. "We did a reading of her web series, 'Alphabet Soup' last year and are excited to bring another one of her works to life this year," Plambeck said.
The show will be followed by a discussion on casting for transgender characters. The night will be capped off by a free event featuring Dustin Gardner and a slew of celebrities called "Dustin's Big Gay After Show."
Both weekends also feature two nights of one-acts. Block A includes plays by Alex Dremann (directed by Michelle LeRoy), Dyan Bailey (with director Lauren Bickers), Dale Dobson (Gary Lehman directing) and Brandy Joe Plambeck (with the writer directing). Block B offers one-acts from Emilio Rodriguez (directed by Michael Lopetrone), Brian David Walker (Joe Bailey directing), Dave Davies (Nuverre Naami directing) and Jack Bates (directed by Topher Alan Payne).
Plambeck sees a theme among some of the one-acts. "With the popularity of 'Big Bang Theory' and 'Star Wars,' 'nerd culture' has really blown up in the last couple of years, and it was apparent in the submissions we received this year," he said. "Dale Dobson's 'Party of Men' is about a group playing Dungeons & Dragons. 'Man in Peril' by Alex Dremann puts a twist on the popular superhero scenario."
Audience members will vote for their favorite script, with the winner having an additional performance at the closing ceremonies on Monday, June 27.
That's also the night for "Vince & Richard Perform Bette Midler Live at the Continental Baths." "It features Ringwald darlings Vince Kelley and Richard Payton performing some of the biggest bathhouse hits that made the Divine Miss M truly divine," said Plambeck. "It's sure to be quite the fabulous evening."
(FOR "PREVIEW BOX")
2016 Gay Play Series
The Ringwald Theatre
22742 Woodward Ave., Ferndale
$10 per event, or $30 Festival Pass
8 p.m. Friday, June 17: Golden Girls Trivia
8 p.m. Saturday, June 18: 2016 Original One Act Plays
3 p.m. Sunday, June 19: 2016 Original One Act Plays
8 p.m. Monday, June 20: Richard Payton in Buyer & Cellar
8 p.m. Friday, June 24: The Newparts Project by Julia Lynn Marsh
11:30 p.m. Friday, June 24: Dustin's Big Gay After Show (free)
8 p.m. Saturday, June 25: 2016 Original One Act Plays
3 p.m. Sunday, June 26: 2016 Original One Act Plays
8 p.m. Monday, June 27: Closing Ceremonies;
3 Queer Tenors in Bette Midler: Live at the Continental Baths