by Mark “Mom” Finley
July 20, 2015

Photo by Alex Garland Photography

Photo by Alex Garland Photography

When I first moved to Seattle there were hundreds of fringe theater companies producing some pretty amazing theater in the city. In fact, the first show in which I was cast in Seattle was The Holiday Survival Game Show produced by Alice B. Theatre Company, who called themselves “a gay and lesbian theatre for all people”. It was one of several gay and lesbian theatre companies across the country producing some new and exciting queer theatre.

Alice B. Theatre was unfortunately forced to shut its doors in 1997. Gay and lesbian theatre companies were closing all across the country. LGBTQ theatre was being produced and accepted by all theatre companies. There were now gays and lesbians on prime-time television. There seemed to be no need for queer specific theatre. We had assimilated into the grander scheme of things.

But there is nothing quite like live theater. Theater helped our community find its voice,and its place within the rest of society. LGBTQ theatre companies of the past helped the status quo come to grips and understand us. And I feel that it’s time once again to get out there and let our stories be heard and understood. While we have all sorts of avenues available to get our message out electronically, there is nothing quite like live theater to strike the chords of change!

I recently attended the Northwest premiere of Basil Kreimendahl’s Sidewinders produced by Fantastic.Z Theatre Company. Fantastic.Z is the first LGBTQ non-profit theater company I’ve come across in Seattle since the demise of Alice B. that has any staying power. Their mission is to produce new and under produced queer works. If the show I saw is any indication of what they’re capable of, they could be a great candidate to be the new queer theatrical voice in Seattle.

Sidewinders is quite an intriguing show; a modern, LGBTQ version of the Samuel Beckett classic Waiting For Godot. But Kreimendahl’s characters aren’t waiting for anyone. Instead, they are trying to discover themselves and where they fit into the greater scheme of things.

Director Joshua Jon presents the story in a simple matter of fact way, letting each character explain themselves without ever commenting on, oversimplifying or by hitting us over the head. The message is therefore clear and succinct.

It’s a show completely centered on gender, sexuality, gender identity. That there is a complete absence of the terms and words usually associated with such topics is surprising.

The show is blessed with quite a gifted cast of local actors.

Jessica Severance’s turn as Bailey is naive yet full of assurance, wondering if they are ‘a this or a that’. The character of Dakota could easily be played as a caricature, but Katya Davida Landau so completely inhabits this ersatz gunslinger the audience never once questions the character’s veracity.

The true heart and soul of this production is Patrick J. Lucey-Conklin’s unflinching portrayal of Sandy. At first glance his performance may seem as simple and straightforward as the prairie woman ensemble that Costume Designer Amy Baldwin has created. But, as Lucey-Conklin peels back another layer of Sandy’s character with each line, the audience slowly becomes aware that all is not as it appears.

Or is it just as it is supposed to appear?

Photo by Alex Garland Photography

Photo by Alex Garland Photography

Sandy sums it up best early on: “First we are birthed. Then we are created. Then we tear it all to pieces. Then we are rebirthed. Then we create until we break apart and are disposed of. Breaking apart comes much later when you are a fool or a drunk.”

The concept of gender seems to be an issue that is both bringing us together and tearing us apart as a community. In this 24-hour, media hungry world, with everyone having the ability to put in their two cents worth, the message is getting muddled and fast flying out of control. Perhaps it is once again time for theatrical troupes to lead the way, helping not only our own community but society as a whole understand all that is going on within our ever expanding LGBTQ community.

Do yourself a big favor and support your local queer theatre company. Attend their productions and, if you like them, spread the word. Word of mouth is always the best way to catch people’s attention. If you enjoy their work, give them some cash! You can write it off come tax time and heaven knows they need it more than you need yet but another app for your phone.

It’s quite reassuring to have a group like Fantastic.Z Theatre Company doing so well at getting their message out. Here’s hoping that they can continue to expand and evolve, supported by our community rather than overlooked or overshadowed by whatever is trending next.

Live theater is very important for society as a whole. Think of where your own community would be without it! Support your local artists any way you can. I can assure you that you’ll be thankful for it in the end.

Be good. Behave. Treat others better than yourself. Always wear a clean pair of underwear. And remember: you’re not alone – you’ve got me!

M’wah – M.

PS: Sidewinders by Basil Kreimendahl plays at Hugo House 1634 11th Avenue through August 1st. You can find tickets here. For more information visit FantasticZ.org

PPS: If movies are more your thing, please check out Tangerine, a film by Sean Baker playing at SIFF Cinema Egyptian starting July 24th. Set in the L.A. subculture of trans sex workers, this film defies expectation at every turn. For more info go to magpictures.com/tangerine

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