First founded by Horse Trade and EXIT Theatre in 2007, FRIGID Festival New York is organized to allow experienced and emerging artists to produce and perform material in an event that is as affordable and accessible to the community as possible.
This season, FRIGID Festival New York is promising to heat up the city that never sleeps with over 150 performances by 30 independent theater companies. Below, in alphabetical order, are the four shows that Out.com feels you shouldn’t miss.
Bi, Hung, Fit… and Married
Presented by Liana Walden Productions – Vancouver, BC
Written and Performed by Mark Bentley Cohen
Directed by Seàn Cummings
According to Mark Bentley Cohen, the show is about:
“living your own life according to your own rules and knowing that it is OK. This idea of lifelong heterosexual monogamy works for a tiny percentage of the population. The vast majority of us need something else. It’s not us who are broken, it is the narrative which is broken.”
The show came about while Cohen was writing a book about coming out to his wife as bisexual. At that time his wife, Liana Walden, encouraged him to enter the Vancouver Fringe Festival, which chooses its plays through a lottery system. When his name was called all he could think was, Oh shit. What the fuck am I going to do now, according to Cohen. This was the inception of the story of Marco, who comes out to his wife after fifteen years of marriage. As a couple, the pair opens their monogamous marriage up and is surprised by the positive results.
“I knew there were other people out there, like me—like us—having relationship issues, sexual identity issues, issues that didn’t seem to be workable within monogamy; however, without the requirement of monogamy these issues are very workable within a relationship. So, that’s really the main motivation [for writing and performing this piece,]” states Cohen. Walden adds: “Because it is a really personal, intimate story, people of all orientations have really been able to relate to it.” She says, “They can really feel it if they’ve had to come out themselves, or if they’ve been hiding something, or if there’s thoughts in their head that they have wanted to discuss with their partners but haven’t.”
Written by Lucas Brooks – New York, NY
Directed by David Drake
The AIDS crisis of the 1980s forever changed the way people think about sex. Even if contemporary culture is embracing a consensual and safe sex sex-positive mind frame, there is still a lot of emphasis placed on one’s STI status. “I think it’s something that we should talk about more frequently, just to de-stigmatize the whole situation,” Lucas Brooks explains.
To combat the stigma associated with sexually transmitted infections, Brooks created this show. “I’ve always been more comfortable talking about sex than most people, and I’ve found that when people experience some kind of exposure to an STI, they often feel like they are alone, that they are the only one, or that they are ‘dirty,’ ” Brooks says. “I think that it’s something that happens to a lot of sexually active adults that so many people are afraid to talk about,” he says. Elaborating, “You can still have a healthy sex life even if you have some sort of transmittable infection. There are so many ways to protect yourself, your partner, and still have a good time.”
So where did this all come from? “Well, over the course of my adult life, I’ve had a collection of initially awkward but eventually hilarious stories where I thought that I had contracted an STI for one reason or another, and then realized I didn’t,” Brooks relates. “Afterwards, it was all hilarious,” he states. So, while the subject matter is serious, he puts his own humor into the production to ensure audiences laugh with him.
Dandy Darkly’s Pussy Panic!
Written & Performed by Dandy Darkly – Brooklyn, NY
Directed by Ian Bjorklund
Are gay men misogynists? According to New York City’s ghost yarn spinning Dandy Darkly, “It’s sort of the not-so-secret secret that gay men can be quite ugly in terms of women,” but that doesn’t mean that he is or that all gay men are. So, how did Darkly land on this topic? After performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2013 “this young lady came up to me and said that I was celebrating the murder of women, and that I was a misogynist,” Darkly explains. His response? “No! No! I celebrate the murder of everyone!”
In this show, the macabre character has four tales of horror to share with audiences. “The first one is more about a fear of the patriarchy. There’s a young girl with a magical vagina who finds herself at odds with the older men who want to seize it and control it for their own uses. The second tale is called ‘The Blood Mother,’ and it’s about a super star celebrity who continues to reinvent herself over and over. She becomes obsessed with this notion of youth and the horror of becoming obsolete,” Darkly says. “Then we have ‘Fanny and Dolores.’ It’s about two elderly lesbians who fall in love and have to face the fear of growing older, but finding love at a nursing home. The final tale is ‘Mr. Timothy.’ It’s about a menacing mortician to the Hollywood elite and how he literally destroys women just to build them back up and make them immortal.”
With all these strange characters and delightful dark humor it may seem that entertainment is the only goal. Yet, Darkly notes that “the thing that a lot of audiences leave with after seeing one of my shows is that there are sort of universal fears that all people, gay and straight, experience in life and even better, we’re able to laugh at those fears and kind of poke a little fun at them. I think that’s Dandy Darkly’s job, to make things a little less scary by making them a little more funny.”
A Sacrilegious Lesbian and Homosexual Parade
Written & Performed by Brian Fleming – Ireland
Directed by Raymond Keane
The exclusion of LGBT groups from New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade led to the creation of the all-inclusive St. Pat’s For All Parade in Queens, which is co-chaired by Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy and Brendan Fay. This play, which was served as Brian Fleming’s master’s thesis, celebrates all the fascinating characters that created and that are drawn to the St. Pat’s For All Parade.
Inspired by the speech made by Panti Bliss and the global LGBT equality debate, straight ally Fleming felt the need to tell this story because, as Fleming explains: “If one group of people, one small group of people—be it the Catholic Church, be it conservative Republicans, be it the IRA, be it the Nazis, be it whoever—is going to tell everybody, ‘You’ve got to act like this. This is acceptable. This is not acceptable, and only our way is normal, and everything else is not normal.’ That has to be challenged... It’s liberating for me and an honor to have a little part in that debate and that struggle. I’m just standing up for LGBT people, and standing up for myself.”
But why does it really matter? Well, as Fleming tells Out: “I think from this [show] that people should really see the power that came from people coming together for the St. Pat’s For All. People can stand up, and they don’t have to accept what’s given as inevitable.” He further explains, “I hope that people will leave entertained and empowered, just feeling the sense that the little guy can win against the hegemony once in a while.”
With so many different and interesting shows to chose from, it seems that FRIGID Festival New York has a little of something for everyone. This year’s festival will run through March 8 with performances occurring at both The Kraine Theater and UNDER St. Marks in New York City's East Village. For more information about the festival and to purchase tickets in advance, visit FrigidNewYork.info. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the festival box office located at 85 East 4th Street between 2nd Avenue and Bowery.