BY SID MARCH
Tuesday nights are good nights to talk about lesbian theater. There’s not much else going on in the hipster town of Hudson, a small city on the river a couple hours north of New York, where “Lesbian Love Octagon” creator Kimberlea Kressal and her wife live. I meet Kressal in what seems to be an unassuming winebar, dark and empty save the trio of 20-somethings who arrive in flamboyant outfits, top hats and all. It’s fitting. We are here to talk theater, aren’t we?
She gives me a slick looking CD. The cover is black and pink with hot cast members (some wearing glasses almost great as Kressal’s own rhinestone-studded retro-chic pair) crowded into a bar. This CD is like queer theater geek gold, packed with demo tracks from “The Lesbian Love Octagon: A Musical Comedy About Dyke Drama.” Filled with catchy, classic Broadway style showtunes, music penned by Will Larche, it’s like a blast from Broadway past – only the topics are indisputably and most delightfully modern-day gay.
“The Lesbian Love Octagon,” aka Lesbian The Musical, is about a group of eight friends (seven lesbians, one transguy: a web of exes and exes’ exes) set in late 90s New York City. The show has been a long time in the works: Kressal started writing in 2001 and Larche got involved shortly after. In 2009, after multiple stops and starts, the long anticipated, first staged reading was held at the WOW Cafe, a Lower East Side black box theatre with heavy ties to the lesbian community. A month later, there was an encore at Dixon Place during Hot Fest, and by 2010, the crew had nailed a four night run at the Kraine Theater, one of the numerous theater hotspots crowded onto East Fourth Street. More than a decade after its conception, Kressal and company are ready for the big time. “The Lesbian Love Octagon” is scheduled to run at the Kraine again this June 5 – 29, its closing night coinciding with the date of NYC’s annual Dyke March.
Running a lesbian musical comedy in New York City during Pride is, potentially, brilliant. Countless queer tourists, a media focus on LGBTQ events in the city and a community out in droves to take in the best of the best: if that’s not a formula for some time in the spotlight, what is?
“People always say lesbians don’t go to the theater but 76% of theater-goers are women and all lesbians are women. If they’re not coming, it’s because there are no stories about them. How many times do you want to go watch stories that don’t include you?” Kressal asks. She acknowledges, too, the importance of pushing to have our own stories told. “Strangers have already emailed me saying they’re coming to New York just to see the show. They know that where they live, something like this isn’t going to happen.”
With three major LGBTQ-oriented shows, “Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche,” “Forever Dusty” and “Hit the Wall” currently buzzing in NYC, now could be the perfect time to pitch a viable lesbian Off-Broadway show, but it won’t be cheap. Even teamed up with Horse Trade Theater Group and Wreckio Ensemble, Kressal herself still has to raise $25,000 for the June run. During the week following the demo release party at the Dalloway on January 29, the cast will be shooting a music video for the song “Drink to Being Single,” and then a special video for their IndieGogo page, filmed at – where else? – Henrietta Hudson. Despite all previous performances being sold out and the excitement brewing in New York’s lesbian social circles, there is still a lot to be done.
“America is ready to embrace gay characters and stories. There’s room for us both as story tellers and as subjects in art and theater.” Kressal notes that gay men have been heavily present, and often visible, in theater for the last couple decades, but commercially, lesbian is “new.” Plus, she reminds me, as we break from our work-talk to order more wine in treacherously tall stemmed glasses, lesbians are fiercely loyal to their community. We aren’t going to let this potential piece of history just slip through the cracks, are we?
“The Lesbian Love Octagon” Demo Release Party will be held at the Dalloway (525 Broom St., NYC), owned by celesbians Kim Stolz and Amanda Leigh Dunn, on Tuesday January 29 from 6-9. A donation of any size gets you a copy of the demo CD. Put on your snazziest specs and grab your girlfriend, your ex and her ex, too. This is a party not to be missed!