Gay Play Weekend May 9 to 11, 2014

 PFP’s Gay Play Weekend includes a thrilling musical about a tragedy in gay history, and a historical drama about Michelangelo. You will also see a murder mystery which takes place at a party where everyone is dressed as Joan Crawford, a fun piece about gay dating today, and a drama about abuse and healing.  These are the themes of the five finalists in Pride Films and Plays’ 2014 Gay Play and Musical Contest.The scripts will be staged as enhanced staged reading with movement and some design elements, done by five exciting directors: Eric Hoff, Larry Baker, John Nasca, Katherine Siegel, and Derek Van Barham.The schedule for Gay Play Weekend is:

  • Friday, May 9 at 7pm The View UpStairs by Max Vernon; directed by Eric Hoff
  • Saturday, May 10 at 2pm Michelangelo and Tommaso by James Rosenfield; directed by Katherine Siegel
  • Saturday, May 10 at 7:00pm Who Killed Joan Crawford? by Michael Leeds; directed by John Nasca
  • Sunday, May 11 at 11am, The Book of Andy by Michael J. Mejia; directed by Derek Van Barham
  • Sunday, May 11 at 3pm, Gentle Passage by Paul Elliott; directed by Larry Baker

Tickets for each performance are $10, or $5 for students and seniors over 62.  Industry tickets are pay-what-you-can for all performances. For tickets visit

Synopsis, author bios, and director bios follow.

The View UpStairs by Max Vernon (New York, NY), Directed by Eric Hoff,            Friday, May 9 at 7:00 pm

The View UpStairs is an original musical inspired by the UpStairs Lounge Fire- a little known arson attack that occurred in 1973 in New Orleans. To this day it remains the worst massacre in US LGBT history.

Max Vernon is a composer/lyricist, playwright, and performer based out of NYC. His work has been praised in New York Magazine, The New Yorker, W, Out Magazine, among others. His musicals include Wired (Ars Nova, Eugene O’Neill Conference Finalist, NAMT finalist) The View UpStairs (NYU-Tisch, Two River Theater, Joe’s Pub, Weston New Musical Award Nominee), and Sugarbaby (Joe’s Pub). He is a 2013-2014 Dramatist Guild Theater Fellow.

Eric Hoff is an Artistic Associate with About Face Theatre, credits include Off-Broadway at Barrow Street Theatre and 59E59. Chicago credits include Steppenwolf Garage and Red Tape Theatre. Has developed new plays at Goodman, New York Theatre Workshop and NYU.


Michelangelo and Tommaso by James Rosenfield (Sacramento, CA), directed by Katherine Siegel, Saturday, May 10 at 2 pm

Genius, passion, and the bloodthirsty Inquisition collide and explode in James Rosenfield’s MICHELANGELO AND TOMMASO. The Catholic Church’s whitewash of the lifelong affair of Michelangelo and the Roman nobleman Tommaso de Cavalieri included a fictional biography, the burning of private papers, and the threat of heresy, until Tommaso finally fought back, rebelling against and the murdering of Pope Paul IV.

James Rosenfield has been writing since 1980, and has published two plays and two novels; has had produced over 20 plays, five of them off off Broadway; and placed in 30 contests, among them the Shubert Playwright in Residence for the University of Colorado, the New York.

Katherine Siegel is a graduate of the University of Miami, has directed at Gorilla Tango, Three Brothers and Clockwise. Co-founder and co-Artistic Director at Lost Girls Theatre.


Who Killed Joan Crawford? by Michael Leeds (Boynton, FL), directed by John Nasca, Saturday, May 10 at 7:00 pm

On a dark stormy night, five men arrive at a cabin for a surprise birthday party.  Each guest is dressed as the birthday boy’s favorite actress, Joan Crawford in one of her signature roles.  The “Joans” begin drinking and dishing until dark secrets emerge and soon there’s one Joan less… and then another… and.. Who Killed Joan Crawford?

Michael Leeds wrote and directed Swinging On A Star, (Tony nomination Best Musical).  His many directing credits include Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah, (Drama Desk nomination Best Director/Best Choreographer) and the award-winning European Premiere of Arthur Miller’s Playing For Time. In addition to writing for the theatre, Michael co-wrote the films, The Simian Line starring William Hurt, and The Last Film Festival starring Dennis Hopper. He is currently Associate Artistic Director of South Florida’s Island City Stage.

John Nasca is a PFP Artistic Associate and co-founder and Artistic Director of Glitterati Productions. Credits include Mr. Shaw Goes to Hollywood, Beautiful Thing and Gypsy.

The Book Of Andy by Michael J. Mejia (Delano, CA), directed by Derek Van Barham,           Sunday, May 11 at 11 am

After Andy responds I don’t know to a marriage proposal, he visits his exes to find what went wrong with them. When he finds they’re thriving without him, Andy lies and tells them he’s dying.

Michael J. Mejia is a known and produced playwright from Kern County, California. After receiving BA’s in English and Theatre from Cal-State Bakersfield, he received his MFA in Dramatic Writing from Tisch School of the Arts, Asia, in Singapore. His plays explore Mexican/American, Gay and Christian themes.

Derek Van Barham is a PFP Artistic Associate and Literary Manager for Ruckus Theatre. He is currently directing Songs from an Unmade Bed for PFP. Other credits include, National Pastime Theatre, BoHo Theatre, Red Tape Theatre and The Island Theatre.


Gentle Passage by Paul Elliott (Los Angeles, CA), directed by Larry Baker.                                                              Sunday, May 11 at 3 pm

Paul Elliott’s drama Gentle Passage was written to expose the actual childhood his husband, Ed, survived.  While the premise of the play is fiction and names have been changed, the story is entirely true.

As a published playwright with over 700 productions to date, Paul Elliott’s new comedy, Exit Laughing, the 2013 AACT PlayFest winner premiered at the historic Landers Theater and will be opening in New York this spring. His first novel, The Riverton Project, is represented by WME.  Gentle Passage was written as a birthday present for his husband.

Larry Baker is making his directorial debut and has worked behind the scenes in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Europe and the high seas. He did the national tours of Jersey Boys and Elaine Stritch at Liberty and the European tour of 42nd Street.


The announcement of the winner of the Gay Play Contest will happen on Sunday, May 11 after the performance of Gentle Passage. There will also be a short talk back after each performance.

About Pride Films and Plays

Pride Films and Plays fosters excellence in writing for the stage and screen with LGBT themes by linking an international network of writers to our Artistic Ensemble in Chicago.

Using stories with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender characters or themes, Pride Films and Plays develops human stories that speak for the community and are essential viewing for all audiences.

PFP’s fully staged productions include reinvigorated classics, Chicago premieres, and world premieres of scripts that have been developed in the contests. The 2011 Great Gay Play Contest winner, Learn To Be Latina by Enrique Ureata, has had multiple regional productions, and the 2012 winner At The Flash by Sean Chandler and David Leeper was Jeff-recommended in Chicago, recently concluded a successful run in Los Angeles, and will be seen in the Dublin International Gay Theater Fest this May. . Under A Rainbow Flag by Leo Schwartz, a finalist in last year’s contest, had its world premiere in Chicago this spring and won the Jeff Award for Best New Work and Best Musical Production. The 2013 contest winner Directions for Restoring the Apparently Dead by Martin Casella will have its world premiere in October, 2013.

Our contests – the Great Gay Play Contest, Women’s Work (for plays and screenplays with lesbian characters or themes, written by women), and the Great Gay Screenplay Contest – reach their conclusion during Festival Weekends of readings and workshops sponsored by Center on Halsted. Writers from around the world have come to Chicago to engage with PFP’s Artistic Ensemble in rehearsals and performances of “enhanced staged readings” which include movement, blocking, and technical elements.

For more information on contests or productions, visit