20% Theatre Company is back starting this weekend with their annual Q-Stage performances, four shows over two weekends that allow emerging queer artists and well-known LGBTQ+ names alike to create whatever they feel the need to create. This is one of the company’s most important programs, as it goes well beyond standard theatre practice of producing and promoting important works and puts that creation right in the artist’s hands. Artistic Director Claire Avitabile has called Q-Stage her favorite work that 20% does, noting that it puts their mission statement into action by handing control over to the individual artists.

This year’s shows feature the trademark mix of standard theatre with mixed media and non-traditional formats, especially movement and storytelling. The shows are split more simply than other events that put more than two shows together: this weekend you can catch Set A and next weekend is Set B. Set A starts Friday, May 5th at 7:30 P.M. And it features two shows that I’m the most excited about this spring theatre season. Devin Taylor, who previously wrote one of my favorite ever Naked I pieces about dealing with gender dysphoria and body dismorphia at the same time, has penned a play about an otter searching for clues as to who he is. This show is co-directed by Taylor and Bri Collins, and features Courtney Stirn, Beth Mikel Ellsworth, Graeme Ernest Monahan-Rial and Logan Gilbert-Guy as actors. The show is called The Smitty Complex and it promises to cover heavier topics like the politics of medicine and social welfare while ultimately being a simple story about an otter.

Equally compelling in Set A is These Floating Bones by Nadia Honary (who also did the show’s video design). Shalee Mae Coleman directs this piece that uses film, dance, poetry, and music to seek answers to the questions at the core of the show through movement. Those questions are (from the show’s press copy) “What if birth and death are only points on a circle? Is nature transcendental escape or a manifestation of our mind’s inner turmoil?” One of the things that lights me on fire about Q-Stage is never quite knowing what to expect, and after hearing about These Floating Bones, I am positive it will surprise audiences with it’s use of multiple mediums to inquire thoroughly about life, death, escapism, and turmoil. You’ve only got three chances to see this set, so hop over to 20%’s website to grab yours.

Starting May 12th at Intermedia is Set B of Q-Stage, with two mysteriously titled shows that are already getting quite a bit of buzz. Fresh off of Patrick’s Cabaret’s titillating Lightning Rod, Sami Pfeffer is back at Intermedia for this set, having written and directed the collaborative work “________” with Co-Director Malakai Davis Greiner and performers Beckett Love and Suzi Love helping to create and shape the piece as well. “________” is described in the press release as “a haunting, both ghost and story, an interactive investigation into the phantom pains sired by cruelty and abuse. How can we heal from the unreal? And, without acknowledgement, how can we know that we aren’t spirits too?”

Rounding out the event is “e”, which is created and performed by Simone Bernadette Williams and Holo Lue Choy. Williams can frequently be seen working at Intermedia as their Youth Programs Associate and has performed their spoken word and performance art at a number of notable venues, including last year’s Northern Spark. Choy has danced with countless dance groups, and is Artistic Director of WW/Harvest Performance Collective. From 20%’s press release, ““e”seeks to explore the intersections of race & gender identity in an interdisciplinary artistic format. two queer trans people of color articulate through movement, poetry, music, storytelling & performance art their experiences in the complex & beautiful bodies they live within.”e” touches on the stereotyping of trans-femme bodies, the exploitation of queerness and eating disorders’ attachment to dysphoria. we will create our own trans queer narrative. when our voices have often been rendered silent, we will speak our truth. so often the conditioning of our bodies by mainstream media is cis & heteronormative, our racial identities are merely supporting characters or punchlines. “e” stands for exposure. stands for empathy. stands for estrogen. for elevation, enigma, evil.”

If you’ve never been to Q-Stage, this is the year to go. I was overwhelmed (in a good way) when researching the talent of this year’s creators and the depth of conversations being had in these performances. Set A takes place this weekend at Intermedia Arts. May 5th and 6th take place at 7:30 P.M. May 7th is at 2 P.M. Then head back to Intermedia the following weekend to see two more rare and unique performances, with Set B’s shows on May 12th and 13th at 7:30 and the 14th at 2 P.M. Tickets are available at 20%’s website here, and if you’re worried about the financial impact of seeing both sets—don’t be. 20% Theatre Company wants their work to be accessible, and as such sliding scale tickets range from as low as $5 to $25.

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