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Anthony Rapp, Judy Gold, and 10 more upcoming shows that prove theater is queerer than ever

The curtain rises on a new year, and the bright lights of the stage are spotlighting plenty of queer theater-makers. Solo shows are all the rage, including performances by Anthony Rapp, Judy Gold, and Ryan J. Haddad. Shakespeare catapults to the 21st century with the Broadway transfer of Fat Ham and About Face Theatre’s Gender Play, or What You Will. Los Angeles continues to prove its prowess with a world premiere musical, and San Francisco welcomes the return of the most iconic queer story of them all — The Wizard of Oz.

Sugar Daddy

Sam Morrison in Sugar Daddy Off Broadway.
Sam Morrison in ‘Sugar Daddy’ at SoHo Playhouse.

“Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion,” says Trudy in Steel Magnolias. The same can be said for comedian and solo artist Sam Morrison of his one-person show, which premiered last year at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Morrison met his partner at Provincetown‘s famous Bear Week. The two quarantined together at his grandmother’s house during the height of the pandemic. Despite their efforts, his partner contracted and died from the virus. Morrison can usually be found performing stand-up throughout Brooklyn’s comedy scene, but Sugar Daddy promises a complex look at the heartache beyond the humor.

January 11 – February 23, 2023 at SoHo Playhouse, New York City.

Your Sexts are Sh*t: Older Better Letters

Rachel Mars in Your Sexts are Shit
Rachel Mars in ‘Your Sexts are Sh*t: Older Better Letters.’ Photo by Alex Beckett.

British theatermaker Rachel Mars heads to New York City to dismantle centuries of queer culture with a “gloriously rude new show” that makes sexting look like a trip to the candy store. Before digital technology, there were hand-written letters — many of which were considered scandalous with a capital “S.” Mars explores the words of James Joyce, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe, and others while also considering queer sentiments of the modern era.

January 11, 13-15 at The Public Theater, New York City.

Anthony Rapp’s Without You

Actor Anthony Rapp
Anthony Rapp. Photo by David Urbanke.

The show reimagined what musical theater could be in the 20th century. And for those cast in the original production of Rent, Jonathan Larson’s ode to New York City’s East Village would be a career game-changer. Anthony Rapp went from working at Starbucks to performing eight times a week on Broadway with, among others, Idina Menzel, Taye Diggs, and Jesse L. Martin. Now a new daddy, Rapp has some distance from the Tony-winning musical and has adapted his best-selling memoir Without You about his experience into a stage show backed by a five-piece rock band.

January 14 – April 30 at New World Stages, New York City.

Fellow Travelers

Fellow Travelers opera

Based on Thomas Mallon’s 2008 novel of the same name, Fellow Travelers dives into the double lives of queer men amid Joe McCarthy’s lavender scare, which aimed to eradicate “sexual subversives” from government employment. The opera, composed by Virginia native Gregory Spears, premiered in June 2016. This is the first time the piece will be performed throughout the Commonwealth.

Norfolk, Virginia – January 27-29
Fairfax, Virginia – February 4-5
Richmond, Virginia – February 10, 12

The First Deep Breath

Actor and playwright Lee Edward Colston II
Lee Edward Colston II. Photo provided by Geffen Playhouse.

A former correctional officer and MMA fighter, Lee Edward Colston II has channeled his strength and creativity into playwriting more recently. The First Deep Breath follows the aftermath of a Baptist pastor and his family after the death of his daughter. When the eldest son returns from prison, family secrets are finally revealed. When it originally opened in 2019, the Black queer playwright’s work was named “one of the best Chicago plays of the decade.” This production marks its West Coast premiere.

February 1 – March 5 at Geffen Playhouse, Los Angeles.

One in Two

Donja R. Love's play One in Two

Playwright Donja R. Love’s play One in Two draws its name from the CDC statistic that half of Black men in the U.S. who have sex with men will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime. Love wrote the piece a decade after his own diagnosis, stating in the play’s forward, “There is still trauma that’s hard to write; there are still remnants of fear that tremble the voice found in my writing. I’ve gotten to a point where there are no words, characters, dialogue, or subtext to hide behind anymore. Fear can no longer overshadow the truth.”

February 16 – March 19 at PrideArts, Chicago.

The Lonely Few

Lauren Patten in ‘The Lonely Few.’ Photo courtesy of Geffen Playhouse.

Tony winner Lauren Patten (Jagged Little Pill) stars in the world premiere musical about an aspiring musician in a small Kentucky town who crosses paths with an established musician who may be the ticket to success. Sparks fly onstage and off as the pair discovers their passion for songwriting and each other. Co-directed by Trip Cullman and Ellenore Scott, the musical features music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson Award winner Zoe Sarnak and a book by Rachel Bonds.

February 28 – April 9 at Geffen Playhouse, Los Angeles.

Dark Disabled Stories

Actor Ryan J. Haddad
Ryan J. Haddad. Photo by Erik Carter.

Actor and playwright Ryan J. Haddad returns to New York City’s Public Theater with his latest autobiographical one-person show — a series of vignettes about strangers he encounters while navigating a world not built for his walker and cerebral palsy. “My upbringing gave me ambition, drive, work ethics, knowing how fabulous I was, feeling unconditional love from an extended family that is not even countable,” Haddad told Metro Weekly. “Moving away, I realized the way that I was taught to see myself is not the way that strangers see me.” Haddad’s previous show, Hi, Are You Single?, ran last spring at Washington D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth Theater, and he also appeared Off-Broadway in american (tele)visions at New York Theatre Workshop.

February 28 – March 26 at The Public Theater, New York City.

Yes, I Can Say That!

Comedian Judy Gold
Judy Gold. Photo courtesy of 59E59 Theaters.

Comedian, actor, and writer Judy Gold had plenty to say, and she’s not shy about it. Based on her book, Yes, I Can Say That: When They Come for the Comedians, We Are All in Trouble, Gold takes to the stage “to tell the fascists and crybabies to shove their hate and political correctness up their respective *sses.” Co-written with Eddie Sarfaty, directed by BD Wong, and presented by Primary Stages, the evening promises to be full of laughs and a tribute to free speech.

March 4 – April 16 at 59E59 Theaters, New York City.

Fat Ham

Fat Ham at the Public Theater
The National Black Theatre and Public Theater’s production of ‘Fat Ham.’ Photo by Joan Marcus

Shakespeare’s Hamlet gets a makeover thanks to playwright James Ijames, whose backyard barbecue version, Fat Ham, won 2022’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Here, the prince of Denmark — reimagined as big, Black, and queer — is called upon by his father’s ghost to avenge his death. The play had successful runs at Philadelphia’s Wilma Theater and the Public Theater in New York City and now heads to Broadway. “I think I’m trying to be a good steward of Black culture,” Ijames told TDF Stages. “I am very invested in the historical depictions and shape of Blackness as well as the contemporary understanding of Blackness and how they meet …  I’m really preoccupied with legacy and inheritance. I think about the things that I’ve inherited that I want to keep and what I want to let go. All of that is at the heart of Fat Ham.” 

March 21 – June 25 at American Airlines Theater, New York City.

Gender Play, or What You Will

Chicago theatermakers Will Wilhem and Erin Murray
Will Willhem, left, and Erin Murray. Photos by Collin Quinn Rice and Jeff Henkel Photography.

Chicago’s About Face Theatre is also queering classic texts with an exploration of Shakespeare’s works through an LGBTQ+ kaleidoscope. Co-created by Will Willhem and Erin Murray, Willhem challenges the hetero binary “not as a relic of what our society has been, but as a testament to seeing ourselves reflected in history.” About Face has been producing queer theater since 1995 and also offers a youth program to empower the next generation of LGBTQ+ theater-makers.

May 4 – June 3 at About Face Theatre, Chicago.

The Wizard of Oz

American Conservatory Theater's The Wizard of Oz

There’s no place like home. And no story screams queer like The Wizard of Oz. While we’re all familiar with the 1939 film adaption of L. Frank Baum’s book, plenty of stage productions have delivered unique versions of Dorothy’s trip to Oz. San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater uses the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 1988 version (which starred a young Imelda Staunton) as inspiration, directed and choreogrpahed by Sam Pinkleton.

June 1-25 at American Conservatory Theater, San Francisco.

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