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For the past six years, That Uppity Theatre Company has produced 50 short plays presented as part of a festival called “Briefs: A Festival of Short LGBTQ Plays.” The festival continues this weekend and it will be the last, said Joan Lipkin, artistic director of That Uppity Theatre Company.
“A lot of it has to do with finances,” Lipkin said. “This week, Governor Greitens announced enormous cuts to the Missouri Arts Council and, as we know, President Trump is detonating the National Endowment for the Arts. These actions have enormous implications for small companies in this state."
Lipkin said that in addition to these funding cuts, she’s also seeing reliable donors “tapped out” after the election season.
“In the current climate, they are donating to places like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, which have dire need,” Lipkin said. “Larger institutions will be okay, but smaller companies have to make decisions. We don’t want to pass these additional costs on to our audience, we want to keep the theater accessible.”
Lipkin said that while “Briefs” is popular, that Uppity Theatre Company needs to recalibrate its efforts in a different direction. However, she said the short play, between 8-10 minutes, is an important art form in and of itself.
“It happens to be a form that I really love, a difficult form to get right,” Lipkin said. “It makes it possible to contain an entire universe in 8-10 minutes. It also makes it possible to have a plurality of perspectives.”
This year’s plays, co-produced with Vital Voice, span a wide swath of perspectives.
“We are beyond the essential coming out story,” Lipkin said. “We’ll always have that: it’s a crucial part of LGBTQ identity. But now, ‘Briefs’ has been an interesting bellwether for issues facing the LGBTQ community.”
In this year’s short plays, audience members will hear the story of two African-American lesbians at an eldercare facility, learn about gentrification of a neighborhood in the context of the closure of a popular gay bar and hear painful reflections on the massacre at Pulse Nightclub last year.
“There’s a really good mix of comedy and getting you by the gut,” Lipkin said. “One of the things I’ve loved so much about ‘Briefs:’ it is a really a community theater event.”
During the program this year, That Uppity Theatre Company will also raise money in the audience for the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis and the International Institute, in solidarity with Muslims and refugees.
“Performance and art are a form of cultural activism,” Lipkin said. “They provide visibility and give voice and have a significant presence on the landscape. I don’t think everyone always understands the impact of art in culture. It starts with having a place. Live performance is important because it gives people a place to gather and have conversations.”
While this year will be “Briefs” last, That Uppity Theatre Company will continue on.
“People tell me that it has given them visibility and voice and it has given them courage and to be themselves,” Lipkin said.
What: That Uppity Theatre Company and Vital VOICE Magazine Present Briefs: "A Festival of Short LGBTQ Plays"
When: Friday, March 10 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, March 11 at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Where: .ZACK Performing Arts Center, 3224 Locust Street, St. Louis, MO 63103
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