A new space for Philly’s queer playwrights

The Strides Collective presents New Strides: A Pride Month Playfest on June 10

In
2 minute read
Two Black performers reading from music stands face each other in front of an audience crowding the frame at right.
An emerging playwrights reading with Stride Collective artists. (Photo by Austin Berner.)

The Covid-19 pandemic took a toll on the Philadelphia theater company, with venues shutting down along with the rest of the world, but it was also a time to pivot and find new ways to create. Artists had to step back and look at the state of industry, seeing the gaps in terms of visibility and support for diverse theater artists, and that’s part of the Strides Collective story: creating space for emerging queer playwrights who otherwise might not be able to get their foot in the door.

“I found that the community was lacking a place for new works of queer theater to develop in play form,” says founding artistic director Jonathan Edmondson, who led the charge in early 2020, gathering a collective of friends and creatives for the group’s inaugural production during Philly Theatre Week in February of that year. The collective’s mission is to promote and produce new works by queer artists and playwrights, creating a safe and welcoming space for them to hone their crafts.

“Obviously, there’s such a rich sector of drag and cabaret performance, and there’s certainly been queer theater companies before us and in coexistence with us,” Edmondson adds, “but the idea to be a place to develop work by emerging queer playwrights was just not something we had seen in the city.” They wanted to make a space for emerging theater artists to explore and create in a way that allowed risk-taking.

After the group’s first production was over, there was a desire to continue collaborating, but the timing was against them as pandemic shutdowns began. Their conversations continued, and the collective decided to pivot into the world of audio drama. They produced an immersive audio drama called Ignite in October 2020, which received a lot of positive feedback and inquiries as to what came next. They continued to produce digital theater throughout the pandemic and have gotten back into live productions as the world continues to reopen. The collective’s digital play development program also continues today, now primarily focusing on Philadelphia theater artists.

As with most theater companies, the best way to support the Strides Collective is to see what they are presenting next. First, on June 10, is New Strides: A Pride Month Playfest, an evening of readings of new one-act plays by three local playwrights, happening at the MAAS Building. And this fall, look out for the world premiere of Matt Shvyrkov’s Confabulation, in which a gas-station attendant haunted by past versions of herself joins a “past-life regression” support group. It’s coming up October 10-20, 2024 at the Arden’s Hamilton Family Arts Center Bob & Selma Horan Studio Theatre.

Edmonson’s hope for the collective is realistic: “It’s tough, but we want to grow, produce more works annually, and fully realize our emerging playwrights program in a robust way.” The response from the community as a whole has been extremely welcoming, and the Strides Collective hopes to be a long-lasting member of the Philly theater community.

What, When, Where

New Strides: A Pride Month Playfest. Presented by the Strides Collective on June 10, 2024 at the MAAS Building (second floor), 1325 N. Randolph Street, Philadelphia. www.stridescollective.com.

Accessibility

The second floor of the MAAS Building is accessible only by stairs.

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