Queerways, PA: A New Initiative by People’s Light to Celebrate LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC Communities

People's LightPhoto by Bryan Sheffield

MALVERN, PA — Malvern-based theatre company People’s Light (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, PA, 19355) announced the launch of Queerways, PA, a new play and community engagement initiative aimed at developing works inspired by stories of the region’s LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC communities. Lead support is provided by the William Penn Foundation through a grant to People’s Light, totaling $250,000 over the next 25 months. The methods and process of the initiative are modeled after the theatre’s nationally-acclaimed New Play Frontiers Commissioning and Residency Program. The launch point of Queerways, PA is the world premiere presentation of People’s Light Associate Artistic Director Steve H. Broadnax III’s new play Bones, which is set to lead the theatre’s upcoming 2023/24 Fall-Winter Series. Additionally, three queer BIPOC playwrights will be commissioned to develop new projects that will eventually premiere on the People’s Light stage.

As the only year-round producing theatre of its size in Chester County, Pennsylvania, People’s Light recognizes its opportunity to represent, reflect, and respond to the region’s vibrant intersection of cultures and communities. Since 2013, its New Play Frontiers Commissioning and Residency program (NPF) has allowed the theatre to partner with a variety of cross-sector organizations and community groups to immerse nationally-renowned playwrights in the region’s history, heritage, and current issues.

People’s Light will build on the success of NPF and adapt its methodology to support Queerways, PA playwrights in creating new works focusing on local queer stories and issues. Selected playwrights will spend an 18-month residency engaging with numerous LGBTQ+ and BIPOC organizations in Chester County and the Greater Philadelphia area while working on a new play inspired by their conversations. Script development and community interaction will occur in tandem throughout the playwrights’ residency through a series of one-on-one interviews, small group gatherings, story circles, partner-organized collaborative events, and public new play workshops.

Unlike most NPF works, the Queerways, PA projects will be developed more quickly with a clear directive to elevate and amplify queer history and current pressing concerns within local communities of color. The playwrights’ will receive qualitative feedback on their evolving work from representatives of community partner organizations and event attendees. The People’s Light team and artists featured in the projects will also conduct artistic evaluations with the playwrights as their projects take shape.

In addition to their commissions, the featured playwrights receive 25 on-site, community-embedded residency days, as well as public workshops that will be hosted in community venues and at People’s Light. The theatre will also develop and showcase work by the featured writers as part of the 2024 Kiln at People’s Light, a new works lab program that first debuted in the spring of 2023. The supplemental programming will help broaden the Malvern theatre’s relationship with these artists, deepen their connection to community partners, and provide additional opportunities for audiences to experience their work.

Starting September 22, People’s Light will present the world premiere of the first Queerways, PA production, Bones, by Associate Artistic Director Steve H. Broadnax III. Through the genre of “Black Horror,” Broadnax explores intimacy, identity, and inherited trauma among a group of black men who use high-stakes games of dominos to mask their need for emotional and physical connection, unaware of the larger forces that are threatening to consume them. People’s Light is expected to announce the other three playwrights that will participate in Queerways, PA in conjunction with its presentation of Bones in September.

Queerways, PA will be overseen by People’s Light artistic leadership, which includes three queer-identified staff members: Broadnax, Associate Producing Director Molly Rose Houlahan, and
Community Programs Creative Director Andrew Watring. They are joined by Associate Producer and Director of New Works Lisa Portes. People’s Light Producing Artistic Director Zak Berkman will also be directly involved in the selection of writers and the development plan for each project.

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