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Black Theatre Festival to Feature Two LGBT Plays

The Black Theatre Festival, which started June 23 and continues through July 1 in the Washington, DC area, will focus today and tomorrow on a still-controversial topic—sexuality in the black community.

Two plays written by DC playwrights Monte Wolfe and Alan Sharpe will be centered around “sexuality, love and dealing with the complications of HIV/AIDS,” according to the Washington Blade.

Sharpe’s work, “11 x 8 ½ Inches,” explores the lives of gay black men living in DC through several short scenes that will delve into the “erotic, raunchy, and romantic.” Opening 9pm tonight at the Howard University Blackburn Center, the piece is part of the New Works Reading Series, which showcases new shows by both established and upcoming local artists.

“Moment of Truth,” by Wolfe, is also a series of scenes, dealing with HIV/AIDS and how the disease affects relationships. The minimalist production, under $1,000 in budget, seeks to showcase the intensity of the actors’ interactions. It premieres Saturday at the Navy Memorial Theater.

Sharpe, who has been writing LGBT-focused plays since 1992, has worked with Wolfe on several previous works, including this one—as Wolfe is an actor in one of his scenes. After the two were diagnosed with AIDS in 2004, Wolfe  began to focus on outreach projects for those affected by the disease, which led to the creation of the Brave Souls Collective in 2006. The Collective is a theatre company centered on LGBT plays.

Both artists say that introducing these themes into theatre is an excellent way to increase awareness of the LGBT community, by getting audience members emotionally involved in their characters’ lives. Jared Shamberger, an actor in Wolfe’s play, goes further: “I think if we are trying to present the landscape of black experience, we have to include LGBT people as well.”