Shorts Gone Wild, the annual festival of LGBTQ-themed short plays presented by Island City Stage and City Theatre, returns to the Abyss Stage in August with a game show theme.
In previous years, the audience selected the order of the eight 10-minute short plays, lending a nervous energy to each performance and challenging the cast of six actors to quickly jump into character, said Island City Stage associate artistic director Michael Leeds.
And, last year, in the run-up to the presidential elections, the plays took on a political dimension with the Wilton Manors theater transformed into a mini-political convention.
For the fifth season, a nostalgic television game show provides the vehicle to present the wide array of short plays. The order of the plays will again be selected by the audience competing in a contest similar to the classic show “Concentration,” interspersed with retro commercials, a few “words from our sponsors” and other surprises.
The cast includes Jordan Armstrong, Larry Buzzeo, Sabrina Gore, Christina Groom, Rita Joe and Marquise Rogers, performing 26 different roles in the eight plays. All are familiar to South Florida theater audiences and many are veterans of Shorts Gone Wild.
The plays are directed by Leeds, Margaret Ledford, Gladys Ramirez and Matt Stabile, ensuring a variety of theatrical approaches. Ramirez was a member of the Shorts Gone Wild cast last year.
Ledford, the recently named artistic director of Miami’s City Theatre and its popular Summer Shorts Festival at the Arsht Center, has directed Shorts Gone Wild plays in the past, but this is her first season co-helming the festival with Island City Stage.
Ledford describes Shorts Gone Wild as “a different beast” from her company’s two-decade old series in Miami.
“Shorts Gone Wild—the title tells you—is a little more fun, more unanticipated, more about the performers interacting with the audience. It’s a little more freeing, with an unknown factor,” she said, acknowledging the power of the audience to select the order each night.
“As a director, you try to control every aspect and this is something you can’t control. So many times, great things happen on their own, which is a good reminder for a director,” Ledford added.
The festival has historically relied on new works from local playwrights. Both Leeds and Carbonell-winner Michael McKeever again have plays in the line-up. This season, the creative team cast a broader net, beginning a nationwide search last winter and selecting plays from Spenser Davis, Cassandra Rose, Seamus Sullivan, Kris Thompson, Korde Tuttle and Steve Yockey.
Leeds’ play is inspired by the joke, “So a Rabbi, a Priest and a Minister Walk into a Bar,” while Thompson’s “The Adventures of a Gay Man – Birth of a Hero” features a gay superhero at an employment agency. Other plays are set in bars and bedrooms, while Sullivan’s “Valkyrie in the Roller Derby” takes play in a roller rink and Davis’ “Give Me Space” is set in a space station.
“The plays are very funny,” noted Leeds, and Ledford assured, “We took time to make sure there was ‘wild’ in Shorts Gone Wild, too.”
Shorts Gone Wild 5 opens Aug. 17 and runs through Sept. 10 at the Abyss Stage, 2304 N. Dixie Highway in Wilton Manors. Tickets are $35 at IslandCityStage.org.