Femmes: A Tragedy offers comic look at lesbian culture


There are lots of way to find a new play: from the playwright, from an agent, or a recommendation from another theater.

Claire Avitabile of 20% Theatre found Femmes: A Tragedy through a Google search.

“We have an open submission policy, and we receive plays all the time from people. Then, twice a year, I allow myself a Google date to look at what’s happening in queer theaters and women’s theaters,” she says.

It was through this that she discovered Gina Young’s modern-day update of The Women, where Clare Boothe Luce’s play is made into a comedy about lesbian identity.

“It was hilarious. We don’t do comedy very often. It focuses on the relationships among women, regardless of their gender identification or their sexuality. This is something that anyone can identify with. I am really attracted to plays where I feel like I am spying on people,” Avitabile says.

The play follows a group of lesbian friends, and centers on a modern-day burlesque show. After a breakup, they have to navigate their feelings, and the shows must go on.

One idea the play centers on the femme/butch dynamic in lesbian culture. “It’s hard to define. It could be clothes or shoes or hair. Others who identify as femme might claim it as a political identity. There are a lot of feminist politics around the word femme,” Avitabile says.

“It tackles the idea of femme invisibility. Women who identify a femme are often thought as invisible. They have to convince people of their queer identity, which is quite exhausting,” Avitabile says. “I have a lot of femme friends in the Twin Cities. I am excited for them to see themselves onstage. That is part of 20%’s mission.”

Part of the research for the cast was attaining a Dykes do Drag performance at the Bryant-Lake Bowl. This connected the company to not only how the women in the play identify, but also allowed them, “to absorb that energy. They’re on fire now,” Avitabile says.

“I don’t know of many plays where we have queer women with a lot of power, putting on shows and cabarets. These are strong and independent women. I want to bring that to the stage,” Avitabile adds.


Femmes: A Tragedy

Friday through Dec. 13

Nimbus Theater

1517 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis


For tickets and more information, call 612-227-1188 or visit online.