Ian Donahue and Jason Rodney in Falling Awake.
Photo courtesy Gadfly Theatre
Growing up gay and a geek in the dark days of the 1980s, I had to hunt for intersections between these two parts of my life. There were stray characters in mainstream sci-fi and fantasy, and a growing number of authors working in the open (Clive Barker was a revelation), while television and movies mainly ignored the topic (except for the occasional stray bit, like "The Happiness Patrol" on Doctor Who).
Things have certainly changed over the decades, with the gay subtext now completely out in the open throughout geek culture. Gadfly Theatre Productions explores this in the Final Frontier Festival, a collection of six one-act plays that boldly go... well, you know.
Gadfly's Cassandra Snow knows all about trying to navigate gay and geek culture at the same time. "Growing up, I had tons of comic books in my bag while hanging out with the only out gay kid in high school and the hardcore rock-fan girls. If you don't find yourselves wrapped up in entitlement and privilege, that's where you end up as a geek: hanging out with this eclectic, progressive group. I think those roots lead you to speaking out when something bugs you," she says.
Of course, the entire geek community isn't nearly as accepting, as the recent ballot for the
science fiction Hugo Awards shows, as it included work by highly visible homophobic, misogynist, and racist authors.
"Over the past couple of years, we've been directly inspired by Anita Sarkeesian of the Feminist Frequency as well as the overall conversations happening about misogyny and homophobia in the geek community. Since we never abandon our queerness or feminism as people or a company, things started falling into place once these conversations were publicly being had in our geek forums and magazines," Snow says.
And pop culture helped out. "I know that watching Willow on Buffy was totally instrumental in me feeling comfortable coming out of the closet, and I hear more and more stories like that coming out of geek culture, so we knew the interest was there, but we wanted to wait until just the right time," Snow says. "We wanted to start this festival while it was the most en vogue, and that time is now. We settled on sci-fi and fantasy, because we wanted a really wide net that encompassed as much of geek culture as possible, as well as things we knew could be done onstage."
The company put out a call and ended up with hundreds of submissions. Eventually, they went with the 10 that fit their concept and the theater's mission the most. Following that, each of the six directors picked one of the plays to produce.
What they ended up with was a varied list of shows that features everything from a murder at a science-fiction convention (Who Killed Captain Kirk) to a shaggy dog story where the future of the human race relies on a pair of astronauts, one gay and one lesbian (Love Bot, by local playwright Matthew A. Everett).
That variety should give patrons plenty of options at the festival, and Gadfly is hoping that this won't be the end of the event.
"This is going to be an annual geekfest, and next year's theme is horror, which is also seeing a resurgence onstage as well as other forms of media," Snow says.
IF YOU GO:
Final Frontier Festival
Shows are 7:30, 8:30, 9:30 p.m. except for Sundays which are at 3, 4, and 5 p.m.
Nimbus Theatre, 1517 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis
$15 per show, $20 per evening, $40 for the entire festival.