Queerly Festival: Celebration of pride, diversity, and strength

Chico Raro's band photo.
Chico Raro’s band photo.
Mava Villamizar

In honor of Pride Month, FRIGID New York is presenting its annual Queerly Festival from June 13 through July 3 at Under St. Marks theater. Now in its tenth year, the festival celebrates a mind-blowing range of LGBTQ+ artists, both onstage and behind the scenes.

“We definitely go for as broad of a representation of queerness as we can get,” said Queerly’s fearless curator, Jimmy Lovett (they/them). The festival encompasses people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, nonbinary, genderfluid — the entire gamut. 

“Our mission,” they continued, “is to give audience members that feeling of ‘Oh my God, this is me! I mean, not entirely me, but its closer than what I’ve usually seen.’ And giving a platform where artists can really go for it and not feel the need to dilute their work or make it palatable to the mainstream.” Lovett added that the artistic teams staging the shows are “all flavors of queer.”

This year Queerly features 20 shows of various genres, including traditional plays, solo shows, musicals, burlesque, cabaret, and even a concert by a funky pop band. Most shows can also be viewed virtually on their streaming platform.

There’s a cluster of shows that explore human sexuality through a queer lens. The darkly comic “Pearl Necklace: A Gay Sexcapade” traces a gay man’s frisky adventures in public places like men’s rooms, beaches, and bookstores, helping him process guilt and shame to achieve self-acceptance. “The Ho Must Go On” is billed as a “biographical burlesque” and “confessional cabaret” that follows a gay man’s exploits as a disco queen in Hollywood, a New Age cult member, and an erotic masseur. “Asexuality!” is a solo, autobiographical musical comedy about a trans woman recalling her struggle with asexuality as a man in a hypersexualized world. The protagonist explores sex, romance, love, and loss — and eventually their true gender identity. 

Phillipe Andre Coquet in "The Ho Must Go On."
Phillipe Andre Coquet in “The Ho Must Go On.”Dominique Warfield

What’s more, Queerly is carrying on their tradition of staging clowning shows, which leverage clowning’s distinctive power for sardonic vulnerability to express the human condition.

“One such show is called ‘War and Play,’ which deals with a [queer clown] couple fleeing the devastating war in Ukraine, so there’s a wide range of emotions in that one,” said Lovett. “A Bit Too Much Hair” is billed as “a gender euphoric musical chaos for thems, mens, femmes, and everyone in between.” According to Lovett, the show is “very much a queer joy extravaganza, which we all probably need.” Another is titled “Woo and Aah: Homecoming,” a mashup of silent films and children’s TV full of shenanigans and unexpected insights.

Other standouts include “Flayed,” an award-winning solo show about a puritanical pastor in the deep South wrestling with his own sexual identity; “Radical: Black Queer Pleasure,” a rowdy, raunchy burlesque celebration held on Juneteenth; “The Chico Raro Band,” a multicultural group from Bushwick, Brooklyn with roots in early 2000s synth-pop and glam rock.

When asked about the process for acquiring shows for the Queerly festival, Lovett detailed a multi-pronged approach. They issue an open call for applications, and also try to work in as many of FRIGID’s ongoing monthly shows as appropriate. This year, one show is reprised from the recent FRIGID Fringe Festival they produced last April.

“There are some people who we’ve worked with in the past or are in our orbit we invited to apply,” they said. “Then I sit and stare at the pile of applications for a long, long time.” Each year, the festival seems to get more selective, receiving more applications and having to reject more hopefuls. “We had almost twice as many applications this year compared to last year,” Lovett said. “Which was both very exciting and very frightening.”

For the 2024 edition of Queerly, Lovett feels there’s more urgency in telling these stories than ever before, given the insidious wave of anti-trans legislation instigated by far-right Republicans. “We are making sure trans stories are a priority,” they said. “This is our tenth year and this is probably the worst climate this festival has seen.”

Queerly Festival | FRIGID New York | Under St. Marks Theater and streaming | 94 St. Marks Place | $20 – $25 | June 13 – July 3 | Frigid.nyc