Pride Theater Festival


Chandler has a long tradition of developing innovative community arts programs, serving a diverse population. Within this tradition, Vermont Pride Theater aims to build bridges of understanding between LGBTQ Vermonters and families, friends, and communities. The plays presented, the conversations these generate, and the wide publicity given these in the written press as well as on radio and TV assist our society’s progress toward full acceptance of LGBTQ Vermonters, with life choices and challenges similar to those of straight Vermonters.

The civil unions debate in spring 2000 was extremely divisive in Central Vermont, with TAKE BACK VERMONT signs springing up all over the countryside and people presumed to be supporters of civil unions being cursed outside Town Meeting. In spring 2011, same-sex marriage conversations were again heating up anti-LGBTQ sentiment in Central Vermont. Pride Films and Plays’ Director David Zak of Chicago, who often vacationed in the Randolph area and was an admirer of Chandler’s historic Music Hall, suggested starting an LGBTQ-themed theater festival there. Deciding to present pride activities was risky for Chandler, which operates in a Town of Randolph building. There was Town Meeting testimony that with Chandler “going down the wrong road” Town funding should be cut off; also, some donors were lost. But that first summer’s festival, presenting staged readings directed by Mr. Zak, otherwise went off smoothly.

Over the last seven seasons Vermont Pride Theater has become a valued part of Chandler’s programming, with staged readings gradually being replaced by full productions and Mr. Zak gradually handing over the reins to directors from the area. Pride activities are something folks now highlight about Chandler programs. A respected community leader said last fall, “Pride theater is very important to this community. It shows LGBTQ folks as they really are, not as TV and movies picture them.” Another commented, “Before pride theater, my aunt and nephew were ‘in the closet’: I never talked about them to anyone. Now I speak of them with pride.”

This summer’s trio of plays at the 8th annual pride festival build toward this end.

A Perfect Fit, by Lia Romeo, directed by Cher Laston, asks hard questions about what it takes to be a happily married woman in the 21st century, and whether this is even possible. Nicole, a college sophomore, is involved in her first lesbian relationship. Nicole’s exploration of her sexuality has caused her mother Janet to question her own marriage and her long-standing assumptions about her own sexuality. Then there’s Janet’s friend Melinda, who’s newly divorced and wants nothing more than the stable family life that Janet has…or seems to have.

Bright Half Life, by Tanya Barfield, directed by Kim Ward. Taking place over a 45-year period, the play thoughtfully explores the stages of a relationship between two lesbians. In a non-linear way, the audience comes to understand how the two very different women met and married, how they lived as a couple, and how their lives circled each other, both in and out of that relationship. The New Yorker says, “Most relationships develop in one of two ways — they endure or they don’t. Ms. Barfield’s variegated structure complicates this simple either/or, showing the volatility in a long-term partnership, the joy and desolation, the hurt and help — all intermingled, all at once…”

Aunt Jack, by S. P. Monahan, directed by Gene Heinrich. Norman’s grown a little distant lately. After a sudden series of anxiety attacks, he broke up with his boyfriend-since-college Ian and moved clear across the country, leaving his fathers George and Jack in a tizzy. George, a prominent gay activist and historian, is now in failing health. So Norman returns home to make things right and to introduce them to Andy, his new partner. Although happy for Norman at first, his parents are shocked when they meet Andy, and she is not what they expected for their gay son.

Each play will be presented each of the two performance weekends, July 20th-22nd and 27th-29th. On the Wednesday between the two weekends, July 25th, there will be a free showing of the movie “Philadelphia” to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Any donations made at the door will be contributed to HIV/AIDS programs at Vermont CARES and the HIV/HCV Resource Center.


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Summer 2011 (staged readings)

The Boys in the Band, by Mart Crowley, directed by David Zak

The Times, by Mark Watson, directed by David Zak

Shelby’s Vacation, by Nancy Beverly, directed by David Zak


Summer 2012 (staged readings)

Still Fighting It, by Cassie Keets, directed by David Zak

The Homosexuals, by Phillip Dawkins, directed by David Zak

The Children’s Hour, by Lillian Hellman, by David Zak


Summer 2013 (2 full productions, 1 staged reading)

Gross Indecency, by Moises Kaufmann, directed by David Zak

Hannah Free, by Claudia Allen, directed by David Zak

Directions for Restoring the Apparently Dead, by Martin Casella, directed by David Zak

Upper Gallery photo/sound exhibit (Lovett/Sharrow): Drag Queens of Dummerston, Vermont


Summer 2014 (2 full productions, 1 staged reading)

Last Summer at Bluefish Cove, by Jane Chambers, directed by Jeanne Beckwith

The Little Dog Laughed, by Douglas Carter Beane, directed by Richard Waterhouse

Farm Boys, adapted from Will Fellows’ book by David Zak & directed by David Zak

Mid-week showing in Upper Gallery of “Laramie Project” film & staged reading of

Leslea Newman’s October Mourning, directed by Cher Laston, featuring RUHS teens

Downstairs Gallery exhibit of Andy Newman’s portraits & landscapes


Summer 2015 (2 full productions, 2 1-person shows)

Beautiful Thing, by Jonathan Harvey, directed by Cher Laston

Wild & Precious, written & performed by Steven Cadwell

The Kid Thing, by Sarah Gubbins, directed by Margo Whitcomb

Hick: A Love Story, written & performed by Terri Baum

Downstairs Gallery exhibit of Marie LaPre Grabon’s landscapes & collages


Summer 2016 (2 full productions, 2 1-person shows)

Raggedy And, by David Valdes Greenwood, directed by Joanne Greenberg

At the Flash, written & performed by D. Leeper & co-author Sean Chandler

Mama’s Girls, by Marilynn Barner Anselmi, directed by Cher Laston

Men on the Verge, by Guillermo Reyes, performed by Nelson Rodriguez


Summer 2017 (3 full productions)

Family Holiday, by DC Cathro, directed by Nancy Manney

Out of the Closet, shorts by eight authors, with several directors

Love Alone, by Deborah Salem Smith, directed by Margo Whitcomb


Summer 2018 (3 full productions)

A Perfect Fit, by Lia Romeo, directed by Cher Laston

Bright Half Life, by Tanya Barfield, directed by Kim Ward

Aunt Jack, by S. P. Monahan, directed by Gene Heinrich

Mid-week showing of “Philadelphia”, benefiting Vermont CARES & HIV/HCV Resource Center

Downstairs Gallery exhibit of LGBTQ-connected visual artist