June is here, which means that the pride parade is soon approaching. One weekend a year the LGBTQ+ community comes together to celebrate their identities in a parade this year on Sunday, June 25 at noon. Right before the parade, comes the recently put together, Queerly Festival. The festival was created in 2014 by Erez Ziv, the managing director of FRIGID, then curated by Kevin R. Free, the previous Resident Artistic Director of FRIGID and curator of Queerly Festival for years. This year, Jimmy Lovett is the new co-artistic director of FRIGID and it’s the second year Lovett is curating Queerly Festival. Queerly festival will take place from June 15 to July 3. Lovett hopes to inspire the celebration to continue much after Pride month ends.
It’s a sunny Thursday in the East Village. Jimmy Lovett sits in a crammed office for another day of work at The Kraine Theater located in 85 E Fourth Street. Lovett has ginger hair, nerdy glasses and wears all black with a shirt that says, “Be gay do crime!” Lovett curated the festival entirely this year. Previously in 2018-19, when Free was curating Queerly Festival, Lovett was working the box office and office admin for Queerly. Free had gone out of town for a job and had nudged Ziv to recruit someone to “get boots on the ground.” Lovett was then chosen as the new curator for Queerly festival by Ziv. An enthusiastic “Okay!” was the response Lovett gave. “He was like you’re organized and Queer, and I’m like ‘I’m definitely Queer and I’ll try to be organized.’”
When Lovett came into the picture in 2018 and 2019, Lovett co-curated Queerly festivals with Free and in 2020 Lovett co-curated the festival online with Ziv. Then Lovett took over being the curator in 2022 putting together this year’s in-person festival entirely. Lovett was the person in the building making sure everything was going okay. Lovett also interfaced with the audience and the performers making sure people were where they were supposed to be. “It’s been the smoothest year we’ve had so far—it’s been amazing. The festival’s been booked for weeks,” Ziv said. “Jimmy has done a great job putting the artists together and reaching out to all the artists and grabbing all the information that we need.”
Queerly Festival is just what is sounds like: to celebrate the queer expression. “Our goal is to provide a space for queer artists who’ve rarely or never seen their identities portrayed on stage to be able to represent themselves and tell their stories their way, as well as to provide a space for queer celebration, pride, and strength,” organizers said.
“This year, we are trying to prioritize getting trans, non-binary and non-conforming artists,” Lovett said. “Not that it’s like other people can’t apply but we are going to weigh these applications a little bit more heavily because the trans community is statistically much [more likely] to be unemployed or underemployed.”
“There was a while where all the LGBTQ+ stories and artists on Broadway Street looked the same—we’re trying to break that up,” Ziv said. “Now that the whole industry is doing better about it, but when we started the festival, it wasn’t a thing yet.”
The title “Queerly” is great for puns, Lovett says. “I was excited for the 2021 pun that was, I can see queerly now 2020, but then 2020 happened.” At Queerly festival, there are a range of performances. Those performances include stand-up comedy, storytelling, plays, clowning, drag, music and short film.
“Sometimes we have a great storyteller. Sometimes we have a great musical that blows things out of the water,” Ziv said. “Last year it was a musical — it was incredible. This year, I think there is a storyteller that is going to be great.”
“Last year we had a show that was drag kings and non-binary folks in wild costumes doing original songs about the great men in history like Cesar, Churchill and King Louis — I found it absolutely delightful,” Lovett said. “Seeing something come up on its feet for the first time is fun.”
The cost of putting the festival together is from ticket sales, the general FRIGID budget, donations, and public and private grants. The cost of attending the in-person festival is $25 on a fully sliding scale, so $1 can be paid or $100 can be paid. “No one’s ever done it (paid $100), but you can dream,” Lovett said. “The audience numbers have been up by 15 percent from before COVID-19, so hopefully we’ll have even more people this year.”
Unlike other years, this year Queerly festival is doing a fundraiser variety show with a theater company called What Will The Neighbors Say. The raffles will raise money for The Transformations Project and The Audre Lorde Project. “I feel like I needed to take action and a fundraiser will be fun,” Lovett said.
Queerly festival is operating in the wake of anti-trans legislation. “I feel like getting federal marriage equality was good, but also kind of destabilized,” Lovett said. “There was this one central goal that the majority of activists were working towards. Then, they got it. Then, they were like “yes!” and kind of wandered off. Not everybody wandered off, but there was definitely a sort of emotional decentralization at that point.”
Things in New York are good for the LGBTQ+ community legally speaking, but still need improving, Lovett says. “We have people protesting drag queen story hour. Last time I saw that there were nowhere near as many of them as there were of the people trying to shut them up,” Lovett said. “The fact that [protest] can happen at all here I find quite troubling. I think there’s a lot of youth focused work that is being done but needs doing and continuing doing.”
[LBGTQ+] people are fleeing from states like Florida to New York, Lovett says. That runs counter to the mainstream trend of people fleeing to the sunshine state to get away from NY crime or taxes. “It’s wild to be here and be like, “oh, we’re doing pretty alright,” then you go on Twitter and you’re like oh my god, what’s happening?” Lovett said. “There are all these laws from state governments that are restricting healthcare access to primarily trans folks. I don’t want to sound melodramatic—but I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that people are going to die because of this. Take for example, some thirteen-year-old trans girl gets get gender affirming healthcare taken away. For some people that’s manageable, for others that’s not a livable situation. Either your parents need to get you out of there or you’re going to do something to get yourself out, which could be running away or could be trying to take your own life.”
Part of the goal in Queerly festival is celebrating pride even when it might not seem like a time for celebration in our world today. “Going forward we are trying to lean more to the celebratory and revolutionary kind of energy,” Lovett said. “While it can be hard for people to have that juxtaposition in your head of everything’s f***ed up—let’s have a party! It can be very disconcerning. But I think having queer people have a space to express something that is valid and safe, we need that. You can have a good time; you deserve to have a good time and you can have it safely.”
Lovett wants the festival to leave an impact on the LGBTQ+ community. “I want this festival to be a gift to my community, that’s what I’m hoping for,” Lovett said. “To have something that is by the community for the community.”
This year’s lineup:
Two Foreskins Walk into a Bar on Thursday, June 15 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, July 1 at 3 p.m. at The Kraine Theater.
walkOver on Thursday, June 22 at 9 p.m. and Saturday, July 2 at 5 p.m. at The Kraine Theater and Livestreaming.
Spent. on Sunday, June 18 and Tuesday, June 20 at 7 p.m. at The Kraine Theater.
Anna May Wong: PERSONA on Saturday, June 24 at 5 p.m. at The Kraine Theater and Livestreaming (masks required).
BECOMING AUSTIN NATION: From Crack to PhD – One Drag Queen’s Story on Friday, June 16 at 7 p.m., Monday, June 19 at 9 p.m. and Monday, July 3 at 7 p.m. at The Kraine Theater and Livestreaming.
The Real Black Swann: Confessions of America’s First Black Drag Queen on Sunday, June 18 at 4 p.m., Monday, June 19 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, June 24 at 8 p.m. at The Kraine Theater and Livestreaming.
Drag Story Hour on Monday, June 19th at 12 p.m. @ Under St. Marks FREE
The Bottom’s Bible on Monday, June 26 and Friday, June 30 at 7 p.m. at The Kraine Theater.
The Parentheses on Saturday, July 1 at 7 p.m. and Monday, July 3 at 9 p.m. at The Kraine Theater and Livestreaming.
Double Feature: A Probably Disastrous Experiment & The Bottom’s Bible on Monday, June 26 and Friday, June 30 at 7 p.m. at The Kraine Theater.
A Probably Disastrous Experiment on Monday, June 26 and Friday, June 30 at 7 p.m. at The Kraine Theater.
Transhumance on Saturday, June 17 at 4 p.m. and Thursday, June 22 at 7 p.m. at The Kraine Theater and Livestreaming.
The Drag Album on Saturday, June 17 at 7 p.m. at The Kraine Theater and Livestreaming.
Funny Women Of A Certain Age on Wednesday, June 21 at 7 p.m. at The Kraine Theater and Livestreaming.
At Birth on Wednesday, June 21 at 9 p.m. and Friday June 23 at 9 p.m. at The Kraine Theater.
The Ramón Show: Spiritual Cheerleading 101 on Saturday, July 1 at 1 p.m. and Sunday, July 2 at 7 p.m. at The Kraine Theater (masks required).
Paper Kraine Present: Do You Queer What I Queer on June 28 at 7 p.m. at The Kraine Theater and Livestreaming.
“Our goal is to provide a space for queer artists who’ve rarely or never seen their identities portrayed on stage to be able to represent themselves and tell their stories their way, as well as to provide a space for queer celebration, pride, and strength,” organizers of Queerly Festival said.
“I think having queer people have a space to express something that is valid and safe, we need that. You can have a good time; you deserve to have a good time and you can have it safely,” Jimmy Lovett, curator of Queerly Festival said.