New Lavender Fest Highlights Queer Artists and Stories

He graduated from Georgia Tech in 2015, but Ty Autry turned down a corporate job to be an actor. After an apprenticeship at Georgia Ensemble Theatre, he went to New York to study and got on the staff of Atlantic Acting School, teaching website design and digital branding. These days, he is back in Atlanta as a playwright, actor, producer, and festival director of the new Lavender Fest, a queer performing arts festival.

Lavender Fest is one of the first events of its kind in the Southeast, if not the nation, he said, with a focus on queer-focused performance art. The festival features nine shows happening over five days, and half the artists are Atlanta-based. Other artists hail from around the country and Canada, while a new musical has hired a majority of Atlanta actors to be in it as well.

Autry is known in Atlanta for his appearance in Out Front Theatre Company’s “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told” and for his personal play “A Southern Fairytale,” which he has taken all over the world to acclaim. After he moved back in 2020, he decided to make stronger roots here.

“If I am going to be a Southern creature, I want to build work here as well,” he said.

He’s been working on Lavender Fest for two years now with the staff of Out Front Theatre Company.

“I wanted to give something back, from a personal perspective,” he said. “I wanted to create a space for other artists across multiple generations to share their story and develop new work.”

The idea was to create an event with new, avant-garde, and bizarre works. Each show is an hour long, and the nine events range from musicals to comedies to drag performances to readings.

The local shows featured are Chayton Pabich Danyla’ s “Strings Attached,” a performance play set against the backdrop of a North Georgia hunting trip; Davin Grindstaff’s  “Open,” about a gay couple re-establishing their boundaries; “You Are Not Your Face” by Sof  Delgado, a lesbian love story set in a dystopia, “Drag Reflex,” a lip-sync free drag show featuring local Atlanta drag performers; and “Very Queer Comedy Hour” featuring Jessica, Richard, Dani, and Twiggs. The festival also features a reading of Quinlan Orear’s “By the Light of the Moon” screenplay, a queer romance thriller in which the lives of a trans waitress and a closeted moonshiner collide unexpectedly in the Appalachian community.

Other offerings include Johnnie McNamara’s Walker satirical “The Heterosexuals,” exposing the truth about straight people; “The Real Black Swann: Confessions of America’s First Black Drag Queen” by Les Kurkendaal-Barrett, about William Dorsey Swann, once a slave who started drag in the 1800; and “Moonshot: A Musical Comedy” with book by Marc Erdahi and Tyler Oberle and music and lyrics by Corey Everly. It’s a comedy romance with love and baseball.

Autry has not seen most of these works, and he’s excited for all of them – particularly “You Are Not Face,” for a variety of reasons, one of which being that Sof Delgado is a new and upcoming talent.

“They have done such a brilliant job of not just marketing the show and putting it together, they are very young,” Autry said. “They just graduated from college too and put together this entire team that is not set in realism, which I think is fantastic.

“Strings Attached,” “Open,” You Are Not Your Face,” “The Heterosexuals,” “Moonshot: A Musical Comedy” and “The Real Black Swann: Confessions of America’s First Black Drag Queen” all have at least two performances.

The festival is not meant to be a one-off. Autry plans to do this every year. Once he gets through the first year, he can gauge how he wants to move forward in 2025.

“My hope and dream is that we stay at nine shows and next year just refine it,” he said.

Lavender Fest runs June 19 – 23 at Out Front Theatre Company.