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55 SHADES OF GAY looks at LGBT rights in the Balkans - begins March 7
Posted by: Official_Press_Release 05:31 pm EST 02/04/19

Internationally Acclaimed Look at LGBT Rights
in The Balkans Makes US Premiere
55 SHADES OF GAY:
BALKAN SPRING OF SEXUAL REVOLUTION
Performances begin March 7, 2019

“An explosion of burlesque, music and possibly offensive humor; it is simply a riot.” -- Prishtina Insight

“Treats the locals’ homophobic bigotry and the international community’s patronizing attitudes with equal quantities of ridicule." -- The Theatre Times

“Perhaps more than any other playwright working in the country today, Jeton Neziraj is constantly pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable subject matter in Kosovo. When his latest outing, 55 Shades of Gay, had its premiere last autumn police were stationed at the door of the theatre.” -- Equal Times

La MaMa will present the US Premiere of Kosovo’s Qendra Multimedia in 55 SHADES OF GAY: BALKAN SPRING OF SEXUAL REVOLUTION, a contemporary burlesque story about LGBTI politics in the Balkans written by Jeton Neziraj and directed by Blerta Neziraj. Performances begin March 7, 2019 at The Ellen Stewart Theatre at La MaMa.

As America prepares to celebrate the 50thanniversary of the Stonewall Riots that ushered in the LGBT rights movement in the US, 55 SHADES OF GAY: BALKAN SPRING OF SEXUAL REVOLUTION pulls back the curtain to reveal the state of of gay rights in The Balkans. In the play, a gay couple apply to get married in a conservative, deeply homophobic provincial town. They make their request at a time when an Italian company has begun building a condom manufacturing factory in the town, a project that is financially supported by the European Union. Intellectuals, artists, politicians, religious leaders and professional grenade launchers try to stop the marriage from happening, despite the fact that same-sex marriage is technically permitted by the country's Constitution, which the Prime Minister signed according to a mandate from the EU.This provocative, politically incorrect performance poses the question: “Is sexual liberation possible in the Balkans?”

None of the members of Qendra Multimedia self-identify as openly gay. Gay clubs do not exist in Kosovo and LGBT life remains largely underground. Same-sex marriage is not recognized, same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt, and transgender people are not allowed to legally change their gender. Lesbians, gays, and bisexuals are allowed to serve in the military, but there are no openly LGBT members of the military in Kosovo.

55 SHADES OF GAY starsTristan Halilaj, Bujar Ahmeti, Shengyl Ismaili, Semira Latifi, Alketa Sylaj, Luan Durmishi (vocals) with a production team that includes Sebastian Ellrich (set & costumes), Florian Bilbao (choreography), Lendita Idrizi (stage manager), Verona Koxha (production assistant), Fatlum Idriz (lighting and technical director), Mursel Bekteshi (lighting). It is performed in English and Albanian (with subtitles) in translation by Alexandra Channer.

Jeton Neziraj is the Director of Qendra Multimediaw, after serving as the Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Kosovo. He has written over 20 plays that have been staged, translated and published in more than 15 languages. As a playwright, he has worked with theatres and companies including VolkstheaterVienna, National Theater of Wales,National Theater of Montenegro, Turkish National Theater (Istanbul), Schlachthaus Theater(Bern, Switzerland), Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden, International Theatre Festival MESS Sarajevo, Bitef Theater Belgrade, Nomad Theater (London), Collectife Termos (Paris). His plays have won numerous prizes and have been performed in theatre festivals throughout Europe. In May 2018, he received the European Union Office’s European of the Year Award, granted to individuals whose work and achievements have promoted European ideals and values..

Blerta Neziraj is Director in Residence at Qendra Multimedia where she has helmed numerous productions. A member of the Lincoln Center Theatre Director'sLab, she was a theater lecturer at the American University/Rochester Institute in Kosovo. She won Best Director for both The Demolition of the Eiffel Tower (Festival Flaka e Janarit in Kosovo, 2014)and A play with four actors and some pigs and some cows and some horses… (Theater Festival in Feriza, 2016). She has presented shows at festivals and venues through Europe including euro-scene International Festival of the Contemporary Theater (Germany), Zoom Festival (Croatia), VIE Festival (Italy),Théâtre Nouvelle Génération (France), National Theater (Albania), Schlachthaus Theater (Switzerland), Volkstheater(Austria) and Babel Festival (Romania).

Widely considered to be as one of the most interesting and provocative theatre companies in South Eastern Europe, Qendra Multimedia was founded in 2002 in Prishtina, Kosovo. Qendra was founded in 2002 by a group of young artists aiming to create an alternative form of art production. to address political and social issues with clarity and imagination. Qendra produces and coproduces fresh and innovative theatre performances and other literature and cultural events, for local and international audiences. Artistic exchanges with international partners are crucial in the work of Qendra Multimedia. Qendra’s work has been featured widely in the international press, including in The Guardian (UK), Der Spiegel (Germany), La Reppublica (Italy), The Stage (UK), New York Times (USA), Theater Heute (Germany), Danas (Serbia), Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany), American Theatre, Der Standard (Austria), Linköping (Sweden), Hystrio (Italy), and Cassandre (France).

La MaMa is dedicated to the artist and all aspects of the theatre. La MaMa's vision of nurturing new artists and new work remains as strong today as it was when Ellen Stewart first opened the doors in 1961. La MaMa has presented more than 5,000 productions by 150,000 artists of all nations, cultures, races and identities. Cultural pluralism and ethnic diversity are inherent in the work created on our stages. Here, artists find a supportive environment for artistic exploration, and audiences are part of the development of an artist’s work over time. A recipient of the 2018 Regional Theater Tony Award, and more than 30 Obie Awards and dozens of Drama Desk, Bessie, and Villager Awards, La MaMa has been a creative home for thousands of artists, many of whom have made lasting contributions to the arts, including Blue Man Group, Ping Chong, André De Shields, Adrienne Kennedy, Harvey Fierstein, Diane Lane, Warren Leight, Michael Mayer, Tadeusz Kantor, Bette Midler, Meredith Monk, Peter Brook, David and Amy Sedaris, Julie Taymor, Kazuo Ohno, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

55 SHADES OF GAY: BALKAN SPRING OF SEXUAL REVOLUTION runs March 7 - 17, Thursday - Saturday at 7pm and Sunday at 3pm with an additional performance Monday, March 11 at 7pm. Running time is 70 minutes. The Ellen Stewart Theatre at La MaMa is located at 66 East 4th Street, between Second Avenue and Bowery – closest train is the F at Second Avenue. Tickets are $25 general admission or $20 for students and seniors + $1 facility fee. La MaMa also has their 10 @ $10 ticketing initiative with ten $10 tickets available for every performance (advance purchase only with code: 10AT10). Tickets may be purchased at the door one hour prior to curtain. To purchase tickets, call 212-352-3101 or visit www.lamama.org.
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