The American Premiere of ‘Aunty Ben’

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Young adults are super impressionable, which is why Youth Theatre is super important.  Even more important is offering Youth Theatre with an LGBT message. Which is why RENEW Theatre Company is bringing “Aunty Ben” to Philly Fringe this weekend! 

Aunty Ben is a TYA 1-act play coming to the William Way Center! The show tells the story of Tracy a 9 year old girl and her drag queen uncle (Ben) as both learn about acceptance and family love.   Local Actors and Actresses bring this show to life via their dedication to the message of the story and have been working their (rainbow) tail feathers off for the last 3 months to create a cohesive and welcoming environment at the William Way center. 

Let me tell you about this gorgeous set, a full wall of color and clothes line the back of the stage with an intentionally blurred line between Tracy’s world and Ben’s world, further emphasizing that these two characters might not be quite as different as they think.

I had a chance to speak with Theo Wampler who plays the title characther of Aunty Ben:

I’ll let you in on a little secret. The show isn't about drag queens. It isn't about drag culture. It isn't about who has the prettiest face or wears the highest heels. It isn't about catty quips or lip-syncing for your life (though all of these things are here-in contained). The show is about family. Which is a hard topic to market towards a Queer audience because "family" is a word within the LGBTQ community that still carries the weight of many complex, often unpleasant, emotions. Meanwhile, "Queer" is still a word that is very hard to market towards a "family" audience. Though, inevitably, every family has at least one. In the play "Aunty Ben", Drag is used as a literary device with which to explore the Queer identity inside of the family dynamic. It explores the narrative beyond any one isolated "coming-out" moment and the struggle to relate an entire identity's worth of perspectives and experiences to our families as we continue throughout our lives. It also explores how much of our acceptance is dependent upon our family's sense of entitlement that they should be able to continue a relationship with… whoever we are to them. And when and where the boundaries for "too Queer" lie. Ben demands to be accepted beyond the convenience or advantage of his family but in his entirety for the benefit of his own mental health and stability. Family so often means making excuses for one another in lieu of confronting the actual issue. I think it's important we teach the next generation how to confront their families from a place of love and how to maintain a healthy open conversation.

This show comes at an important time, in a world where most parents are totally okay with Drag Queens reading to children in libraries, but while Director Chad Parsons hopes those families enjoy this show, his goal is to educate the families that might not be totally okay with things they don't understand.  

Aunty Ben Opens this Friday and runs through Monday evening.  You can find tickets (or heck, make a donation) via

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