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The production also sets the tone for the venue. The Painted Mug is run by a collective of a half-dozen LGBTQ people who came together to open a friendly community space at a time when many bars and stages have closed.

The L’Etage cabaret space above Beau Monde in South Philly temporarily closed early in the pandemic and has yet to reopen. Philadelphia’s only lesbian bar, The Toasted Walnut, closed earlier this year.

“A lot of the places that are left are places that really center drinking culture and party culture,” said Taylor Plunkett-Clements, managing director of the Hum’n’Bards and director of events for The Painted Mug. “There are a lot of sober queers who would like to be able to engage with other queer people in a space that is specifically for queer people and run by queer people. We were like, ‘OK, how can we do this better than the bars?’”

The Painted Mug will feature coffee and baked goods, and a performance space with seating for a few dozen people. The interior space is not completely finished, but after the run of “A (Queer) Christmas Carol,” Plunkett-Clements said the space will be ready for a more formal open house on New Year’s Day. They have booked events every weekend through January.

The scene where Scrooge (Josh Hitchens) is flown by the ghost of Christmas Past (Linden Curhart ), is assisted with paper effects. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The space at 1527 Jackson Street, near 16th and Snyder, had been a corner retail office for an insurance company. It was a piece of real estate Plunkett-Clements would often walk past with friend and neighbor Vincent Scarfo, also known as the drag performer Beary Tyler Moore. Together, they would take pandemic constitutional walks and talk about the state of the LGBTQ community.

Moore echoed Plunkett-Clements, saying much of the LGBTQ social scene in Philadelphia is centered around bars and nightclubs, which often involves drinking and drugs.

“That’s not to mention that there’s a lot of racism problems in the Gayborhood, a lot of misogyny and femmephobia, sexual assault,” said Moore. “A lot of those spaces cater to cis men exclusively. Not to say that nobody else is welcome, but in some of the spaces a lot of trans people, people of color feel unwelcome because it’s mostly white cis men in those spaces.”

Then, the pandemic provided Moore with an unexpected opportunity: The value of their house had doubled. Their small, two-bedroom rowhome in the neighborhood was suddenly in demand, and with its sale, they could buy the corner retail shop, live in the apartment above, and turn the street level over to a business collective that would run it as an LGBTQ community hub.

“This was just sitting on the market because nobody wanted to buy a giant duplex,” they said. “Nobody was opening businesses in the middle of the pandemic.”

“A Queer Christmas Carol” is a production by the Hum’n’Bards staged at the Painted Mug, a new cafe and performance space in South Philadelphia, featuring Rosey Hart as the narrator. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Plunkett-Clements said The Painted Mug has no financial backers other than what the collective is able to share, so the space will be continually improved over time as funds are raised. Any employees hired will own shares of the business.

“We need a little bit more funding so that we can build a ramp,” said Plunkett-Clements. “Ramps are very expensive, but it’s something that’s really important to us.”

They say they plan to create a space that will be inviting and accommodating to LGBTQ people who may not feel comfortable or welcome at other venues, including people who are under 21, don’t drink alcohol or use drugs, people with disabilities, parents — or anyone who just doesn’t want to stay out late on a weekday.

“I know a lot of singers who don’t want to drink that much, or don’t want to sing at 10 o’clock at night on a Wednesday, which I enjoy doing,” said Plunkett-Clements, “but it’s exhausting and some of us have 9-to-5 jobs. We want to sing on a Saturday afternoon and then go home and go to bed at a reasonable hour.”

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Philly’s newest LGBTQ performance venue to debut with ‘A (Queer) Christmas Carol’


Philly’s newest LGBTQ performance venue to debut with ‘A (Queer) Christmas Carol’