When you head down to the Capital Pride festival, tear yourself away from the Main Stage and wander around a bit. If you hear the distant sound of drums, or the shouted commands of a square dance caller, head towards it. It won't be long until you find yourself at the Capital Pride Arts Corner Stage, where some of the finest talent in the D.C. metro area corners the market on Pride.
The Arts Corner stage debuted at Capital Pride in 1999. Each year since, Jill Strachan has coordinated the talent. In those years, she's seen a lot in terms of the diversity of talent in the D.C. area LGBT community. Part of her mission, and the mission of the GLBT Arts Consortium that organizes the Arts Corner, is to expose the wide array of GLBT artistry to the community at large.
''The intention is to increase awareness of LGBT arts in the city,'' says Strachan, ''and even within the LGBT community.''
Members of the GLBT Arts consortium get first dibs on program slots, of course. The Arts Consortium is the result of voluntary collaboration among various arts organizations. Many of its members appear regularly on the Arts Corner Stage -- like D.C.'s Different Drummers or the Lesbian and Gay Chorus, of which Strachan herself is a member -- but those aren't the only groups you'll find on the program. Strachan recalls many memorable performances by other groups over the years.
''One of the most memorable was when we had the cast of Naked Boys Singing perform one summer,'' she recalled. When the show played here in D.C. during the 2002/2003 season, the cast was invited to perform on the Arts Corner stage during the festival. But did they live up to their moniker?
''I remember we had a very interesting discussion about that,'' she says. When they made their appearance, says Strachan, ''They wore discreet towels.'' Even toweled, they drew a considerable audience.
The audience at the Arts Corner stage has grown during the years, says Strachan, a testament to the variety of acts featured on the stage, from a youth theater group from Pittsburgh that highlighted some of the issues and struggles of sexual minority youth, to a vocal group called the Tidbits (whom Strachan says promise to be pretty outrageous and memorable, too).
This year, you might think that the post-Brokeback crowd will probably turn out to see the D.C. Squares boot scoot across the stage in the summer heat. But this year's biggest draw just might be the women's band ''The Outskirts of Town'' -- billed as ''greater D.C.'s All Girl Kickass Party Band" -- who have a large following in the area. The band is in the midst of a farewell tour, and they'll deliver one of their final performances at the Arts Corner stage.
So, whether you come to the Arts Corner to hear the Outskirts, watch the hot and sweaty cowboys square dancing, or bask in the dulcet tones of vocal groups ranging from the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington to the Bread and Roses Feminist Singers, you're bound to hear and see something you like.