Fishy Woo Woo: A New Play About Queer Friendship Hits Pittsburgh This Pride

Shawn is going through it! He has just broken up with his boyfriend of 9 years and now has to clean his things out of the apartment he loved. The two friends he brought to help him with this heartbreaking activity are too busy passing the Henny bottle and barbs with each other to truly assist. Shawn’s ex was supposed to leave him alone in the midst of all this so he could get his stuff out but someone is turning the key in the door. And if that’s not enough, there is a rare Atlanta snowstorm on the horizon.

Intrigued yet? Great! Because that is the premise of Monteze Freeland’s brand new play, Fishy Woo Woo, premiering at Pittsburgh Playwrights’ new Madison Arts Center in the Hill District, May 31st through June 16th!

Monteze Freeland.

“It’s fluff!,” exclaims Monteze as he tells me about the play. “I don’t want anybody coming to this play thinking they’re about to walk away with this big lesson. I didn’t want to write that because there are enough people doing that right now.” He would know. Writer, producer, director, and former Pittsburgh Post Gazette Performer of the Year Monteze Freeland is also currently a Co-Artistic Director of Pittsburgh’s City Theatre. He’s got his finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the American theater today. “I just wanted to write a comedy, something that you could turn on your tv and see. These characters are people that you know, people that you like. And they’re in situations that we all have gone through.”

“That’s a sitcom,” I responded back.

“Most of my writing style comes from sitcoms actually,” responds Monteze. “I like the setup of it. I like that it’s characters that you get to know really quickly. Brains have a familiarity with archetypes so there’s a shorthand that you can use inside of that style.”

And boy did this statement resonate with me. Growing up, sitcoms were my jam! I developed personal relationships with sitcom characters. I feel a kinship with Darlene Connor. Uncle Phil was also my uncle and I’m still mourning his loss. Khadijah and Max were my girls and let’s not get me started on Dorothy Zbornak. We simply do not have the time to explore my feelings about her. So it’s safe to say that the shorthand in sitcom writing that Freeland speaks about is effective.

“Well, what sitcoms inspire your writing,” I ask.

“Well, of course, Golden Girls! Some other ones that inspired this play are Hot In Cleveland, Martin, and Living Single. But there’s also some Carol Burnett in there. It gets a little wacky!”

There may not be a giant life-changing lesson in Fishy Woo Woo but there is something life-changing in it: Representation. “We’re about to do a gay play in the Hill District,” exclaims Freeland during our conversation.

An all-Black gay play too! The cast of Pittsburgh favorites includes Mils “MJ” James as Cordero, Cheryl Bates White as Char, Royce Jones as Kaden, and Jason Shavers as Shawn. Yes, dear QBurgh readers, that’s me!

“That makes me happy because there are a lot of gay people in the Hill District. They deserve to feel represented in their neighborhood. What I’m trying to do with this play in my own small way is make people see our similarities in this world. Maybe if straight people saw this, they could see that we go through the same shit they go through. We have gaslighting too. There’s f*ck boys on both sides of the aisle. This play is also for people dealing with aging for the first time. When you’re in your late thirties and early forties, you start to feel it! When people talk about ‘young people’, they’re not talking about you anymore. There’s a divide now. How does our generation deal with that?”

So what does Fishy Woo Woo mean exactly? “I made it up,” laughs Freeland. “It invokes an air of suspicion but it’s really this friend group’s nickname. It comes from the fact that they like to get revenge!” So basically what we have here is a sitcom-esque play about gay friendships and revenge featuring a ridiculously talented cast, written by an even more ridiculously talented queer playwright during Pride month. Need I say anything else, Pittsburgh? Come see Fishy Woo Woo!

Jason Shavers is a born and raised Pittsburgh native. He is an actor that has worked extensively on stage and not so extensively on screen. Jason is also a self proclaimed expert on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Musical Theater and sitcoms that feature 4 women leads. Yeah, he’s gay AF. Follow him on Instagram. (He / Him / His)