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Something for everyone at 2011 Out in the Tropics LGBT performance festival in Miami Beach

Click here to view a gallery from Thursday opening night panel discussion at the Shore Club hotel in Miami Beach featuring artists Andrea Askowitz, Keith Hennessy, Octavio Campos and Bitch. Photos by STEVE ROTHAUS / Miami Herald Staff.

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BY JORDAN LEVIN, jlevin@MiamiHerald.com

The only quality that the artists and programs on this year’s Out in the Tropics festival seem to have in common is how different they are — from each other, from more mainstream entertainment, even from other gay artists.

From performance artist Keith Hennessy’s wrenchingly personal (and physical) voyage through art theory, to singer-songwriter Bitch’s passionate folk-punk music, to the stories of self-discovery in a special edition of the story-telling series Lip Service, being gay is just a starting point. Performances for the second edition of the festival, presented by non-profit FUNDARTE, start Friday and run through June 18.

“None of these artists would want to be identified as only, or even primarily, a GLBT [gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender] artist,” says Robert Rosenberg, Out in the Tropics artistic director and founder. “We’re not just promoting gay or lesbian performers for the hell of it but artists that could appeal to a wider audience, addressing issues of sexuality and identity.”

When mainstream popular culture has progressed to the point at which a star the stature of Lady Gaga is an outspoken supporter of being gay (and/or faaaabulously different), what is there for a serious GLBT artist to rebel against?

“In the mid-’90s we had Melissa Etheridge, the Indigo Girls, k.d. lang, who were all out,” says Bitch, who has appeared in the John Cameron Mitchell film Shortbus and toured with indie-music heroine Ani DiFranco. “Now it doesn’t even matter that they’re gay. Which is kind of neat, ’cause it’s unfreaking it in a way. And in another way it’s annoying.”

For the 36-year-old, New York-based musician who began writing songs shortly after coming out in 1994, personal and artistic identity blended naturally.

“It was never a choice on my part to say I was gonna be out in my songs,” she says. “I wasn’t thinking about an audience.”

But Lady Gaga or not, Bitch still feels that heterosexual audiences are put off by her identity.

“I grew up with white guys singing folk music, and just because it’s not my culture doesn’t mean I don’t relate to their poetry and struggles,” she says. “But when it’s flipped, people don’t relate in the same way.”

Click here to read the complete article.

IF YOU GO

What: Out in the Tropics

Events: Bitch in Concert: 8 p.m. Friday, Colony Theater, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach. $20 ($15 for students and seniors) at www.fundarte.us or www.ticketmaster.com or 305-674-1040

Jai Rodriguez’s Dirty Little Secrets: 10 p.m. Friday and June 17, 7:30 p.m. June 19, Carnival Studio Theater at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; $35 at www.arshtcenter.org or 305-949-6722

Keith Hennessy in CROTCH: 8 p.m. Saturday, Colony Theater; $20 ($15 students/seniors) at www.fundarte.us or www.ticketmaster.com or 305-674-1040

Cracks screening: 8 p.m. (women’s reception at 6:30 p.m.) Sunday, Coral Gables Art Cinema, 260 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables; $20 at www.fundarte.us or www.tix.com or 800-595-4849

Lip Service: True Stories Out Loud: 8 p.m. June 18, Miracle Theater, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables; $15 at www.lipservicestories.com

General info: 305-910-7898

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