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Georden West on Boston’s former Playland Café, journaling on vacation, and a good cappuccino

We caught up with the writer and director of the film ‘Playland’ to talk about all things travel

Georden West at the Carl Craig "Party/After-Party" sound installation at Dia:Beacon in Beacon, N.Y.
Georden West at the Carl Craig "Party/After-Party" sound installation at Dia:Beacon in Beacon, N.Y.Handout

For more than 50 years, Playland Café was Boston’s go-to gay bar in what was once the gritty Combat Zone area. Now, more than 20 years after the Essex Street establishment’s closing, artist, writer, and director Georden West is bringing the story of this iconic establishment to life on the big screen. West, 28, recently wrapped up filming “Playland” at a movie studio in Fort Devens. This is a story that needs to be told, they maintained. “I started research on this film a couple of years ago. It really highlights a lost queer subculture in Boston and I think it reflects a national trend of what is being lost when we’re closing or not supporting these brick and mortar spaces and what happens when nefarious government intervention displaces a marginalized group of people,” they said in a phone interview from the film set. “We have a huge focus on design — from the set to the costumes — and really the majority of our cast — and definitely all of our main cast — they’re all queer people, so we are really trying to generate community not only within our cast but within the entire film.” West, who wrote and directed the film, said that they are “examining this bar — which we have reimagined and rebuilt out here in Devens — not through patrons, but through the lens of servers, bartenders, drag queens … people who would have occupied and been stewards of the space throughout the majority of their lives.” West, a native of Monument, Colo., moved to Boston to attend Emerson College, where she received a master’s degree in visual media arts and subsequently taught cinematography. We caught up with the filmmaker, who lives in Boston but is moving to Provincetown next month for a visual arts residency fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center, to talk about all things travel.

Favorite vacation destination? The History Project in Back Bay. It is a wonderful LGBTQIA2+ independent archive in Boston and really altered the way I conceptualized the history of the New England’s queer communities. I could spend all day there poking around and learning about local queer history. I also love taking day trips to Dia:Beacon, in Beacon, N.Y. I went several times just to experience Carl Craig’s “Party/After-Party” [sound installation] while it was up.

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Favorite food or drink while vacationing? A good cappuccino.

Where would you like to travel to but haven’t? I have always wanted to go to the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn and the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago.

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One item you can’t leave home without when traveling? Headphones. No specific kind. If they’re not airplane headphones, I’m good to go. If I do need to use airplane headphones … that’s when I know I messed up.

Aisle or window? Pilot.

Favorite childhood travel memory? Camping in the Great Sand Dunes National Park [in Southern Colorado] when I was 14 or 15 with my entire family — all seven of us [siblings] in one place doing something fun and enjoyable together. I have a parent who had been quite sick, and this was the first time we all engaged and felt stress-free.

Guilty pleasure when traveling? Secretly doing research the entire time.

Best travel tip? Journal. I don’t know how other people feel when they travel, but I constantly reflect and am always critically assessing. I do my best work when I have distance and time to reflect on whatever creative thing that I’m doing.

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JULIET PENNINGTON