The Mardi Gras festival guide for 2005 will be launched tomorrow, with a program of more than 100 events held over four weeks.

The third festival for New Mardi Gras will be held from 4 February to 5 March and has as many events as last year, with a mix of international guests, local shows and old favourites.

Highlights include Divas Of House, a concert featuring Ultra Nat?Barbara Tucker and Jocelyn Brown; a visit by New York drag queen Varla Jean Merman and a new show by Sandra Bernhard.

Obviously I’m looking forward to Sandra Bernhard, New Mardi Gras co-chair Steph Sands told Sydney Star Observer. It’s been a while since she’s been out here, and she’s got a wit and a charm about her that can’t be denied. I’m also looking forward to seeing Penny Arcade again, her first time back in Australia since 1995.

Theatre highlights include productions of the lesbian classic The Children’s Hour and the acclaimed one-woman Spanish play All The Things I Would Never Tell You In Eight Songs And 12 Pictures, performed by Ana Momplet Chico.

In cabaret, Trevor Ashley presents Australian Idle (a sequel to Pop Princess), and Candi Stratton embodies Ms Sarkasian in Cher And Cher Alike. Music performances include shows by Bluehouse, and in the visual arts exhibitions celebrate everything from raw lesbian sex (in Slit magazine’s Brutal show) to Naked Berlin.

The Great Debate returns thanks to ACON, and the fair day, parade and party are also well on schedule. A full program of sporting and community events is on offer, including Bear Essentials IX: Ursus Maximus.

New Mardi Gras also announced this week a new partnership with Pride London, which is held every July.

The collaboration is intended to provide joint promotional and sponsorship opportunities, and was officially endorsed this week by London mayor Ken Livingstone and Sydney mayor Clover Moore.

New Mardi Gras also announced the appointment of Graeme Browning (a.k.a. Mitzi McIntosh) as creative director for the 2005 parade, and a parade entry kit may be downloaded from www.mardigras.org.au from next week.

Tickets will also be on sale from tomorrow for the 2005 party to be held at Fox Studios on Saturday 5 March.

Early bird tickets are $65 (concession), $89 (members) and $99 (full price) and may be purchased from Ticketek on 9266 4800 or online at www.ticketek.com.au. For more information on all events visit www.mardigras.org.au.

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