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Introducing PrideLight: Our Spotlight on Theatre and Entertainment

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This week at TravelPride, we introduce PrideLight, your guide to recommended best bets in entertainment. Fall is a popular time for theatre companies to schedule season openings, so there’s a lot going on in almost every town across America, too much to cover in one pithy column. But this seems a fitting time to focus on some of the cities where foliage tours and the waning last days of outdoor amusement might take you hiking, biking, and exploring in the less urban centers. For example, Asheville and Richmond might not make the cut every week. While larger markets like San Francisco and leading LGBTQ-specific theatres will receive more consistent coverage, I’ll seek to guide you off the beaten path to seek out the best of regional and community theatre events that might not pique your curiosity at first glance.

The goal is exploration, after all.

Asheville, North Carolina

What: Carry On written and performed by Murphy Funkhouser Capps
Where: Asheville Community Theatre
When: September 29-October 1

Playwright Murphy Funkhouser Capps (great name, right?) expands on her award-winning one-act play with a new act and a fresh title. In 2007, Murphy Funkhouser Capps quit her job and hit the road with 500 pounds of luggage hooked to the back of her Subaru to take her one-act Crazy Bag on the road. The autobiographical one woman show about her journey from minister’s daughter to rebellion to redemption premiered at Colorado Theatre Festival and won numerous awards, including one recognizing Capps for her acting chops in the Festival performance and a nomination for Best Solo Performance of 2008 by the Denver Post.

Crazy Bag went on to rave reviews in Breckenridge, Aspen, Denver, Albuquerque, and Oklahoma City and was accepted into the 2008 San Francisco Fringe Festival. The journey brought her back to Asheville where her story began two decades before. Do not be repelled by the “community theatre” stigma that can sometimes haunt the small-town playhouses of middle America. This performance is a must see for those who love to discover that unexpected gem, and support original work by talented artists. The performance is one weekend only, and tickets are available at www.ashevilletheatre.org and range in price up to $50. The company website provides detailed travel and parking directions and advertises free parking after 6 pm.

What: Listen to This hosted by Tom Chalmers
Where: Asheville Community Theatre
When: October 26, November 30
What to do? You just missed Carry On at Asheville Community Theatre. If it’s a Thursday, head to the theatre for the 7:30 performance of Listen to This staged in ACT’s intimate black box space 35below every Thursday. Quickly becoming Asheville’s most popular series, actor/comedian Tom Chalmers hosts this collection of stories and songs from Asheville’s most interesting writers and performers, a fresh theme and new performers each week bring to mind a good old fashioned southern potluck. Fair warning: the show could be hit or miss depending on the featured artists chosen, but for an admission price of only $15, I’d say it’s worth the risk. The company encourages you to enjoy refreshments in the theatre but also cautions that seating is limited and punctuality a must, both for parking availability and choice seating (even for those with tickets in hand). Purchase tickets in advance at www.ashevilletheatre.org. Arrive and park earlier in the day and check out the Tom Wolfe Memorial, downtown shops, and other sites of the quaint downtown area.

Atlanta, GA

What: Atlanta Black Theatre Festival
Where: West End Performing Arts Center
When: October 4-7

A diverse lineup of artists drawn from around the globe to around the corner. The Atlanta Black Theatre Festival is “40 plays in 4 days,” hardly enough time to preserve and share the stories of the African diaspora. But whether you’re a lover of Tyler Perry, August Wilson, or world-class Black Art, the amazing shows and international vendors’ market will make this popular fall festival one of your favorite things to do in Atlanta. Don’t just pick a play; pick a DAY (or all four) and immerse yourself in a marathon of bold, exciting theatre. Produced by Micah 6:8 Media “a professional management company.”

Boston, MA

What: Faceless by Selina Fillinger
Where: Zeitgeist Stage Company at Boston Center for the Arts
When: NOW PLAYING through October 7
With especially positive reviews in The Boston Globe, Boston Phoenix, Broadway World, and Boston Arts Review for its solid performers and the visual impact of its set designs, founder and artistic director David Miller has lead this smaller fringe company in exploring contemporary plays and rediscovering historic works for 17 seasons. In Faceless, eighteen-year-old Susie Glenn is on trial for conspiring to commit acts of terrorism, and recent Harvard Law grad and practicing Muslim, Claire Fathi, has been brought on to prosecute. Though pitted against one another in the courtroom, these two young women are fighting a similar battle to defend their morals, motives and religious freedoms in this riveting and timely new drama. An explosion of identity politics, questions of faith, and a face-off between two seemingly diametrically-opposed women drives this compelling narrative.
Faceless is presented at the Plaza Black Box Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts. Purchase tickets and peruse other upcoming Boston productions at www.bostontheatrescene.com. Tickets for Faceless are reasonably priced at $20. Count on having an intimate theatre experience in the 90-seat black box, expect thought-provoking subject matter, and enjoy excellent performances from the play’s two strong female leads.
What: Wicked Queer
Where: Boston Museum of Fine Art
When: Ongoing
While in Boston, also check in with Wicked Queer: the Boston LGBT Film Festival housed in the Museum of Fine Art, Boston. The group sponsors ongoing events and film screenings. Check the user-friendly calendar prior to your trip at www.wickedqueer.org for titles and showtimes.

Boulder, CO

What: The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson
Where: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company at Dairy Arts Center
When: NOW PLAYING through October 8

You may think you know Marie Antoinette. You don’t. You may believe you can outsmart Charlotte Corday. You can’t. You may have never heard of Olympe de Gouges. You will. In this irreverent, girl-powered comedy, these women live, die, and dare boldly in revolutionary Paris.
Producing Artistic Director Stephen Weitz shared his thoughts about the programming for this season “…as things were unfolding over the last eight to 10 months, we had some internal conversations about who we wanted to be in this climate.” This season, the company has assembled the most diverse ensemble in the company’s history. For the season debut of The Revolutionists, for example, BETC assembled an all-female production staff to complement the show’s all-female cast, and a majority of the plays in their 6-show lineup are written by women or persons of color. Tickets range from $20-$45 (most tickets priced at $36.50). The $45 ticket on opening night September 16 includes admission to the post-show reception. Purchase tickets at www.thedairy.org and investigate more about BETC at www.betc.org.

Chicago, IL

What: A Perfect Arrangement
Where: Pride Films and Plays at Pride Arts Center
When: NOW PLAYING-October 22

In Topher Payne’s comedy A Perfect Arrangement, it’s 1950, and new colors are being added to the Red Scare. Two U.S. State Department employees, Bob and Norma, have been tasked with identifying sexual deviants within their ranks. There’s just one problem: Both Bob and Norma are gay, and have married each other’s partners and moved next door to each other as a carefully constructed cover. Set amidst the earliest stirrings of the American gay rights movement, madcap classic sitcom-style laughs give way to provocative drama as two “All-American” couples are forced to stare down the closet door.
This relatively new theatre company in the Chicago theatre scene is housed at Pride Arts Center. Pride Films and Plays, seeks to bring theatre to the Chicago area that is “essential viewing” for all audiences. The Huffington Post has called this, “A powerful and empowering entity.” Tickets are on sale now www.pridefilmsandplays.com.
What: The CiviliTy of Albert Cashier, music & lyrics by Joe Stevens and Keaton Wooden, book by GLAAD Award nominated writer/producer Jay Paul Deratany
Where: Stage 773 (Permoveo Productions)
When: NOW PLAYING through October 15
This new musical, set between 1862 and 1915, tells the astonishing, “timely, essential, insightful” and true story of “an amazing figure from [our]history” -The Windy City Times. In The CiviliTy of Albert Cashier, Albert Cashier is a Civil War soldier with a secret that resonates with today’s modern world. Detailing the soldier’s life fighting in more than 40 engagements during the Civil War, the musical follows Cashier through retirement and the onset of dementia, when a life-long secret was discovered: That Albert was born Jennifer Hodgers. Causing an uproar in the small southern Illinois community where Cashier lived, Cashier was prosecuted for impersonating a soldier, requiring fellow soldiers to return once again after 60 years to detail Albert’s heroism and life.
Stage 773 acts to embody the vibrant spirit of Chicago off-loop theater. The group strives to present excellent and affordable theatre and provide a foster home for emerging artists and creative groups. The theatre hosts various companies and acts throughout the year. See Bullets over Broadway or choose from a list of other current shows now playing. Tickets for The CiviliTy of Albert Cashier are $40. Visit www.stage773.org or www.theatreinchicago.com.

Dallas, TX

What: In the Tall Grass written and directed by Paul Kalburgi
Where: TeCo Theatrical Productions at Bishop Arts Center
When: NOW PLAYING through September 24
In the Tall Grass, produced in association with Transgender Education Network of Texas, follows the harrowing true story of the murder of Shade Schuler, a 22-year-old Dallas transgender woman. The community is left asking “why” and fearing who could be next. Told through the first-hand testimonies of trans women of color in Dallas, the world premiere of In the Tall Grass explores the circumstances which force many to exist in the underworld – ignored by society, cut off from support and legal systems.
TeCo Theatrical productions, an award-winning multi-cultural “oasis for the next generation” of artists, was founded in 1993. The company offers a full season of theatrical performances, jazz concerts, a speaker series, and year-round arts education programs. Tickets range in price from $12-$25 and can be purchased online at www.bishopartstheatre.org.
What: Hair: the American Tribal Love Rock Musical
Book and Lyrics by Gerome Ragni & James Rado
Music by Galt Macdermont Directed by Kevin Moriarty
Where: Dallas Theatre Center
When: September 22-October 22

Dallas Theatre Center is aptly named as it is truly the center of the Dallas Theatre Scene with a long-standing record of excellent professional entertainment. They just won a Regional Tony Award in case you missed it. If you’re a resident or frequent visitor, you already know about them. Granted, their offerings are a little more commercial, a little more mainstream, but this production is somewhat of a diversion for them and really caught my eye. People in red states are just dying to rip their clothes off, apparently. I was about to scroll on by until I saw this:

WARNING: This production will include Hippies cursing, smoking pot, getting naked, mocking societal conventions, meditating, taking LSD, flaunting their sexuality, celebrating their race, creating a happening, singing and dancing. Also, there will be audience participation. Consider yourself warned, and come to the Be-In.

Ok, so if you haven’t already seen Hair, besides just assigning you a failing grade in Musical Theatre class, I’m going to push you through the doors to see this production. Find tickets and more at www.dallastheatrecenter.org. (TravelPride is not responsible for any STDs you acquire during this performance.)

New York, NY

What: Fearless: Art in the Face of Adversity
A series of performances by LGBTQ artists
Where: The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural & Educational Center
When: Ongoing throughout 2017-18, Next event opens September 29

Artists at The Clemente created this series of works in direct response to the tragedy in Orlando and continuing attacks against the LGBTQ community. Connected by the theme of understanding and unity, these events are spread throughout The Clemente’s 2017-18 season. See Tjasa Ferme’s “The Female Role Model Project,” directed by Ana Marginaunu September 29-October 1. The artists describe it as a “scientifically enhanced multimedia-devised theatre piece built by an ensemble of female-identified artists about recreating modern female role models in the world of cataclysmic climate change, cataclysmic political change, and possibility of reprogramming our brains.” Check www.theclementecenter.org for other titles coming up in this exciting series. Admission is $15 per performance.
Since 1993 The Clemente has focused on “cultivation, presentation, and preservation” of Puerto Rican and Latino culture. Equally “determined to operate in a multi-cultural and inclusive manner,” the organization promotes artists and performance events that “fully reflect the cultural diversity of the Lower East Side and the city as a whole.”

What: Torch Song by Harvey Fierstein, Directed by Moises Kaufman
Where: Second Stage Theater at Tony Kiser Theater
When: Opens September 26

Torch Song takes place in 1979 in New York City. Arnold Beckoff is on a quest for love, purpose and family. He’s fierce in drag and fearless in crisis, and he won’t stop until he achieves the life he desires. Now, Arnold is back… And he’s here to sing you a torch song. The Tony Award-winning play that forever changed the trajectory of Broadway returns for a new generation.
Second Stage Theater produces an adventurous range of premieres, musicals, bold new interpretations of contemporary plays, and unique theatrical experiences from America’s most dynamic writers of the 21st century. Through the discovery of emerging talent, the commissioning of new work, and the creation of a training base for directors, Second Stage reflects the diverse city and the world we live in today and reaches an ever-growing audience through its Broadway runs, national tours and regional productions.
Torch Song runs 2 hours and 20 minutes including intermission. Ticket are limited and prices vary, so we recommend contacting the Box Office at 212-246-4422. The theater also offers student access tickets one hour prior to curtain to full time students and $30 under 30 tickets will be available in advance for patrons under 30 and for limited performances before October 19. (Valid ID required.) Find out more at www.2ST.com.
What: {my lingerie play} 2017: The Concert and Call to Arms. Story, Music, and Lyrics by Diana Oh
Where: Rattlestick Playwright’s Theatre
When: September 27-October 28

What drives an artist to stand in her black corset in Times Square on a soapbox? It began for Diana Oh at 17 with her first shoplifted f*ck me bra. Over the course of this unfiltered and soul-baring, performance art event, Diana Oh’s personal collection of unmentionables comes on and off as she and her band ignite the audience to create a saner, safer, more courageous world for us all.
World premiere {my lingerie play} is a play, a protest, a concert, and an installation all at once. Through this concert-play, Diana and her band explore mainstream culture’s relationship to the body and the deep and complex dynamics that exist regarding sex and gender politics. This culminates in a genre-bending soulful rock and R&B concert-play and final installation of {my lingerie play} 2017: 10 underground performance installations in lingerie (as supported by the Venturous Theater Fund of Tides Foundation for 2017) staged in an effort to provide a saner, safer, more courageous world for women, trans, queer, and non-binary humans to live in. Tickets range from $10-$30 (preview performances) and $40 general admission after October 13. Rattlestick is on the cutting edge of art and theatre. Explore www.rattlestick.org to purchase tickets and find out more.

 Portland, OR

What: Hand of God by Robert Askins
Where: Triangle Productions (The Sanctuary at Sandy Plaza)
When: NOW PLAYING through September 30
Nominated for 5 Tony Awards including Best Play for its Broadway production, Hand of God is a must see. If you missed this dark comedy in New York, don’t worry. Regional theatres across the country are jumping at the chance to produce it. The plot follows Jason who finds an outlet for his anxiety through the Christian puppet ministry in a conservative town in Texas, but when his puppet Tyrone takes on a shocking and dangerously irreverent personality of his own, Jason’s life is thrown into upheaval. Based on Triangle’s 27-year history and consistently positive reviews, expect a solid production of Hand of God in Portland. Presented in The Sanctuary at Sandy Plaza, Hand of God couldn’t be a better choice for this company that produces “rich stories told through diverse perspectives, particularly the gay perspective.” Audience members sit in church pews! A full bar and bistro with a limited dine in menu opens an hour and a half before show times and stays open after the show. The company’s website offers other nearby dining recommendations that range from Asian to American BBQ. There are two free parking lots and free parking on the street close to the theatre, a rare find in Portland. Tickets are still available from $15-$35 (no handling charge) and can be purchased online through the company website www.trianglepro.org

Richmond, VA

What: Cloud 9 by Caryl Churchill
Where: Richmond Triangle Players
When: September 27-October 3
Hailed as the best professional theatre in Richmond of any style or stripe, Richmond Triangle Players is taking a big bite out of the queer theatre anthology in its 25th season. If you took a modern theatre class in college, you’re probably already familiar with at least one play by the illusive, reclusive playwright Caryl Churchill who is known for evading questions about her plays preferring that each audience member decide for themselves what “it” (fill in the blank) means. Graduate students could write tomes on any one of her plays. Cloud 9, the surreal, gender-bending, ethnic cross-casting comment on feminism, colonialism, and gender identity was decades ahead of its time when it first premiered in the 80s, but the show still feels futuristic to today’s audiences. This theatre fare is less for those seeking a delightful theatrical diversion, but more for those who love provocation, to think and to discuss long after the final curtain goes down. Look to be challenged, enlightened, dumbfounded, and entranced. You’ll wake up the next morning still thinking about the ins and outs of this one. Look for a feature column on this exciting company in TravelPride next week. RTP’s 25th season is well-chosen, thought-provoking, joyous, and balanced with a little something for everyone (everyone except Granny Kate, that is). Go to www.rtriangle.org for more information and to purchase tickets in advance.

San Diego, CA

What: Homos, OR Everyone in America by Jordan Seavey
Where: Diversionary Theatre
When: NOW IN PREVIEWS, open September 23-October 15
Founded in 1986, Diversionary Theatre provides quality theatre for the LGBT community with a vision for amplifying the next generation of LGBT voices. By exploring stories of what sets our culture and history apart, as well as stories that focus on LGBT people’s humanity rather than their sexuality, Diversionary bridges the gaps of cultural understanding. Homos, Or Everyone in America a new play by Jordan Seavey follows a Brooklyn couple attempting to navigate the complexities of contemporary gay life together. Hopscotching back and forth over the timeline of their relationship, a sensual, hilarious and compelling story of their bond emerges. This brave, new play confronts the lingering dangers and interconnected values of our nation, and the way our future may be found through our past. Previews began September 15 with a September 23 opening. Look for a feature on this ground-breaking company, the 3rd oldest continuously producing LGBT theatre in the United States. Diversionary’s decades-long track record of collaboration and new work development has solidified the company’s status as a leading queer theatre- a must see if you’re in the San Diego area.

San Francisco, CA

What: The Legend of Pink by Kheven LaGrone
Where: Theatre Rhinoceros at the Gateway Theatre
When: NOW PLAYING through September 30
GLAAD Media Award Winner Theatre Rhinoceros now in its 40th season and the longest running queer theatre in the world presents the world premiere of a new play The Legend of Pink, a local story set in West Oakland. The time is the late Twentieth Century. Drug wars rage and the lovely African American transgender woman, Pink, does her best to bring a bit of beauty to the harsh environment. But people are watching Pink as she tries to form a connection with a beautiful young man, and they don’t like it.
All shows produced at the Gateway Theatre (formerly Eureka Theatre). Tickets are $20-$40. Call the 24-hour box office hotline at 1-800-838-3006 or link to Brown Paper Tickets. If you miss The Legend of Pink, find information about future shows at this leading queer theatre company at www.therhino.org.
What: Dash Improv: An hour of free-form comedy chaos
Where: Un-scripted Theater Company
When: Saturdays at 10 pm
If you don’t get your act together in time to catch The Legend of Pink at the Rhinocerous, drop by Un-Scripted Theater Company Saturdays at 10 PM and enjoy all the fast, funny, fearless hilarity the company can jam into an hour for an admission price of only $10. The fact that this show is offered weekly is testament to the company’s depth of talent and audience demand. Un-Scripted bills the weekly show as “a seamless, spontaneous, and continuously morphing spectacle of excitement and laughs.” www.un-scripted.com

Seattle, WA

What: Next Fall by Geoffrey Nauffts
Where: Fantastic.Z
When: September 29-October 14
Named last year by Playbill as one of “15 Regional Theatre Companies Leading the Charge in Gay Theatre,” may I introduce Fantastic.Z. An artist founded and run company presenting quality theatre focused through a queer lense, Fantastic.Z’s presence in the national queer theatre scene has been growing in recent years. With a commitment to producing new plays in the Puget Sound area, the company produces an annual New Works Festival of 10-minute plays and also seeks out new full-length plays to be considered for its mainstage season. Upcoming production Next Fall takes a witty and provocative look at faith, commitment, and unconditional love. This timely and compelling new play forces us all to examine what it means to “believe” and what it might cost us. Tickets available www.fantasticZ.org.
When you see any of the shows on our list, please share your thoughts about the experience and the welcome you received. Did we get it right or miss the mark? Do you have a favorite theatre company or performing arts group in your area? Tell us about them!

Originally posted 2017-09-19 14:35:02.

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The Assassin Chronicles – Chapter Two: Switzerland

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Content Advisory:  Contains Violence, and Brief Sexuality and Language.

Previously on The Assassin Chronicles

     “Is it feasible?”  This was his handler, Mr. Wolf.

     With a sigh, The Assassin nodded once. He was a man of no words.

###

     Inside that tent, Fred Robertson and Graham Phelps discussed what to do with the charitable donations.  Both men were shrewd in business, but only Fred could be called unscrupulous.  He was an overweight smoker battling inoperable lung cancer.

     “My company could always use more cancer funding.  Although, you’re screwing over your own community.”

     “I don’t have HIV.”

###

     Wolf snatched Fred’s collar, nearly dragging him out of the tent.

     Smith was waiting.  He grabbed Fred’s head and snapped it backwards.

     Briefly stunned, Wolf watched Fred’s lifeless body fall to the floor.  Smith disappeared into the crowd.

###

     “Enjoy your trip to Switzerland, Mr. Kowalczyk,” the stewardess called out.

###

     “What made you think I’d sign off on this?”

     “There’s something you need to see.”  Wolf pulled a photo out of his pocket and handed it to the figure.

     The mystery man sucked his teeth.  “Have everyone waiting for us on the dock.  Dear God, how did I not see this?!”

Now…

     The massive freighter made port near a little coastal village in Japan.  Mystery man, now known by his assumed name of Hans Maligno, sat in a wicker chair.  He was fanned by undercover Taiwanese immigrants.  Everything about him was cruel; his gray eyes, his wrinkled chin… his arm fat!

     Wolf stood guard nearby and handled business on a SAT phone.  “The plane’s heading for –”

     “I know where he’s going.  Move to intercept.”

     Still in the air and on his way to Switzerland, Smith enjoyed a glass of expensive scotch in what appeared to be first class.

     A very attractive male steward approached him.  “Another two fingers, Monsieur Kowalczyk?”  He smiled a gentle smile.

     Smith returned the school-boy grin and shook his head “No.”  However, when the steward departed for his other duties, Smith turned his head slightly and watched him walk away.  Being such a single and lonely man, the fact that he was thinking about nothing but the steward’s perfect ass hardly fazed him.  I need to get a life, his thought continued as he focused his attention on the clouds outside the aircraft.

     Another 747 flew dangerously close to his. How odd.  Suddenly, it was struck with a ground-to-air Stinger missile and plummeted to the Alps below!  If not for the carnage, one might enjoy such scenic views of perfectly pointed snow capped peaks combined with lush and fertile valleys.  On the outskirts, ski lodges lived up to the mental picture of danger for talented thrill seekers.  

     Shockwaves from the explosion shook Smith’s cabin.  It was the cabin of a private Gulfstream V.  Thank God he had one of his hunches and got off the 747 at the last minute.  His hunches always saved him.  Even those he felt as a child.

     Feeling a sense of safety, Smith found the steward and threw him onto the lavish leather sofa off to the side.  Their eyes met first.  Then their lips.  With animal-like strength, he tore open the twenty-three year old’s dress shirt and pressed his face into the large rose tattoo on his chest.  Smith followed his new friend’s happy trail to paradise and they joined the mile high club together.

     The Gulfstream landed safely in Geneva, at the international airport.  Geneva is one of those gorgeous, massive, and modern cities that still manages to look like something from the Gothic Middle Ages.  While it can be unsettling, it’s quite picturesque too.

     From there, Smith took a cab (how pedestrian of him) to one of the biggest five star hotels in the heart of the city.  The Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues may have looked plain on the outside, but it was anything short of spectacular within.  In fact, it was so bourgeois the porter almost refused to carry in Smith’s luggage from the common taxi – until he spotted the Bric’s Milano label.

     Smith was escorted by management passed rooms of some stature up to his room.  He had booked the Geneve Presidential suite; It was a tranquil mix of golden fabrics and modern dark wood furnishings.  

     “Will this do, Monsieur?” the manager enquired whilst Smith checked out the balcony.

     The Assassin nodded, peering down on the harbor.  The sun was setting and the scene made Smith happy – well, almost.  This was the type of place he would like to vacation in.  Unfortunately, this was no vacation.  He had come here for a reason, and she was about to show up on his doorstep.

     Some time later, Smith tossed his luggage on the bed before disrobing.  He started the bath and examined his body in a mirror.  It was heavily scarred – a knife wound here, bullet hole there – but it still held its beauty.  This was true despite the fact that the corners of his bottom had begun to sag and no matter how many sit-ups he did, he’d never be rid of the “love-handle” like folds around his waist.  He could brag about other features to make up for it, but he was in one of his modest moods.

     The balcony door had been left open by design.  Martha Kowalczyk tip-toed into the room and approached Smith from behind.

      From the depths of the tub, The Assassin produced an underwater pistol, pointing it at her without turning around.

     “ Nice to see you too, son.”  Martha croaked in a heavy Irish accent.  She circled the tub till she met his eyes.

     Her son’s mouth fell open.  “She” was in the process of transitioning into a more masculine pronoun and currently went by the name Edward.

     “Yuh like the new me?” she continued.  Smith had to admit her beauty hadn’t been lost.  Her soft and bright facial features were still there, despite the peach fuzz.  Kind, emerald eyes peered at him through spectacles so thick they appeared fogged.  Actually, the eyes were more kind than he remembered.

     Smith smiled at her.

     “That’s my boy,” Edward grinned back.

     The tranquility lasted just a few seconds before a few vehicles screeched to a halt outside.  Edward ran back onto the balcony to observe.

     Down below, Wolf stepped out of an SUV, another half-dozen armed men with him all brandishing a variety of Kel-Tec weapons and gear.  He was on the phone with Maligno.  “Yes, sir.  I’ll take them alive.”

     After placing his cell phone back in a hip holster, Wolf turned to his troops.  “Take them down.”

     A couple of his men looked at one another, then back at him.

     “Now, dammit, now!”

     The mercenaries charged inside without a single degree of subtlety.  Wolf held back, feeling a strange sensation.  He looked skyward and spotting Edward almost immediately.  With a glare, he moved his new Italian handgun into his hand.  (Unbeknownst to just about everyone, he was an avid gamer and this handgun was styled almost identically to one in a popular Japanese zombie survival-horror.)

     Back in the suite, Edward rushed Smith into the tactical gear The Assassin carried in case things ever went really bad.  After dressing, Smith handed his mother an assortment of weapons before converting his M45 handgun into a full-auto PDW.

     In the lobby, Wolf held the manager at gunpoint and forced him to call up to Smith’s room for a little pre-fight banter.

      “Hello, Smith,” Wolf began.  “I know you won’t surrender.  That’s fine.  I don’t want you to.”

     Smith gripped the phone tighter, his leather gloves creaking on the faded porcelain.  Outside, he heard a couple mercenaries stack up beside the door next to him.

     “Congratulations.  I’m writing your epitaphe right now.”

     The room door splintered.  Smith plugged one merc with a few rounds from his gun before it was ripped from his hand.  He was thrown backwards against the wall, but still managed to kick out the second mercenaries knee.  It wasn’t long before he used the phone in a most grotesque manner.  First, broke the man’s nose with it, then used it to string him up and choke him to death!  As a final measure, The Assassin chucked a grenade over the railing to the stairwell just outside the suite.  Edward plugged his ears.

     Wolf watched fire and wood shards rain down on his remaining men from his position of some safety.  He was unnaturally calm.  “Go get the shit-stain,” he barked at the mercenaries.

     They did their best.  It wasn’t their fault Smith also did his best.  One by one, they all fell in a short gun-fight that resulted only in staining the stairwell walls.

     At the end, Smith and Edward stared Wolf down.  Wolf, ever the dramatic, turned the manager’s head into Swiss cheese.

     “And it’s going to read, ‘Here lies Smith:  the biggest pain in my ass.’”  Wolf grinned.

     Both of them took a step back to brace for the recoil of their weapons.  They stared each other down.  The lobby became the old West.  But who, both wondered, would flinch first this time?

FADE OUT.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

Stay tuned for the dramatic conclusion to this scene next week and, be sure to support our site if you would like to continue to see more top quality content from all of our writers!

Thanks for Reading,

Ryan MariK

Originally posted 2017-10-08 14:25:16.

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Film Review: Battle of the Sexes

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With women and the LGBTQ community in hopeful anticipation of seeing ourselves and our history played out on the big screen, last weekend Twentieth Century Fox released “Battle of the Sexes” in theaters. I went last Saturday afternoon to see mainstream Hollywood’s take on the infamous 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, and looked forward to connecting with the human stories behind one of the most infamous events in modern feminist history. While the artful production design and crackling performances from the actors give us a lot to be proud of, this is not a film I can recommend, and the mis-steps found in the well-intentioned script lie at the heart of the problem.

On September 5, 1995 First Lady Hillary Clinton stood at the podium at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and declared “women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights.” Last week, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley voted against a resolution condemning the discriminatory use of the death penalty for LGBTQ people. Despite the Trump administration’s weak clarifications in an attempt at damage control, the fact remains: the United States failed to stand up for LGBTQ people around the world. We were, and are, still fighting this battle of the sexes. Secretly, King fought a personal battle to guard the secret of her sexuality from almost everyone who knew her including her husband, family, and certainly the professional and public world of tennis.

Over 3 decades after Billie Jean King, a married world-famous female tennis champion, was outed as a lesbian in a lawsuit brought by her former girlfriend and 42 years after her ground-breaking leadership on the issue of equal pay for women in the world of sports, women and LGBTQ people are still fighting for justice in the workplace and equal rights. The importance of knowing our stories, of telling them, and making sure they are remembered cannot be understated.

This film reminded me that the world knew King as a straight woman in 1973. We didn’t have “gay stars” back then. We had male stars and female stars. To come out was to risk everything. We know Billie Jean King as she is today, a lesbian icon of rights for women and LGBTQ people who did “something or other” back in the 70s, but most of us know the story in basic terms at best. The basic plot points are easily accessible with a few clicks these days. What a film, or any good storytelling, should do is to connect us to the human beings who lived out these plot points. What are their moments of personal challenge, failure, or triumph? We can go back and watch the old clips if we want to know exactly, in perfect historical terms, what happened. A great film explores these questions but goes beyond that to connect audiences to their imaginations, to evoke empathy and inspiration.

“Battle of the Sexes” is somewhat successful as a historical account, but it falls far short of that mission at times giving us stereotypes and filler instead of character, conflict, and substance. First, who are the other women, including one woman of color, who joined Billie Jean in the walk out to form the Women’s Tennis Association, the first league of its kind? In this film, with the exception of Margaret Court the homophobic Australian player who beat King to win the first WTA tournament, the other athletes are cardboard cut-outs “Woman 1, 2, & 3,” their dialogue strung together with tired feminist slogans and lines that are fraught with stereotypical language. In “Battle of the Sexes,” they are exactly the empty-headed pretty faces that men at the time expected them to be. Depictions of women like this make it easier for men to discount us as second class citizens. In one particularly embarrassing scene, the women squeal and jump up and down when they find out they’ll have a hairdresser on the tour. If the women were fleshed out in the screenplay as individuals with depth and varied personalities, goals, and interests, scenes like this one are less hard to watch. These heroes of feminism in their own right, the sisters who stood with King and risked their careers for the cause of female equality, deserve a lot better. (Read more about 1996 inductee to the International Tennis Hall of Fame  Rosie “Rosebud” Casals portrayed memorably by Natalie Morales.)

My next question is; are we supposed to be grateful? Are we supposed to be grateful to see the Hollywood mainstream pull off a tender and believable same sex love scene? The script by Simon Beaufoy does not explore or even hint at the core of who these two people are and the possible consequences of what was happening between them, so how could I? We see two women locking eyes for the first time, their growing attraction to one another. We see their first kiss. And the actors are giving it their all. The direction shows sensitivity and injects romance as well as intimacy, but it’s the sum of what we have to go on to understand the characters and the risks being taken, so the potential impact misses the mark. Though admirably and warmly portrayed by Andrea Riseborough, the character of King’s girlfriend Marilyn Barrett is poorly developed, similar to the way female love interests are often portrayed in a film with a male lead. Having failed to set up the dangerous personal stakes Billie Jean was facing to risk having a same sex relationship at this time in history, the scenes about her relationship with hairdresser Marilyn Barrett fall short.

Understanding the risks and consequences experienced by real people at that time would have injected suspense and drama into the subplot. You have to watch very closely to catch onto the point that Billie Jean is actually married to a man at this time. It’s glossed over. We don’t know the character of Billie Jean at all beyond her star athlete persona when the movie starts, and we only know slightly more by the end credits.

Beyond the extremely well done costumes and production design, there’s no context given that pulls us into the sexually repressed, misogynist world of the early 1970s. And if, as a filmmaker, you don’t take us to the oppressive place where this story happens, you’ve lost us. Why? Because, in an “overcoming obstacles” story like this one, context is everything. We have to know where these characters are and exactly what they are up against before we can care about cheering them on.

The pivotal moment when an adolescent King first caught a passion to change things for women and minorities in tennis is only hinted at in passing. I realize this is not a miniseries, but give us more than that, please. She’s spoken about it in several interviews over the years when, at the age of 12, she looked around and thought “Where is everybody else? Where are the people of color?” She wanted to shine a light on the elitism in the world of tennis. She “made herself a promise,” she said, “to do something about it.” That’s dynamite, dramatic substance, and it really happened. It gives us insight into the heart of this iconic leader. This point along with so much more, Billie Jean’s straight life, her relationship with her parents and husband, is merely a footnote in this film.

Emma Stone uses everything she’s given to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on this one, and I can see her struggling as an actor against the the script, to bring us into Billie Jean’s inner life and heart. Without her strong performance of this sub-par screenplay, along with a few others like Steve Carell, Sarah Silverman, and Alan Cumming who give nuanced and emotional portrayals, the film is completely unwatchable. Cumming’s final scene in the film is particularly moving, and Beaufoy gives Carell much more to work with. We see Riggs interacting with others in his personal life in a variety of well-written and artfully directed scenes. We’re told nothing about Billie Jean’s husband Larry King. Like Marilyn, Rosie, and the other women athletes, he’s presented as a flat stereotype. Carell’s scenes with his wife (played by Oscar Winner Elisabeth Shue) portray the struggling, strained relationship in the aging tennis player’s marriage. In many ways, the film makes us care more about his struggles and triumphs than Billie Jean’s. Ironic, right?

Women and the LGBTQ community still need allies. Many people do not understand our cause; some are apathetic, or are outright enemies of our equality. So more than anything, this film misses the chance to have a huge impact on our culture to affect changes we would all love to see in our lifetimes.

Overall, I felt delightfully hopeful about seeing this movie. I wanted to marvel at its ground-breaking courage and applaud its relevance in giving us historical context to understand the heroes who laid so many foundations for the rest of us. We’re winning the battle, but we still have a lot of people in this country who could become vocal allies if they can be somehow swayed by emotional and personal connection, which is what we’re supposed to have as audience members. Hampered by writing, directing or both; “Battle of the Sexes” is a stellar film they didn’t make.

We highly recommend you read more about the fascinating personalities surrounding this historic time in women’s sports. To find out more about Billie Jean King and her work as an activist, look for the 2006 Peabody Award winning HBO documentary “Billie Jean King: Portrait of a Pioneer.” What did you think of “Battle of the Sexes?” Let us know in the comments below!

Originally posted 2017-10-07 18:33:21.

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Pennywise is not a gay icon #SorrynotSorry

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Okay, listen up gang, we need to have a serious talk that I’m still kind of in shock we’re having in 2017 but here we go. Pennywise from the novel and movie It should not be your gay icon. There, I said it. The lovely people on the internet have “decided” that “Pennywise is Gay and He’s Dating the Babadook”. An odd coupling, and what’s more than a bit puzzling is that THAT’S an acceptable ship yet Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy are only “friends” but okayyyy.  

This whole thing got started when Netflix accidentally listed The Babadook in their LGBT movies section and the internet just kinda rolled with it. Which is fine, because the joke is there and we know the joke has a “root” to it and the Babadook is relatively harmless. Pennywise being gay is just coming randomly from the sewer.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Oh Elle, stop being such a downer, let the internet have their fun. They’re celebrating LGBTQ representation in their own way, isn’t that a good thing?”

Not in this case. Allow me, Ellen “Professional party pooper,” to explain how calling Pennywise gay is actually incredibly homophobic, queer coding, and hurts the community as a whole as it fights for real representation.

1) A harmful reminder of past LGBTQ stereotypes

For the folks at home who have not read or seen Stephen King’s It, it’s a story about an evil clown by the name of Pennywise who terrorizes several children by exploiting their fears and phobias. Because Stephen King likes to give his readers the warm and fuzzies. Pennywise likes to target young children, mainly boys, and preys on them. He also kills people. Basically, Pennywise is a child predator. There is an old stereotype that has unfortunately not yet died that gay men can’t be trusted around male children. This is completely and utterly untrue and horribly hurtful. Having people come to this conclusion brings up that harmful stereotype, which goes back to John Wayne Gacy AKA the “Killer Clown,” who in the 70’s sexually assaulted, tortured, and murdered 33 teenaged boys. Going even further than that, this stereotype has tormented gay and bisexual men’s lives so much so that they are oftentimes not hired to teach at schools, work with children, and have a much harder time adopting. By saying that Pennywise is gay, you are not only indirectly saying that gays are pedophiles, but you are also mocking the struggles that gay men have to endure because of this stereotype.

2) This goes against Stephen King’s intent.

Here’s a little writing backstory for y’all.  Let me introduce you to Charlie Howard. Charlie Howard moved to Bangor, Maine during the early 80’s and was an out and proud gay man. Because of this he was heavily discriminated against. He was yelled slurs on the street, openly assaulted and his own cat was found strangled on his front porch. In 1984 while leaving a potluck with a friend, Charlie was chased down by a carload of teenagers who beat him, called him slurs and threw him over a bridge where he then drowned. Charlie was 23 years old. The murderers did not do any jail time for this crime. Does this seem familiar? This is what happens to Adrian Mellon in It. Stephen King said that this hate crime woke him up to the violence that the LGBTQ community faces. It/Pennywise’s enjoyment of tormenting Adrian and his boyfriend sends the message that the homophobic murder of an innocent gay man is an act of pure evil. Pennywise is not a gay icon, he’s a homophobic murderer.

3) We should want more out of our gay icons.

I get it, we have very few LGBTQ characters in the media. All the characters we love either die in the “Bury your gays” trope, are represented only through stereotypes, or we just get queer-baited. But gosh, gang, can’t we do better than a clown as a gay icon? Don’t we deserve more than horror villains representing us? Instead of accepting this silly meme, we should be demanding more LGBTQ characters in our entertainment. We should have more options than just villains and human sacrifices. Let me repeat this loud and clear: We need to see LGBTQ people as people. WE NEED TO SEE LGBTQ PEOPLE AS PEOPLE.

Representation is important, both the lack of it and what the media allows us to have.

We all deserve better than a clown.

Originally posted 2017-09-27 12:51:42.

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