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LGBTQ Theatre Flourishing in Red State America

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Richmond Triangle Players Celebrate 25 Years

Virginia’s Richmond Triangle Players, now celebrating 25 years as one of the area’s best bets for a great evening at the theatre, garners rave reviews from a faithful local patronage. This season, the company launched a “three-year programming arc” to produce shows “focusing on the impact of LGBTQ theatre and the artform itself,” as well as its home community. An impressive selection of titles, ranging from new scripts to modern theatre classics, fulfills this mission to a T, and apparently, the company enjoys a warm embrace in the City of Richmond.

If you’re planning a trip to the area later this month, grab your tickets now for RTP’s next production: A surreal, feminist, gender-bending epic Cloud 9 by Caryl Churchill from September 27 to October 23. You can read more about the show in this month’s PrideLight, an ongoing column sharing our theatre recommendations. This is RTP’s nod to the edgier fringe, a selection for theatre goers who enjoy stretching their brains a little and their imaginations a lot. If you were a drama kid like me, it’s the one you read in Modern Drama years ago and have just been dying to see ever since.

Richmond Triangle Players (RTP) has long been the spot for top notch productions along with excellent bar service and comfortable seating (great hospitality and a comfortable tush never hurt a performance, I always say). At least one faithful patron shared that he drives an hour from Williamsburg several times a year to enjoy RTP productions in the newly designed theater located on Altamont Avenue, the company’s home for the last 7 years.

RTP’s 25th season opened with The View Upstairs by Max Vernon a new drama set in 1970s New Orleans. The View Upstairs garnered positive reviews for the company that enjoys consistent acclaim for its musical theatre and non-musical offerings. The ensemble of cast members combines the talents of professional actors from markets like New York with local veterans of the stage and talented newcomers who can hold their own with the pros.

Opening in mid-November and running until December 16, two company favorites Jacqueline Jones and Robert Throckmorton reprise the roles they introduced on the RTP stage 15 years ago in Santaland Diaries and Season’s Greetings by David Sedaris, adapted by Joe Mantello. This hilarious satire brings a bit of holiday cheer to Richmond. I’m absolutely positive the bar will be enjoyed by one and all throughout the run of this gay celebration.

Allowing RTC to connect with its community through a statement about Christian faith, the company selected the controversial Corpus Christi by Terrence McNally for January 31-February 24 (take your Valentine). A re-telling of the New Testament that portrays Jesus as an American gay man struggling to balance his love for high school boyfriend (Judas) with shepherding his flock of 11 gay disciples and his higher calling. For McNally’s Christ figure, a young man named Joshua, spreading God’s love to the queer population at large is the character’s super-objective. The central character, like the New Testament Jesus, is eventually killed when he returns to his hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas, to share his message. The play’s tragic end doesn’t stop the comedic and satirical genius of McNally from shining through. The show offers hilarious scenes and physical comedy juxtaposed with deeply emotional moments. If you haven’t had the opportunity to see this show, especially if you were raised as a three-day-a-week churchgoer like I was, you must see this show. I’m probably biased, but I’d have to say that the best producers and performers for this script need to be familiar with the experience of having Christianity influenced oppression to get this one right.

Having directed this play in Oklahoma City a few years ago, I’m thrilled to see another “red state” theatre company tackle this piece by a living icon of American theatre. Hold onto your skirts, sister Nancy, this is a participating production in the city-wide Acts of Faith Festival. Yes, you saw that correctly. There has been an annual Christian theatre festival in Richmond since 2005. If I left the description at that, you wouldn’t catch me within 10 miles of it. Sounds like a nightmare of deacons in bathrobes holding shepherd’s crooks, but don’t rush to judgement like I did. The group describes themselves as “ecumenical and inclusive, assuming a very broad understanding of faith,” and the Second Presbyterian Church is named as “convening sponsor.” This collaboration between the faith community and professional theatre companies presents a variety of plays in a range of genres and styles with either overt or subtle spiritual undertones. And the LGBTQ are warmly welcomed under this roof as evidenced by the years-long collaboration with RTC to bring a play about gay Jesus to the Christians of Richmond.

This is why theatre matters. This is why theatre has the power to bring about social and political change. This is why public funding for the arts and being a patron and supporter of theatre is SO important to our existence as an evolved species. (Sorry, I thought I was in the pulpit for just a second there.)

More required viewing, not just for the LGBTQ but for everyone, Normal Heart by Larry Kramer takes the stage in the spring at RTP. Produced to acclaim all over the world, Normal Heart won a Tony for its recent Broadway revival, and the HBO film is considered definitive by many in the theatre world. RTP aptly denotes the play as “a central work to the history of the LGBTQ movement and its theatre.” This searing drama about the public and private indifference to the AIDS plague runs April 18-May 12.

A Chorus Line rounds out the RTP season. The “no holds-barred celebration of the American musical” is celebrated in the LGBTQ community for being one of the first mainstream musicals to feature an openly gay character as a whole person, not a comedic caricature. The company notes the importance of memorializing its four authors who all fell victim to AIDS. If A Chorus Line is one of your favorites or – if god forbid – you haven’t seen a production of it EVER, you can predict a passionate performance by RTC and its ensemble. A Chorus Line celebrates the dancer in us all and holds a special place in the hearts of every musical theatre kid and dancer who never made it, as well as many of those who did.

While RTP’s loyal patronage lines up first to spread the news, its fellow theatres in Richmond have also stepped up to support their LGBTQ neighbors. In celebration of RTP’s 25th anniversary, Virginia Rep and Cadence Theatre Company teamed up to present Fun Home through October 15, and offered RTP patrons a special discount. Winner of several Tony Awards including the 2015 Tony Award for Best Musical, Fun Home (music by Jeanine Tesori, based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, book and lyrics by Lisa Kron) follows a lesbian named Alison through the past and present as she struggles with her connection to her father and growing awareness of her sexuality. I found out about the Richmond production of Fun Home through a promotional email from RTP even though some of the dates will run concurrent with one of its own shows. Cross-promotions like this are rare in theatre communities who typically compete like gladiators for audience attention. When I expressed my surprise, Executive Director Philip Crosby responded: “We have a truly wonderful and supportive community here. It makes the work all the richer!”

While the RTP season features a few titles you can see almost anywhere, the company should be commended for its well-chosen season of new plays (you’ll see for the first time), standards (you need to see and need to see again), and edgy theatre art pieces (the ones you read in college and always hoped to see for yourself. I’m clearly talking to the other five of you out there who took Modern Drama.) The impact RTP is having on the LGBTQ community and the outreach they are doing deserves a big spotlight. Catch the next show while you’re in Richmond or plan a trip to see one of your favorites. Seeing artists boldly treading new boards in red state America gives all of us hope and makes us deeply proud.

Like to see more about Richmond Triangle Players? Check out this inspiring documentary about the company’s first 20 years and its evolution into the professional theatre it is today.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vjzk0sBibRI

TravelPride Estimate: Under $100 total for two tickets, refreshments, and parking (free after 6 pm). The company recommends purchasing tickets online where patrons can select individual seats and print them at home with no waiting. The company offers lower-priced shows on Wednesdays. If you’re a theatergoer, you know that professional shows at these prices are almost unheard of in major markets.

For more details and to pick your tickets, visit www.rtriangle.org.

Originally posted 2017-09-25 18:41:03.

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#FiveFilms4Freedom LGBT+ Film Festival

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The #FiveFilms4Freedom 2017 film festival is travelling across the pond this November. Originally hosted in Britain this past March, it is the first and largest LGBT+ film festival, and has featured independent LGBT+ short films from around the globe.

The film festival began in 2014 in Britain, sponsored by the British Council and the British Film Institute. It is a part of the larger BFI Flare film festival, which began in 1986, and is sponsored by the Love is GREAT Britain Campaign. .

This year’s #FiveFilms4Freedom festival marked 50 years since the decriminalization of homosexuality in Britain. As such, all five films were created by UK filmmakers.

After the films premiered in the UK in March, they were brought to Washington, D.C. on November 1, and will be shown in Los Angeles on November 13 and in New York City on November 16. The festival will also feature a panel of prominent LGBT+  rights advocates from the US and the UK, as well as two participating directors.  

The films focus on a range of LGBT+ relationships and issues. The majority of them are love stories; Crush tells the story of a young girl who finds herself smitten with another girl she sees at a train station, Heavy Weight deals with a young male boxer and his reaction to the arrival of a new fighter, and Jamie is a very modern story about a man who bravely decides to meet with the man he has been talking to on a dating site. The other two films explore very different experiences in the LGBT+ community. Still Burning is about a young migrant living in Paris who shows his brother the exciting and freeing voguing movement. The title is taken from the film Paris is Burning, a documentary about the voguing movement in New York City and its effect on the African American, Latino, gay and transgender communities. The final film is a documentary set in Scotland, entitled Where We Are Now, and focuses on a transgender parent and her bisexual daughter.

The BFI Flare festival as well as #FiveFilms4Freedom have given the LGBT+ community an excellent place for celebration and representation, especially in the UK. With the decriminalization of homosexuality 31 years ago, British LGBT+ representation is extremely important because it has only been able to exist for a short amount of time. The festival allows filmmakers to make LGBT+ people and relationships extremely public, and continues to encourage and support the idea that LGBT+ people can make and star in incredible pieces of media. The move from showing the films in Britain alone to showing them in the US will hopefully continue to encourage the rise of LGBT+ relationships in mainstream media as well as in independent media.

Tickets for the festival in New York City are still available for reservation here. The festival is on November 16 from 6 – 9 PM at the Barclays-ASK Auditorium on Seventh Avenue. The festival is also currently accepting submissions for next year’s festival here.

Originally posted 2017-11-13 21:00:23.

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That Looks Like A…: Provocative Holiday Foods

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(*Article contains mature themes.*)

 

Have you ever looked at a food or read its name and instinctively turned into a tomato?  (Or better still, maybe you and your freaky self were actually turned on by it!)  Well, you don’t have to be depraved or even gay to enjoy these three provocative foods, but you’ll have more fun with them if you are.

 

SPOTTED DICK

 

While this dessert has a wonderfully raunchy name, it is sadly tame in appearance.  It hails from Britain (go figure), and does unnatural things with currants or raisins.  It is typically categorized as a pudding, but looks more like an odd-shaped muffin, to be honest.  Here’s just one recipe:  https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/spotted-dick-103210

 

The best way to pervert this dish is to shape it, but I won’t be graphic in my description of the ways you can do that.  If you’re not handy in the kitchen, just go to a naughty bakery!  However, you should always be a good (or slutty) host and serve this dish with vanilla custard, as is tradition…

 

HIDE THE SAUSAGE

 

Another British treat, this spongy, sausage infested con-cock-tion is little more than cheap meat in dough.  To the bane of the straight community, it is still a popular dish to serve to a large dinner party because it is not difficult to make.  (Note:  It’s also called “Toad in the Hole” because heterosexuals are often uptight about where they hide their sausages.)

 

In my opinion, this dish looks less sexual and more like something the cast of Duck Dynasty would serve to their guests.  If you like odd tasting desserts, though, this recipe could be just what you’re looking for.  https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/5822/toad-in-the-hole-in-4-easy-steps

 

AN INSTANT CLASSIC:  THE BANANA SPLIT

 

Ok, so I’m gonna catch hell for throwing this popular dessert into the mix, but I do so by request.  We all know how to make it; two scoops of vanilla or chocolate ice cream, one banana, some hot fudge sauce, and a cherry.

 

There are so many jokes I could make out of this, but I will simply describe something I saw at a holiday party that will forever change the way you look at this ice cream treat.  The banana sat in the center, two gobs of chocolate ice cream, one on each side… Need I go on?  I’ve never seen more suggestively placed hot fudge syrup, all of it lying at one end of the plate.  Even the cherry looked like it was blushing, sitting daintily on the banana’s tip with its vein, er… vine facing backwards.  It was quite a sight – I only wish I had quit laughing long enough to snap a picture.

 

If you’re a fan of the more traditional approach, just be sure you combine the standard ingredients in equal proportions around the plate.

 

So, there you have it ladies and gents, three foods that you imagination can run wild with. Other top contenders were the meatball grinder (also the name of a sex act), beef jerky (just because it sounds funny), and the buttery nipple cupcake (for obvious reasons).  

 

Feel free to leave your comments and recipes for more depraved sexual foods for all of us at TravelPride to investigate.  

 

Have a happy holiday season!

Originally posted 2017-11-13 16:20:13.

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Practical Yoga’s Wisdom for Everyday People-Review and Interview

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I want to start off by saying that I’ve never been much of a believer in self-help books. Born with a hyper-sensitive BS detector, a practical mind, and color-coordinated set of lifelong baggage of major depression and physical and emotional trauma, I’m a pretty hard sell. I scoff at books that say I can “breathe and believe” my way into lifelong happiness. That the only reason I was depressed was that I didn’t believe hard enough. Give me a break.

Then I read Will Donnelly’s Practical Yoga’s Wisdom for Everyday People, and it rocked my world.

What makes Will’s book different from your average run-of-the-mill yogi self-help book is that he’s not trying to sell you a better life, but asking you to look at your life at a different angle with relatable and simple messages with quotes at the beginning of each essay. The essays in the book are only a few pages long, giving you “bite-size” wisdom, separated into easy-to-find categories; if you’re looking for advice on personal responsibility or love and relationships, it’s easy to find what essays to read. While most self-help books act like a preacher on a pulpit, Will’s book speaks more like a friend giving you a little life advice, making him relatable to his reader. He knows love and grief and loss because he’s been there. After the death of his life partner Jeff to Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS, in 2010, Will was at a loss with his grief. He went on a long road of mourning and depression and found healing in both yoga and writing. Will knows what it means to struggle and come back.

Will Donnelly is a nationally recognized, certified yoga teacher and writer. He has been a pioneer in the field of yoga, developing Practical Yoga, and co-creating/co-hosting a yoga–reality series for fitTV (Guru2Go, Discovery Communications, 2004). As a writer and teacher (and gay man), Will encourages all students to trust their impulses and find their true voice.  While Will has been teaching yoga for 17 years and practicing it for much longer, you don’t have to be a yogi to get the full benefits of this book. You just have to be a person. There are so many wonderful lessons to take away from this book, from essays on doubt to trust, his words stay with you long after you close the book.

I had the absolute privilege to “virtually” sit down with Will and have an enlightening conversation about his book.

How did the process of this book get started? 

I was processing grief during that time and I had a voice for yoga and wellness so I put the two together, journaling about life issues, about loss, about doubt, all sorts of things you’ll find in the book that I talk about in my yoga classes. My students would often say to me “Whatever you said at the beginning of class was really incredible, do you have that written down?” and I always say I actually don’t, so over the years I’ve been chronicling each of my thoughts that I would bring up in class that were relevant to personal growth and tried to write an essay about it and how it could help. These lessons I talk about saved me from the depression I was living with for the last eight years.

I ended up writing 70 or 80 essays through the blog “Confessions of an Accidental Yogi” and I decided that some of the essays I was very happy with and wanted to have them out in the world. So I grouped together the top 50 essays and put them in categories, such Trust & Faith, Personal Responsibility, and Love & Relationships, so it was easy reading. We’re all here to help each other, and as soon as we recognize that, then both our beauty and natural radiance, as well as our pain that we suffer through, can help others, just by saying “you’re not alone.” Life is a very weird and strange place to land in and I think by sharing stories and offering them gently, a lot of people can resonate with them as they deal with the journey of life.

What was the writing process like? How did you come up with ideas for essays? 

All of them are individual creations. Many come from my own personal experience dealing with my own fears, like traveling by myself after having been so fortunate to have had a travel companion most of my adult life (through my life partner). Some stories were triggered by quotes or passages read in books. A lot of blog posts were born in the writing group I teach in Hawaii (Writing from the Core with Will) and through meditations and conversations.

What of your own advice was the hardest to follow? 

The piece about doubt, I have to come back to that over and over again, to have faith because doubt is a part of faith. I am filled with doubt. When I think “Oh, I can’t do it,” or “I’m scared, I don’t know what to do next,” I have to recognize that that’s the beginning step of a very powerful journey in life and to have faith that it’s all going to work out.  The beauty of getting older, which is not prized in the gay male community, is that you can look back on your life and see your choices and it makes it easier to make them again if they’re positive choices. You can look back and say “I had doubt when I moved to LA and 3 years later I had my own TV show.” My favorite quote I use often on social media is by Fran Lebowitz: “Every Intention, every achievement has come out of dissatisfaction, not serenity. No one ever said ‘Things are perfect, let’s invent fire’”

What lesson or mantra do you follow everyday? 

It’s really profound to watch someone you love and adore get sick and during that time, I would think “I can’t do this, I can’t physically do this” and the mantra that stuck with me is a Stephen Hawking quote, “It matters if you just don’t give up.” If we’re not taking care of each other if we’re just here to be greedy, then what’s the point? It’s really easy to fall into despair about what humanity is doing right now, but then I realize it doesn’t matter what humanity is doing, it matters what I am doing and if I’m creating a joyful life. To go back to the Aquarian Age mantra in yoga: “Keep up and you’ll be kept up.” If you can find a way to keep going in a difficult 11-minute yoga pose, you can do that in every part of your life.

What was the easiest and what was the hardest part of writing this book?

The easiest part was going back and re-editing everything because it had all been written for the blog. The hardest part was wondering if this book was worth it because I didn’t want to end up putting more garbage out there. I wondered “Will people enjoy this? Is it pretentious or is it the real deal?” So I think the biggest challenge was having faith that my voice was worthy to be heard. It was an incredible feeling to be on the other side of that.

What is one piece of advice you want our readers to hear? 

I think the reality is that it’s our goal, perhaps especially in the LGBTQ communities, to appreciate the diversity of life and to dive into it and not feel like such an outsider or feel so threatened by it. So it’s about learning to open our minds up to a bigger picture of what life is really about. So dive in, dive into all of it, don’t miss it. Whatever our dreams are, it’s important to do it and to do some form of service to humanity, some way of giving out to the world other than taking.

Will currently lives on the Big Island of Hawaii, where he leads yoga and therapeutic writing classes at Kalani. He also leads several popular Practical Yoga adventure and healing retreats throughout the year, including the annual Holiday Yoga Retreat. His book, “Practical Yoga’s Wisdom for Everyday People: Essays & Inspiration for Life” is available here. Information on retreats, audio clips from his book, his newsletter, and access to his popular yoga & meditation workout video (now available for streaming, first of the three workouts is free) can be found at WillsPracticalYoga.com.

I’ll leave you with one last word of wisdom from Will Donnelly:

“Your struggles don’t define you. We’re all struggling through life and it’s important not to get caught up in the struggle because so many do and become defined by their issues or their past. You get to reinvent yourself every day and you can use your past, no matter how damaged, as a bouncing point to go somewhere deeper and have a richer life because of it.”

Originally posted 2017-11-09 18:01:50.

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