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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.

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Entertainment

The Best LGBTQ+ Podcasts to Keep You Entertained While Travelling

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Unpopular Opinion: Travelling is hella boring.

Wait, don’t click away so fast. I don’t mean the actual being away- where you dip your feet in the Pacific Ocean or stroll across a piazza in Rome . I mean the physical act of travelling to a place, which can mean hours- and sometimes days- of waiting for your holiday to start.

Basically, the thrill of planes, trains, and automobiles was lost on me from a very early age making me a terrible choice for your Route 66 road trip (but thanks for asking).

Now, you’re probably wondering why I wouldn’t just enjoy the extra time with my travel companion. Well sometimes, especially if I’m travelling for work or to visit someone, I’m on my own. Occasionally, even if I have a kickass travel buddy, it’s hard to keep the enthusiasm up over a long period of time when you’re just waiting.

As a result, I turn to podcasts to keep me occupied; there are shorter pop culture ones to keep me alert while waiting for my flight in the early hours of the morning or longer fictional stories to keep me entertained on seven-hour coach rides.

Here are some of my personal recommendations for those of you who want some LGBTQ+ hosted podcasts to keep you busy during your next trip.

Looking for laughs: Nancy

Kathy Tu and Tobin Low; courtesy of New York Public Radio

With most podcasts coming in at around 30 minutes, this is the perfect peppy companion to keep you entertained (and most importantly, awake) while waiting at an airport gate before 6 am.

Best friends Kathy Tu and Tobin Low discuss issues affecting the LGBTQ community from sex-ed to politics to pop culture, while sharing their personal stories about being queer and Asian- and encouraging their guests and listeners to do the same.

Previous guests include “Master of None” star Lena Waithe, musician Rufus Wainright, and nonbinary actor Asia Kate Dillon.

Recommended Episode: There Are No Gay Wizards- It’s no secret that I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and this podcast explores the absolute queerness of the series…I mean Harry literally lived in a closet ya’ll.

Looking for debate: Umbrella

Hosts (clockwise from top left): Kate, Taylor, Dawson, Olivia, Glynn, Riley, Kayla, Layne.
Collage created by Emma Murphy; photos reproduced with permission from hosts.

If you’re looking for intelligent, informed debate to break up a train journey, then check out Umbrella. This monthly panel-style podcast brings together a diverse group of the LGBTQ+ community to discuss issues that impact upon our community.

Sometimes the subject matter is heavier, as in the case of their intersectionality show, but all of the podcasts are kept light by the interactions between the hosts.

Beware: You may find yourself interjecting your own opinion into the debate and the other people on the train may look at you strangely…

Recommended Episode: (106) LGBTQ+ Fandom – Canon, Non-Canon, Ships and All- For all fangirls and boys who want more representation in their fave media, this is the podcast for you. IMO Criminal Minds needs to feature some queer characters who are neither victims nor criminals.

Looking for a story: Alice Isn’t Dead

Actors Jasika Nicole and Joseph Fink. Credit: Nina Subin

Last month, I made a 14-hour return coach trip for my five-year uni reunion and I wanted something to keep me distracted enough that I wouldn’t have to use the bathroom (because ever since a horrible trip to Miami in 2011, I never use coach bathrooms).

That’s how I found the Alice Isn’t Dead Podcast, a serial fictional drama about a long-haul truck driver (played by Jasika Nicole) searching for her missing wife. Will she find her? What happened to her?

I am the worst person for accidentally blurting out spoilers- and I’ve listened to the entire podcast- so I won’t go into detail but oh my god, this is incredible. It kept me hooked from the beginning and when I met up with my friend at the end of my coach journey, I might have asked if I could just finish the episode before we started our catch up.

Recommended Episode: Part 1, Chapter 1- Omelet- As this is a fictional story, it’s best to begin at the beginning but don’t worry, the tension is high from the offset.

Looking for sassy politics: Throwing Shade

Via goo.gl/vFQZFp

 

If you’ve been sitting in the airport bar, staring at cable news on mute, and wishing it was socially acceptable to cuss out the Fox News hosts in public, then do me a favor; walk out of the bar, find somewhere to sit and play an episode of Throwing Shade.

Hosts Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi are not afraid to talk about the important issues facing the LGBTQ+ community and women in the 21st Century, with the exact right amount of sarcasm and skepticism. Honestly, it’s like listening to good friends calling out politicians, institutions, and the general public for failing to achieve justice for marginalized groups.

They may bill themselves as “a weekly podcast taking all the issues important to ladies and gays and treating them with much less respect than they deserve,” but they still do a much better job than certain politicians and journalists.

Recommended Episode: TS284: Dog Songs, FGM, Trump and LGBTQ issues- How does Donald Trump fair on a podcast called Throwing Shade? Not too well surprisingly, but it sure is fun to hear him being dragged through the mud.

Looking for music: Homoground

The Homoground Team. Photos taken by Moon Cloud.

Travelling is tiring and sometimes you just need to stick in your headphones and let the music take you away, but what if you could discover new music by LGBTQ+ artists at the same time?

That’s where Homoground comes in.

I listen to Homoground whenever I need a break from the outside world; whether that’s sitting on the floor of a bus station waiting to be picked up after a full day of travelling, leaning against the wall while waiting for my suitcase to appear on the luggage carousel, or when I just don’t want to hear the opinions of my fellow coach travelers.

Tune in, turn up, chill out.

Recommended Episode: #MIXTAPE126 – Gender is Over! If You Want It- If the gender police are getting you down, then play this punk-filled podcast loud and proud.

Originally posted 2017-08-23 11:24:30.

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Entertainment

Gay Relationship Timeline

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Friends, allies and other distinguished readers, there is an inherent truth to some particular types of relationships. Specifically, the idea that there will be confusion over the timeline in general and, in particular, the transitional period from being lovers to partners. Normally this would be the stuff of romcoms, but we all know how Hollywood can stuff it when it comes to understanding certain types of relationships.

And by “certain types”, it is “all of them.”

So as a public service, TravelPride will set out a timeline for how the transitional period ought to be mapped out. Keep in mind that every relationship is different, so these guidelines are meant to be taken with a grain of salt. Also, it should be understood that the marker for Day 1 is the day where there is the love confession and acceptance. With that in mind, here is the timeline:

  • Day 30: This the beginning stage of being a full-time lover, not a Stevie Wonder song. Do something nice on this day, like maybe go see a movie or take in a local baseball game/soccer match. During this time, look for some subtle hints from your boyfriend about the possibility of something that is more long-term. This sometimes comes in the form of the occasional staring off into the distance, as if he was doing method acting for an obscure indie film. Make note of it, in accordance with your own good judgment.
  • Day 60: At this point, the prospects of you two becoming partners should be considered as a possibility in the near future. If he wants to have a discussion about such a thing, do so in a way that ensures a more-or-less neutral disposition. This is not to say that you should be oblique; if there are issues, do not be afraid to speak your mind about them. Whatever conclusions are reached, keep them in mind as your relationship moves forward.
  • Day 90: If you believe it to be worthwhile, feel free to introduce your boyfriend to your family. Depending on the circumstances, this may require a certain kind of diplomatic language when it comes to your older relatives. Unless you have a drunk uncle (which all families have, to be honest), then all bets are off. And while TravelPride does not wish to support or even condone physical violence, sharp-witted insults are encouraged. Here are some links to a few collections in order to gel both of your imaginations.
  • Day 180: As you post the six months’ anniversary collage on Facebook, ask yourselves these questions: “Do I truly want a long-term commitment? Does he want to be seen as a partner instead of a boyfriend? And what coffee shop are we going to for breakfast on Saturday?” If your answers to the first two questions are Yes, then you should consider your boyfriend as a full-fledged partner and tell him as such. And while you’re at it, use Yelp to ask the third.
  • Day 365: At this point, he is a partner of yours. If you can, invite him to move into your place. If he accepts your proposition, it means that he has also acknowledged the maturation and progress of the relationship. Then again, the two of you will probably have to split the money spent on moving fees, because that ain’t cheap.
  • Day 730: For God’s sake, just go ahead and propose already! Unless you have serious reservations about the relationship, however. In that case, seek the advice of professional help as soon as reasonably possible. You can’t be too careful about this sort of thing.

Originally posted 2017-08-02 17:45:10.


Also published on Medium.

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For the Love of House Music

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House Music is uplifting, joyous, and free. Queer and like to dance? You will find a dance/music community in place no matter where you are in the world. Grooving to House Music is my thing. I enter the sanctuary of House to re-energize. It’s been that way since we were introduced in 1979. She’s carried me over some rough patches, times when I felt like I was losing the ground underneath my feet.  

House Has Carried Me Through

In 2005, while ‘‘Cool Cat’ my daddy was in the Burn Unit of Detroit Receiving hospital, I’d go to Agave on Sunday’s after visiting hours to build up my faith. Even though Cool Cat didn’t make it out of Receiving alive, I danced for him to be at peace and out of unimaginable pain experienced through a comatose state. He left the day after my 41st birthday.House music and vibing with community helped me to make it through.

My love affair with alcohol ended, I would carry two bottles of ice-water in my backpack to avoid losing my space by one of the speakers, wasting time to go to the bar. I didn’t want to miss a minute of dancing. Agave, never disappointed, I’d dance for Cool Cat while sending up prayers.   

Dance Away The Stress

House spells relief for many people after a hard week on the grind. People who love good music come out to dance their cares away. House is as freeing as it is healing. House is a connector of people. At any spot where House runs deep, you will find a mixed crowd. House Music pulls diverse crowds. You’ll find an eclectic mix of queer and str8, along with various races and ethnicities jamming together.  They will be vibing and getting high from the beats banging through the speakers and the poetry flowing from tracks.

House is for beating back the blues, through verse that grabs your spirit reminding you that you’re worthy. Finding self and self-love are frequent in the songs that dare you not to feel empowered and encouraged. House is also fluid.  When master mixologists house cuts use tribal beats and anything 1970s, I go on a spiritual journey.  

Sunday Tea Parties

One criticism I have of the Queer community is that we don’t hang out enough. Sunday Tea Parties were prevalent in the 1970s and in some places they’re making a comeback. Tea Parties worked because they were open and welcoming to the queer community and allies. In Detroit, Michigan from 2000-2006  as a member of Sistas Providing Intelligence and Creativity (S.P.I.C.E.), I helped throw some stellar afternoon events. Mimosas flowed and the food was good. In between eating, laughing, and catching up we gathered on the dance floor to throw down to House music.

Giving It All Up To The Feeling

An extensive list of Detroit deejays has held my heart since 9th grade.  Growing up with music pioneers. and being exposed to alternative music stores shaped my music tastes. It opened me up to the Worldwide House Movement. House music keeps this “Queer Diva”, moving to the beat. House is cool for a plethora of reasons. If you can keep the beat, you’re good. Go where the music takes you without fear of judgment. You don’t need a dance partner. I’m far from shy and when a good song comes up, I’m on the floor. House allows that. Dance by yourself, in the mirror or next to a speaker to take in more bass (if you’re like me), whatevs — do you. You can dance alone without worrying about someone inviting themselves into your personal space. You can feel the love of community when a dope song drops. If it’s a throwback song, House lovers make eye contact with knowing glances and head nods.  A complete blast.

House is happy it’s liberating and it’s needed in the world we live in. House Music makes things a little better.

 

Originally posted 2017-07-30 18:00:18.

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