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The Coward: A Look into Homophobia in Queer Spaces

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Theatre has always been a safe space for the LGBT+ community. It has given people of any sexuality and gender identity a platform to explore themselves and their relationships, as well as their fears and trauma, and share those experiences with everyone. LGBT+ theatre shows the truth, but sometimes it’s a hard truth, meant to make audiences uncomfortable but aware of the hardships that the queer community faces.

In her play The Coward, playwright Kati Schwartz explores the effects of homophobia in the queer community. The show focuses on a young actress named Jill, who spends the summer at an isolated summer stock theater company with a small group of actors. This group includes a man named Christopher, who claims to be straight despite his obvious attraction to a male castmate. His homophobia, fueled by his strong religious beliefs, clashes constantly against Jill’s questioning of her own sexuality, leading to a tension-filled show.

Schwartz is incredible at mixing realism and fantasy in her shows, and The Coward is no exception. Jill carries a wand and casts spells throughout the play, though it is unclear whether her castmates can see the spells’ effects or not. However, the plot of the show itself is very much based in reality.

The Coward, as with most of the plays I write, is based off a real life experience,” said Schwartz. “What you see is my interpretation of that experience with some witchcraft and magical realism sprinkled in.” Schwartz is adept at mixing fantasy and reality while still keeping the focus on such a heavy subject matter. She is able to transform her experience with an aggressive person into a story that balances the inherent tension and sadness with the surreal.

Schwartz attempts to figure out Christopher’s homophobia in the face of his own sexuality along with Jill and the audience, and it certainly is not always easy.

“In the first draft, the Christopher character was a female, and the story was much simpler,” said Schwartz. “Once I switched that character to a closeted, self loathing gay man, the themes of the play became a little more challenging for me to explore.” With this switch, Schwartz dove into an exploration of internal homophobia within the LGBTQ+ community and its effects.

“The resulting changes to the script offer more equality between Jill and Christopher, and more opportunity for discussion on who the true coward is,” said Schwartz.   

Though the focus of the show is on issues within the LGBT+ community, Schwartz knows that this show is important for people of any sexuality to see and understand.

“Rifts and prejudice exist within any community,” said Schwartz. “Something I hope that people of any sexual orientation can take away is a keener sense of one’s responsibility to speak up when someone is being mistreated regardless of the immediate social ramifications.”

The Coward is playing at the Duke on 42nd Street on October 9th in New York City, as part of the New York New Works Festival. It is an important piece of theater, that should be seen by many. Share this with the theater lover in your life, and be on the lookout for more from Schwartz soon.

Originally posted 2017-10-10 15:42:41.

I am a 22 year old queer individual from Brooklyn NY. I love to create great things and make people laugh. Obsessed with all things literature, theatre, comics and video games.

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In Berlin, Love Wins Again – Germany Makes Push to Legalize Gay Marriage In Big Win for LGBTQ Community

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In Berlin , today is a day where love wins again – or at the very least, gains another step forward. According to various sources, the lawmakers of the German Bundestag voted heavily in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. The official count in favor of the bill is 393 votes to 226, with four abstentions. Though this was a vote for the lower house of the Bundestag, it is quite likely that the upper house of the Bundesrat will follow suit.  

But even then, there is an uphill battle that comes in the form of the Constitutional Court, Germany’s major judicial body. As noted in the online political magazine Der Spiegel, “The fact that the times have changed does not change this interpretation of the constitution, says former Constitutional Court President Hans-Jürgen Papier. ‘If people want to open marriage up, then the constitution has to be changed. Simple legislators cannot do so on their own.’” Then again, the wording of the aforementioned Basic Law states that marriage “shall enjoy the special protection of the state.” Needless to say, this language has always been interpreted by the Court in a purely heteronormative manner.

Of course, there are also political considerations behind the introduction of the bill in the first place, and the implications of the vote. After all, there is a federal election in three months’ time, and all of the center to center-left parties in the Bundestag insisted on same-sex marriage as a primary condition for any coalition talks. This turned into a major political move, as Chancellor Angela Merkel is governing with a centrist Grand Coalition since 2013. And though Merkel voted against the bill, the fact that she declared it to be a “vote of conscience” is perhaps a sign of optimism or calculated pragmatism, depending on who one believes.

So yes, it is a minor victory, but it is a victory for love nonetheless.

Originally posted 2017-07-01 13:50:07.

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7 Hidden Gems You Can’t Miss Under The Tuscan Sun

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This article was written by Carmine Savarese and published on Tiplrmag.com. Download the Tiplr App today for more great travel tips!

Tuscany is probably the most celebrated region of Italy and every single travel media has been featuring for decades what is renowned as Europe’s Garden. I spent a big chunk of my life under the Tuscan sun and I might know a thing or two, or maybe seven.

1. The best “Fiorentina” Steak is at Il Focolare in The Florence  Hills

Let’s assume you are spending a few days in Florence and at some point you need a getaway from the bustle of the city. Do as the locals do, go to the countryside for a great meal in a trattoria. I strongly recommend this particular place. Head to Val di Pesa, drive South-West on the SP 4 Volterrana towards Montespertoli for 20–25 minutes, you can take this road from Galluzzo. It is a really nice drive along classic rolling Tuscan hills, cypress lined country roads and villas from the Renaissance age. Il Focolare is located in Montagnana, a small hamlet of Montespertoli in the Val di Pesa area, it is a very casual family-run joint and the food is simply the best.

You must have a Fiorentina steak, no matter how big it is. Afterall, it’s not every day that you get to taste such quality grilled meat. For pasta I recommend Penne Strascicate with sausage sauce or Tagliatelle with ragù sauce. You can order one tray of each to share for the table. If you go there during the winter, do not miss a sample of Ribollita, or Pappa al Pomodoro in the summer, they are both delicious. I suggest to go for lunch, so you can enjoy the drive and take it more easy and visit San Casciano or Montespertoli in the afternoon. Make sure to book your table at Il Focolare, the place is pretty popular among locals, especially on weekends.

Ristorante Il Focolare
Via Volterrana Nord, 175
Montespertoli, FI
+39 0571 671132


2. A Bite at Osteria “Il Grattacielo” in Siena 

In my twenties, when I was a student at the University of Siena, like any other student I was constantly on a budget. I had already developed a taste for deliciousness and I was struggling to find the right compromise between my wallet and my belly. So, I started having lunch at this small and affordable osteria in an arched alley of Siena’s main street.

The name “Grattacielo” is Italian for skyscraper, which is a perfect paradox for this cozy little eatery which has been around since 1840. I absolutely recommend to try the Pici (handmade pasta) Cacio e Pepe (cheese and pepper) or with pork sauce. Their starters are great too. Sienese’s cold cuts and cheeses can make a delicious meal by themselves. Il Grattacielo is open everyday for lunch and dinner and is not uncommon to find theUniversity’s notorious professors or intellectuals having a bite there.

Osteria Il Grattacielo
Via Pontani, 8 Siena
+39 334 6311458
osteriailgrattacielo.it


3. Bar dell’Orso. A Divine Panini in Monteriggioni

Monteriggioni is one of the most gorgeous, well-preserved, medieval walled towns in all of Tuscany. Just a few miles north of Siena on the road to Florence, it is definitely worth a visit. Dante Alighieri mentioned Monteriggioni in the Divine Comedy and since then the hamlet has not changed much except for this roadside spot, named Bar dell’Orso, just outside the walls, where local people, bikers and truckers make regular stops to get a panini like no other.

Known for cured meats, cheeses and preserves in oil, they also have a quick service of pasta and great tuscan main courses. They are open everyday from 5AM to midnight. Usually when I’m in Italy, I stop at Bar dell’Orso around lunchtime since I have family both in Florence and in the Maremma. It lies pretty much halfway through the 2 hour trip, so it’s the perfect excuse for a classic panini with prosciutto and pecorino cheese, in the traditional tuscan style. If I feel like something a bit more fancy I will add sun-dried tomatoes or eggplant in oil. I’ve never missed a stop at Bar dell’Orso over the past few years.

Bar dell’Orso
Via Cassia Nord, 23
Monteriggioni(SI)
+39 0577 305074
ilbardellorso.it


4. Bolgheri, a Glass of Super Tuscan in Your Own Private Maremma

Bolgheri is a tiny hamlet around a castle by the Tyrrhenian coast of Tuscany in the province of Livorno. The countryside is gorgeous and the rolling hills fade into the sea with the island of Elba right in front. This is the perfect spot for a day or two if you are a serious wine lover. This is the wine region of the “Super Tuscans,” among the very best wines in the world.

What makes Bolgheri wines oddly interesting (at least from an Italian wine standpoint) is the lack of tradition. As recently as the 1970s, most of the land in the Maremma region was used for cattle and livestock rearing. So, how did the pasture land of Tuscany emerge as some of the most coveted winemaking real estate on earth? It started modestly during the height of World War II, when the Marchese della Rochetta planted some Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc vine trimmings that he’d acquired from his friends at Château Lafite-Rothschild in Bordeaux.

Until the late 1960s, they would be used to make a table wine for the family, but eventually, they began to age and bottle wines under the label Tenuta San Guido, and their leading wine — named “Sassicaia” or “rocky place” in Italian — became one of Italy’s most iconic wines when it won a Decanter Magazine tasting of Bordeaux-style wines in 1978. At the time, Italian wines were seen as rustic and basic by much of the wine world. Not anymore. To this day, “Sassicaia” is one of Italy’s most prestigious wines, earning its own appellation designation (Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC), which is the only DOC located completely within a single estate. Oh, and it costs around $200 per bottle. If you like to get deeper on this topic you can read more here.

So, how to get a sip of Sassicaia or Ornellaia without draining your wallet? By glass, of course. In the village of Bolgheri you will find tons of places. We liked Enoteca Tognoni (Via Lauretta, 5, Bolgheri, Ph. +39 0565 762001) they have excellent food and all the Super Tuscans you want!

The Bolgheri and Castagneto area is also known for being the birthplace of Giouse’ Carducci one of the biggest italian poets of the XIX Century.


5. L’ Asino Vola. A Shabby-Chic Inn in The heart of Maremma.

This is an hidden gem for smart travelers, seriously. If you are exploring the Maremma, that unspoiled southern wild part of Tuscany, roughly coinciding with the province of Grosseto, you will probably find yourself at some point in the area of Scansano, where the Morellino wine is made or by Saturnia Spa, where the popular hot thermal waterfalls are located. If you are in these surroundings and you need a charming retreat and a great bite, head up to the quaint old village of Murci, which is 12-14 miles from both Saturnia and Scansano. Across the street from the church, you will see a three story building from the 20’s. This is L’Asino Vola, a cozy inn with just 3 rooms and a really nice pizzeria on the street level. The owners are long time travelers who moved to the area several years ago from Naples, and they are great hosts.

L’Asino Vola is Italian for “the flying donkey”, an old saying meaning that when someone sees a donkey flying in the sky, then everything is possible! This spot is extremely favorable as a base if you plan to stay for a few days and make daily trips to breathtaking destinations in the area. Within a 45 minute drive you can get to the Argentario coast, one of the most appealing Mediterranean shorelines or to the Mount Amiata, Montalcino, or to gorgeous medieval towns like Pitigliano and Montemerano or the Etruscan ruins like Vulci or Sovana.

The best part of any of these excursions is to get back in the late afternoon to L’Asino and hang out there with a glass of Morellino DOC chatting with the locals. You can meet interesting people. In Murci there is a small community of artists, actors and other residents who’ve bought holiday homes or who moved here from big cities. After the aperitivo, you have just to take a seat in the pleasant dining room and no matter what is on the menu you must order a pizza and enjoy. It is delicious and it is hard to find such a good Neapolitan pizza in Tuscany! 

If you are staying at the B&B and you decide to spend a few nights, ask for the suite on the top floor. For a little more you get basically an entire floor and it has an amazing high ceiling. 

A tip: Wake up early in the morning and before breakfast drive to the Saturnia Spa area, it takes 15 minutes from the dirt road at the end of the village, park by the thermal stream and dip yourself into the hot water. Just lay there among the wilderness for 20–30 minutes. It will heal your body and your mind. Then head for the best breakfast you will ever have.

L’Asino Vola
via Centrale Nuova 1
Murci (GR) 58054
+39 0564 519063
www.asinovola.com


6. The Tarot’s Garden and The Southernmost Beach of Tuscany

After a sunny day by the beach of Chiarone, the southernmost beach of Tuscany, you might want spend the afternoon visiting “Il Giardino dei Tarocchi”, the Tarot Garden. In the surroundings of charming Capalbio in Maremma, you’ll find an impressive outdoor museum built by Niki de Saint Phalle, a 20th century French artist. The Garden displays huge and beautiful sculptures by the French artist which depict the 22 Major Arcana of the Tarot cards. It’s the result of the wish to express Niki’s idea of a “small Eden where man and nature meet”. She took inspiration from the beautiful Park Guell by Gaudì in Barcellona, Spain. She choose a small plot of land in the wild by the Tuscan Maremma Shore. She created and personally built the great statues for the Garden.

The 22 Major Arcana have a steel soul covered by concrete with mirrors, colored glass and ceramics. She worked at this colossal work for over 17 years, collaborating with many important contemporary artists, including Jean Tinguely, her husband.

The sculptures represent the personal artist’s view of the symbolic and esoteric Tarot cards, one of her great passions. Their arrangement is suggestive and evocative, the artwork is an expression of the artist’s life story.

To get to the Garden, catch the highway SS1 Aurelia (E80) between Grosseto and Civitavecchia heading south. Exit toward Chiarone Scalo/Pescia Fiorentina and travel for approximately 1.2 km, then turn left onto Str. Garavicchio. The park is only about 200 meters down this road. A full ticket is €12,00 a reduced one is €7,00

Il Giardino dei Tarocchi
Loc. Garavicchio, Capalbio (GR)
Opening hours: 1 April to 15 October from 2:30pm to 7:30pm


7. Giannutri, The Half Moon Shaped Island. All Yours.

Giannutri is the quintessential Tyrrhenian island and the most southern of the islands in the Tuscan Archipelago. It’s located opposite the promontory of Monte Argentario, which was called “Artemisia” by the Greeks and “Dianium” by the Romans, due to it being shaped like an arch. You can get there by ferry from Porto Santo Stefano every day between June and September, and once a week (usually Sundays) during the rest of the year. Tickets and schedules can be bought from Porto Santo Stefano or online on the Maregiglio website. In winter, Giannutri is completely deserted, during the summer instead the island is inhabited by the owners of the few villas and their guests. August is the busiest time, but it’s always enjoyable.

The main landing places are near the major gulfs of the Island: Cala Spalmatoio with the main square of the island, called the Piazzetta where you will find the grocery store, bar and only restaurant of the island, and Cala Maestra, where the ruins of the Roman Villa built in the II Century AD by the ancient Domizi Enobarbi family, are located.

The numerous tropical plants on the island, today no longer found in the Mediterranean, prove that the climate here is very mild all year round. There is a lot of life below the surface of the crystal clear water, and this, plus the presence of the two shipwrecks make this unique island even more appealing. The shipwreck of the Anna Bianca lies deep down in the northern part of Cala Ischiaiola, but the water is so clear that you can see the outline even without a mask. Seeing the shipwreck of the Nasimon on the other hand is somewhat more difficult because of the depth of the water, but the brilliance of the white sea bed makes it more than worth it. You can get to the inlets either by boat or by following any of the many paths on the island; the sea bed is rich in gorgonias, coral and sponges, and attracts many scuba diving lovers and deep sea divers every year. 

I strongly suggest spending at least a night or two on the island. You can rent a villa for long periods, but for a few days the only accommodation which offers apartments, all with sea-view is Le Dimore di Mimmina.

Porto Santo Stefano is on the Monte Argentario peninsula, 1h 45 minutes from Rome and 2h from Florence, the ferry to Giannutri it takes around 1 h with sto to Giglio Island.

Giannutri is part of the Isola del Giglio municipality, for more info:
Commune of the Island of Giglio: +39 0564 806064
comuneisoladelgiglio@pcert.it
Pro Loco Islands of Giglio and Giannutri +39 0564 809400
info@isoladelgiglio.it

Originally posted 2017-07-01 10:07:34.


Also published on Medium.

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How Moving to a New City is Different When You’re Queer

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We all know what it’s like to move. You get a new job, or are accepted into college, and you start to plan. If you’re like most people, you worry about housing first. Where are you going to live? Will you need roommates to afford rent and food at the same time? Is it close to work and/or school? If you have a family, you have to consider your children and/or your spouse. After all of that, there’s the actual moving part. Renting the van, motivating yourself to pack boxes and somehow convincing yourself to throw away half of the junk you’ve collected over the years because you won’t miss a single piece of it. There are so many hundreds of factors that go into a move, all of which have to be carefully considered and carried out. It’s chaotic and exciting at the same time, and scares you more than anything.

Now imagine the same process, but as a queer person. I’m a queer woman, which puts me into two minority groups immediately. And as a queer woman, in order to even begin choosing a new place to live, I have to ask a few questions first:

  1. Where should I move? 

If you’re moving for a job, this is usually decided for you, and you’ve probably already done your research into what your new place of residence is like, as well as how the job is going to be. But say you’re going to college, and you’re picking places to apply. Some of what you have to consider includes things such as “do these schools have LGBT clubs,” “is the city around the school relatively gay-friendly?” When you’re queer, it’s almost never as simple as “Look, this school has the Philosophy program I’ve been wanting. I’ll pick that one.”

  1. Is this city gay-friendly?

Let’s face it, we all have a few straight friends. But contrary to what sitcoms and romcoms portray, no LGBT person ever wants to hang out exclusively with straight people all day, every day. That’s just not how it works, especially if you want to, I don’t know, date someone at some point. Finding a community is important, as it’s not only about social interaction with similar people, but also a sense of security and comfort.

  1. Is it woman-friendly?

As I mentioned above, security and comfort are a huge deal. Being a woman isn’t always safe, so choosing your housing is vital to your well-being. Is the house/apartment you’re looking at in a safe neighborhood? What are the crime rates (murder, sexual assault, theft, etc.)? Is the demographic similar to what you’re used to?

When I moved into my first apartment at university, I didn’t consider any of these things. I found the cheapest place close to campus and moved in my stuff, no questions asked. It was a nightmare. Our neighbors were loud, creepy, and had parties every other weekend that left me hiding in my bedroom with the doors locked, hoping they wouldn’t get drunk enough to bust open the door to “talk” to me and my female roommates. The neighborhood was relatively quiet, but not somewhere you might walk a dog alone at night, and certainly not somewhere I felt safe enough to hold my girlfriend’s hand in public.

My second place was a vast improvement and if that first little hole-in-the-wall taught me anything, it was that there’s a lot to consider when moving somewhere new. But be aware, for the hundreds of factors you have to consider while moving, if you’re queer expect to ask a couple dozen more in the process.

Despite the stress, moving is still an exciting time. If you keep your wits about you when coming to a new city, you’ll be just fine and can then look forward to the new friends you’ll make along the way. Cue the packing montage in which you sob amid a pile of high school yearbooks and memorabilia.

Originally posted 2017-06-30 19:02:56.


Also published on Medium.

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